Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Tips for Saving Money on Groceries

Groceries from last year, clearly before I switched to using generic toilet paper

Today I thought I would share some of the things we do to save money on our grocery bill. Buying food can take up a big chunk of income so it makes sense to spend as little as possible. Doing this can save a few thousand dollars a year.

1. Use up your pantry.
 Do a pantry/fridge/freezer audit before you go shopping. Chances are you've already got the makings of a few meals right there before even leading the house!

2. Buy generic. 
I buy mostly generic grocery items like cheese, butter, milk, freezer bags, glad wrap, dish washing liquid, dishwasher powder, flour, sugar, cereals and have recently graduated to using generic tea bags and toilet paper! I have not found any difference in quality at all.  If there's a generic brand version, I'll try it!

3. Shop for the specials. I like to check all of the supermarket catalogues to find items I need on sale. I will often shop at Spud Shed or a local orchard for our fruit and veg, Coles for our "main" shop and a cheap butcher for occasional meat. I also travel into the city to buy our spices, polenta, Himalayan salt and dried fruits every few months from a wholesale bulk store. Before this I would buy spices from my local Asian grocery store which is still much cheaper than supermarket prices.

4. Make a list and stick to it. 
Pretty easy right? My only exception to this rule is half price loss leader items. Otherwise, only buy what you really need.

5. Avoid processed foods and "snack" serves.
Make your own food from scratch. My mind boggles at packaged slow cooker and meal bases. Check out the ingredients on the back, most of them are just a tomato base! Tomatoes cost 65c a tin and tomato paste is $1.30 for a large jar. If you build up your pantry with staple spices, there will be no need to buy meals bases again. Even a jar of bought pasta sauce is just diced tomatoes with some tomato paste added! Cakes, muffins and in store bakery items are ridiculously overpriced too. Some loaf cakes cost $4 each and that is on sale! Honestly, I am so shocked by some of the prices. Self raising flour is only $1.85 for 2 kilos, and sugar is around the same. Cakes and muffins can be made so cheaply at home. Packaged muesli bars or any kind of single serve snacks like yoghurt can be really overpriced. Museli bars can be made super cheaply at home and money and packaging can be saved by purchasing a big tub of yoghurt rather than individual potion packs.

6. Shop only weekly or fortnightly. 
This is a big one. Go shopping only once a week or fortnight. Plan your shopping list according to your families needs and make sure you have enough toilet paper etc. This is really crucial because how many times have we called into the shops for 1 item and ended up spending $20-$50? If you run out of an item for cooking just improvise and write it on the shopping list for next time. I think a lot of my ability to save money started from avoiding the shops. 

7. Use homemade green cleaning products.
Homebrand vinegar and bi carb can be bought really cheaply and you don't need fancy bottles of chemicals to clean your house. Check out my thrifty cleaning tab for some frugal recipes.

8. Avoid the "lolly aisle".
Unless you need to buy items for a celebration, just avoid this aisle completely!

9. Stock up on 1/2 price loss leader sales.
Half price catalogue sales can be great. I often pick up 5 kilo bags of rice and brand name deodorant at these times. I will stock up, so I have enough to last until the next time it goes on sale. 

10.  Don't shop on an empty stomach.
Pack a bottle of water and a light snack, or eat before you go. Research shows that if you shop when you are hungry, you are more likely to make impulse purchases.

11. Eat less meat.
 I've steadily seen 1kg mince packs at Coles rise from $5 a kilo to now $8 a kilo.I can buy a whole lot of nutritious vegetables for much cheaper! Potatoes here are only 50c a kilo. I don't believe that the amount of meat humans consume is a viable option for our environment and for several months we have been reducing our meat intake to once or twice a week. You could try incorporating a veg meal once or twice a week into your meal planning.

12. Grow your own.
Herbs are very expensive in supermarkets and are so easy and cheap to grow at home. We only have a small garden but grow as much as we can. Even if its only a tomato bush or lettuce, you will be getting organic quality vegetables for a fraction of the cost.

13. Use less.
This applies to almost everything. Use less shampoo and conditioner, washing powder etc. When I was using commercial washing powder, I found I could successfully use half of the amount stated on the box without any difference. I feel like the recommended amounts on packaging are deliberately on the higher end so consumers use more product and will need to buy more at a faster rate.  I've started using less milk and sugar in my cup of tea as well.

14. Every dollar counts.
 Value your money-even $1. I see a dollar in terms of how much food could I buy? Mr 9 will sometimes ask for "a $1 treat" when we go shopping, these days I say no and look at what else I could buy. One dollar will buy 1kg of carrots, 1kg of rolled oats, a litre of milk or 1 litre of dish washing liquid. I buy our "treats" at the food co-op where I can buy 10kg of food for $15. They often have biscuits or chips and it is so much cheaper.

15. Plan a budget.
Have a goal of how much ideally you want to spend each shopping day. Any money leftover can be used for the following week and can be used to fund a stockpile. You can do this by buying some half price items on sale or spending say $10 of the money left on items you use regularly. I did this recently and spent bought $20 worth of sugar, milk and dish liquid to have on hand.

16. Make use of loyalty programs.
I buy most of my groceries from Coles because I love their Fly Buys program. Even though my family are not typical shoppers we still manage to accumulate enough points by the end of the year to add up to $70-$100 of free groceries. I use this to purchase our Christmas ham and any other special items.

What are some of your tips for saving on groceries?

Bulk spices from Kakulas Bros.

Meat bought cheaply from a butcher.

Fruit for $1 a kilo at a local orchard.

I stock up on deodorants for the teens.

I did pass up on this sale, because at the time we had an abundance of tomatoes in our garden.

Silverbeet from our garden.


  1. All great and wonderful tips! I agree with you that shopping on a full stomach, with a list, and doing a pantry audit are really helpful in cutting back on extra things in the cart. Enjoyed your post :)

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. Have a great day! x

  2. I found these tips really helpful. Thank you. Lisa

  3. Most of what you do I practice as well. I agree so much about using less. This has been so helpful. As well as shopping weekly or biweekly. If I am in the store everyday I will make impulse purchases.

    1. My teens think I'm too cheap with the using less thing. But hey all these little things add up to big savings Chrissy! x

  4. I just found your blog and am reading back through. Great post, loving all the ideas. I really want to get into shopping twice a month instead of once ( or multiple times a week). I know I would save so much by shopping that way.

    I am in Canada where produce costs are much higher in winter. I find price matching from a variety of stores saves me the most money.

    1. Hi Theresa, I'm so glad you found my blog! Thank you. I find shopping less often does save money and really reduces the chance of impulse buying.

      Great idea on the price matching x