Thursday, 31 October 2013

How to Save Money on Groceries

A couple of weeks ago I sat down and decided that I wanted to reduce my grocery bill in order to save for a holiday. My personal finances were an area of my life that I identified as a problem when I looked at achieving total balance in my life. This week I was asked to go into more detail about how I have been reducing my grocery bill and to pass on any tips that may be useful.

It is early days yet but last week I finally managed to spend only $150 instead of my usual $200. We have not run out of anything and there is still food in the fridge, freezer and cupboards. Five of us live here, but my daughter eats out quite a bit and buys her own toiletries, so I guess you could say we have four and a half residents. Some of this information I have mentioned in other posts but putting it all together will make it easier to refer to later. Every Monday when I post my menu plan I will include my weekly grocery spend and a savings tally.

So, where do you start? Here are my top 20 tips to reduce your grocery spending. They will not work for everyone and some you already know, but that's the thing with lists.

1. Keep your receipts and track your spending
Tally them up for a few weeks to see what you are spending money on. I did this and the results were surprising with approx $40 per week being spent on fruit and vegies, despite some supplementing with home grown produce. I also identified the kids lunchboxes as an area I could save on...and provide healthier snacks at the same time. Make sure you include any milk, bread etc bought at the corner store as well so that you can add them to your grocery spend if you are regularly running to the shop.

2. Menu Plan your dinners
Work out what you are going to cook every week, checking what ingredients you have at home to utilise first. You want to reduce the risk of popping out for extra ingredients and hence avoid the temptation to overspend.

3. Write a Shopping list
Every post about saving money on groceries will tell you to do this. It works, but only if you are strong and stick to the list. Take a pen and cross off each item as you go or download a grocery shopping app onto your phone to do the same.

4. Research Grocery Prices
I get the Coles, Woolworths and IGA catalogues delivered to my email inbox and check the prices every week so I know where to do my 'extras' shop and get the best prices, particularly on meat.

5. If you have an ALDI, shop there
I save at least $30 a week by shopping at ALDI and what I can't get there (my 'extras') I get at one of the major supermarkets. For example 1kg of grated cheese at ALDI is $5. I would pay double that at any other supermarket. A dozen rolls of good quality toilet paper are $3.99. If you don't have an ALDI supermarket in your area buy generic brand staples to keep the cost down eg. things like flour and sugar.

6. Shop Weekly
This may sound different as most people say to shop fortnightly. I always find if I shop fortnightly I run out and have to do a second shop anyway. It is easier to budget if you spend weekly and your shopping list is smaller and easier to manage. Your vegies are also fresh every week instead of having to last a fortnight or rely on frozen ones - speaking of which, always have a supply in the freezer just in case.

7. Pay Cash
I have found that withdrawing my $150 each week and placing it into a separate compartment of my wallet, forces me to work within that budget rather than using my debit card. If I can see that I only have $20 left after the Aldi shop then that is what I will spend at Coles.

8. Set Limits
I never spend more than $10/kilo on meat and will shop around until I find good quality meat for that price. I sometimes shop at a butcher who supplies local meat, but only buy their bulk specials. Our IGA stocks local meat and their weekly specials are great. I use mainly mince (premium grade), chicken breasts, rump steak and fresh fish. We rarely buy lamb as it is too fattening and expensive. If you buy your meat at Coles or Woolworths you could be paying too much...and it is not local.

Less than $60 worth of meat creates nine meals
9. Cook with pasta and grains
Design filling and nutritious meals that use less meat by utlising pasta, rice or couscous. Lentils and beans added to mince dishes also create more bulk. I am also a fan of grated zucchini and carrot to bulk out rissoles or patties, and to provide extra goodness, of course. 500g mince should feed 4 -5 people as your meat portion should only be 1/3 and vegetables 2/3.

10. Buy Tinned Tuna
We have a tuna meal once a week, either patties, mornay, casserole or pasta . $5-6 will feed 4-5 people and my kids love it. If you don't eat tuna try a vegetarian meal or omelette to reduce your meat consumption.

11. Go to your local market
Buy your vegetables at your local market or farm fresh grocer if you can. I have been saving $15-$20 a week doing this. We also get local growers doing home or work deliveries and this way you can order the amount you want to spend and not be tempted to buy more.

12. Reduce Wastage
Plan meals that use fresh vegetables or ingredients early in the week to avoid wastage. Use old bread to make breadcrumbs or make a dahl in the crockpot with leftover vegies. Don't let anything in the fridge not be utlised. Everything you throw away is wasting money.

13. Add up as you go along
I do a rough calculation in my head as I go around the supermarket to make sure I will not go over my budget. I just round up each item to the nearest dollar and tally. You could also use the calculator function on your phone or a small calculator. If the boys are with me, it keeps them amused to add up for me.

14. Make your own cleaners
My initial expense on cleaner ingredients was about $15 and for the last three months I have not bought a single cleaning product. They work well and are environmentally friendly. Check out my roadtest.

15. Be Environmentally Friendly
Reduce your expenditure on paper towels (by using washable cloths), plastic bags and packaging to save money and the environment.

16. Make extra portions
Cook an extra portion or two each night to take for lunch the next day to work. It can work out cheaper than sandwiches and snacks.

17. Bake your own bread
This can save money depending on the bread you usually buy. A loaf of bread in our breadmaker costs around $1. It is smaller than a normal loaf but there is less wastage for us as we do not eat a lot of bread. This bread is so yummy it always gets eaten!

18. Bake lunch box treats
I have only just started doing this and am saving about $15/week on the boys lunches. The Pizza Muffins I made the other day yielded 16 for a total cost of $2.50. Good value for very little effort.

19. Grow your own vegies and herbs if you can
This is not a new concept and may not be practical for everyone. It does cost a little money initially but the rewards are worth it and every year you will get better at it and grow more...that's what I am hoping.

21. Buy a water filter
We used to spend $9/week on water or around $468/year. This water filter unit cost $68 and replacement filters are less than that per year. If you have town water and don't need a filter, look at how much you are spending on other drinks. The results may surprise you.

This is just a short list of some ideas to help you save money that have worked for me. I have also found fantastic information at the following links: I have not yet fully investigated this website but there is some great advice just on the first page. Stacey has some awesome tips to save money and did a 3-post series on reducing your food bill. She counts every penny and budgets every day. This single mother of 3 kids saves money by using her crockpot. Check out some of her money saving recipes. Rhonda's site is full of tips for saving money, has great recipes and information on how to make homemade cleaners.

If you decide to try and save money on your groceries let me know how you are going with it and offer your suggestions. Keeping this list down to 20 was for the purpose of this post but there are many more ways to save. This is just how I started...we will see how I go over the next few weeks.

Melting Moments
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