HOW TO: Grocery shop on a budget
Love it or hate it, grocery shopping is an inevitable weekly task that we all have to do. With Australia’s food costs being amongst some of the highest in the world, getting the most out of every dollar we spend can be tricky. And with so many options available, selecting the best value for money can become a bit of a chore.
When it comes to finding a balance between nutritious food and affordability, you need to be savvy. That’s why we have put together some useful tips to help make your grocery trip more enjoyable without breaking the bank. There’s always a way to squeeze a little more into your pockets without majorly compromising on your standard of living, and most of these tips aren’t particularly tricky.
Make your budget and stick to it
Although this is the obvious first step of budgeting, it’s simultaneously the number one step that people fail upon. In order to get the most out of your money, you’re going to formulate an actual budget – with a proper layout of expenditures and credits – and try to not deviate from it.
2. Eat smart
Knowing precisely what nutrients your body needs allows you to better formulate meals, cook more nutritious food, and means that you can cut out over-priced, low-quality foods that aren’t worth the expense.
For example, protein is a vital important part of a daily diet, and is also extremely filling. By comparison, sugary foods like soft drinks and chocolates are mostly comprised of empty carbohydrates, which give you very small amounts of nutrition but are high in calories.
To fight the urge to buy these unhealthy foods, start thinking critically about the composition of your foods; if they aren’t nutritious, substitute them for something healthy. For example, if you have soft drink, try to replace it with water or juice. If you eat a lot of chips, replace them with nuts or grains.
3. Eat seasonally
One of the benefits of living in Queensland is that we have a strong farming culture, and a lot of seasonal fruits and vegetables. A trick to getting by on a budget is to take a look at the produce that is currently in season and formulating your meal plan around that, rather than cooking to recipe with things that’ll invariably be out of season and much more expensive.
Why is seasonal produce cheaper? When produce is sourced locally the production costs such as storage and transport are cut, and ultimately not passed down to the consumer. Conversely, buying produce that is out of season means it can be stored for long periods of time and have to travel large distances, which pushes the prices up. This also means that seasonal produce is more environmentally friendly and has more nutritional benefits, as fresh produce consumed closer to harvesting is higher in nutritional value.
4. For staples, buy in bulk
Buying in bulk means that products are typically less expensive per unit, which results in savings in the long run. For staple things around the home, the best advice is to buy in bulk and buy on sale. Products like soap, laundry powers and toilet paper are always going to be needed, so snatch these up when you notice a sale.
But be careful about this – pick and choose what you buy in bulk and try your best to limit these purchases to non-perishable items. If you don’t use your purchases before they expire, it’s a waste of money to buy in bulk no matter how much money you initially saved. It’s important to know how much you use something relative to its shelf life.
For luxury items, not limited to foods, you should only buy what you think you’re going to need or want at short notice. This cuts down on the ability to waste a product on a binge; instead, you’ll have to go out and buy more when you run out, which might mean that even somebody with the world’s worst self-control will go a few days without.
5. Shop around
There are always choices! Don’t just buy the first thing that you see, even if it's on special (if you know the basic prices and what constitutes a good sale, then go ahead and disregard this one). If you’re shopping on a budget, you should realistically be looking around to see what stores are offering the best prices at all times.
It can be hard to budget in the time necessary to do this, but luckily with the internet age at your fingertips, an online catalogue is only a quick google away. Browse your choices, don’t skimp on savings when you can find them, and you’ll do fine.
if you want to save money on groceries, you will have to trade some of your time. This will mean writing out a grocery list, browsing catalogues and navigating supermarkets mindfully, rather than filling your trolley with items you don’t actually need.
6. Supermarket secrets
Cheaper products are usually shelved below knee height.
Staples such as milk, bread and eggs are located at opposite ends of supermarkets; if this is all you need, try not to get distracted as you walk through the aisles!
The fewer processes a food item has been through, the cheaper it will be – avoid frozen meals!
If you only need 4 slices of ham, don’t be afraid to ask for this!
As we said previously, eat seasonally!
Supermarkets discount produce and perishables prior to receiving new deliveries.
Shop late at night for major markdowns.
The next time you go grocery shopping, use these tips as a guide and you could find yourself saving hundreds! Remember, budgeting can require a little more time, effort and planning, but the considerable savings in the long run are well worth it.