How to Save Money on Food

[Original post: How to save money on food.]

There are lots of ways to cut the cost of food without going hungry or sacrificing quality. Here are some ways you can save money on your groceries at the checkout.

  • Plan before you shop

  • Get supermarket savvy

  • Make the most of your food

Plan before you shop.

aving money on food begins before you even set foot inside the shop or click on the supermarket's online order form. It's important to have an easy plan you can stick to.

Write a shopping list

Keep a writing pad and pen in the kitchen, or keep your phone handy to type up a shopping list. During the week, add to this list whenever you think of things you need. You can even look online to check the prices of ingredients on your list so you have a rough idea of how much you will spend.

Remember to take your list with you when you go shopping so you don't forget anything. Only buy what's on the list - this will make it easier to stick to your budget.

Plan your meals

Plan your meals in advance and add the ingredients to your shopping list. Create a menu based around items you already have in the pantry so you use the food you already have and buy fewer items. You can download a free weekly meal planner from Sustainability Victoria's Love Food Hate Waste website.

Track your spending

To work out how much you are really spending on groceries, use our free app for a few weeks. Once you know how much you spend, you can identify ways to reduce your grocery costs and create a reasonable budget you can stick to.

Leave the kids at home

Ask a friend to mind your children and go shopping without them if you can. You'll have more time to compare prices and won't fall victim to 'pester power'. However, taking your kids to the supermarket from time to time can be a good way to teach them about money.

Set a budget and only use cash

Set a budget for your shopping trip, withdraw the cash from an ATM and only take this money with you when you go shopping. Don't take any other cash or cards with you so you can only spend what you have. This can help reduce the temptation to buy unnecessary items at the store.

Embrace your 'green thumb'

Try growing your own food at home. You could start small with a herb garden and, if you have the space, work your way up to a veggie patch or even fruit trees. This can help you save money on your grocery shop and is an activity the whole family can get involved with.

Don't shop hungry

Eat a meal or snack before you go to the supermarket. When you're not hungry, you tend to buy less food.

Get supermarket savvy.

Armed with your budget and your shopping list, now it's time to stretch your grocery dollars as far as you can. Here are some ideas to save money at the checkout.

Buy in bulk

Buy in bulk when things are cheaper. Products like meat can be bought when they're on sale and cut into smaller portions. Freeze each portion so you can use it as you need it.

Shop less often

If you usually go shopping each week, try shopping once a fortnight. This will help get you into the habit of using all the food in your pantry before you buy more.

Buy generic

Swap the brand names you always buy for generic products when you can. You probably won't taste the difference, but the cost savings can really add up.

Check expiry dates

Check the 'use by' and 'best before' dates on food so you don't waste money buying things you won't use before you have to throw them out.

Visit the markets

Dedicate some time during your weekend to shopping at the markets. Buying direct from the farmer or supplier can often be cheaper. Most markets will have a range of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy, but remember to stick to your shopping list.

Check all supermarket shelves

Supermarkets carefully plan where they place products around the store. The items they promote are usually at eye-level, so take the time to check the shelves above and below for any cheaper alternatives. This takes a little more work but it can make a big difference to your shopping bill.

Avoid impulse buys

Some grocery stores have special aisles with impulse buys that you would never think of buying unless you thought they were cheap and on sale. If you can't trust yourself to leave the store without purchasing a few of these, avoid the aisle completely so you are not tempted to buy unnecessary items. Remember, just because they are cheap doesn't mean you need them.

Cut down on junk food

There's nothing wrong with an occasional treat, but putting chocolates, biscuits, chips and soft drinks into your shopping trolley each week will have an impact on your wallet as well as your waistline. If you can't avoid the temptation try making your favourite snacks at home instead for a healthier, cheaper alternative.

Case study: Nadia's chocolate choice

Nadia loves chocolate but knows that eating too much is bad for her. She decides to stop eating chocolate for 30 days as a health challenge. A month later, she not only feels much healthier but has also saved over $100.

Make the most of your food.

Use your leftovers

Cook a large batch of meals early in the week and freeze them to use as quick and easy leftovers. This can help avoid the last-minute temptation of takeaways later in the week.

Add your leftovers to your meal plan so you don't forget they are there. If they go off before you eat them then buying and cooking in bulk becomes much less cost effective.

Try vegetarian meals

Meat can be expensive, so buy less of it and try making more meals without using it. Lentils and chick peas are healthy alternatives that bulk up meals when you want to cook a vegetarian meal.

Making a few simple changes is all it takes to save money on food and groceries. Plan what you need to get and set a budget to make sure you eat well for less.

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