We used to spend around $350 to $400 every week on grocery shopping for our family of six people. It was a ridiculously large amount of money to spend every week – at $350 a week it came to $18,200 for the year!
Since then we’ve managed to more than half what we spend on groceries without impacting quantity or quality. We’ve been able to reduce our weekly grocery spending to around $150 a week. And we’d love to share with you what we changed to achieve this savings.
1. Avoid Processed Packaged Foods
Aside from the plastic these products are packaged in, they are also very expensive and often contain a poor quality food with added preservatives, artificial flavours and colours, and anti-caking agents.
(Did you know that purchased grated cheese is covered in a fine sawdust to stop the cheese sticking together. Once I found out about this anti-caking agent all I could taste was sawdust when eating grated cheese with my meal.)
When you buy processed food you are paying someone else to shop, cook, clean, package, transport and sell an item. It’s easy to see why it would cost more.
It also costs more to your health as processed foods often contain excess sugar, salt and low quality fat. Not to mention the impact of all that plastic packaging on the environment and the effects of micro-plastics in your body.
Even tea bags contain plastic which leaches into your drink! (Loose leaf tea is a more environmental and cheaper option.)
Food without any packaging, also known as nude food, is definitely healthier for you and the planet.
You’re better off to make your own food.
2. Buying Food In It’s Most Basic Form
Food is much cheaper and better for you if you buy it in its most basic form.
Buying and cooking from pantry staples such as flour, sugar, tea leaves, rolled oats, dried lentils, or popcorn kernels will save you a ton of money.
There are plenty of ways you can learn to cook if needed. I still look on the internet and in library books for recipes, even for basics like making my own breadcrumbs from stale bread.
3. Purchasing Seasonal Fruit & Vegetables
We live in a world where we can eat any type of fresh vegetables or fruit from any climatic area and from any season.
But it’s costing us. Why pay inflated prices for grapes which have been transported from the other side of the world, when you can purchase seasonal local produce for a fraction of the price.
You’ll save money by eating what’s seasonally available, plus it’s fresher.
If you buy from a farmer’s market, you’re also supporting the local economy and most likely bringing home a lot less packaging – that’s a win-win.
It also makes sense to bring your own produce bags to further reduce the impact of plastic on the environment.
4. Meal Planning
You’ll be surprised by how much money can be saved by planning all your main meals and only grocery shopping once a week.
Most people duck into the shop to grab a quick ‘something’ and leave with a basketful of impulse purchases. I find it easier to avoid the temptation altogether by only entering a grocery store once for the week.
Sit down before shopping and write down every main meal you will eat for the following week. I even go as far as writing the page number of the recipe book so I can find it easily when feeling rushed after work.
I also find it useful to plan for the snacks that we’ll be taking to work or school. I’m a big fan of baking large trays of slices to cut up and freeze for later.
As you plan for each meal, look through the recipe, see what is in your pantry and fridge and write on a list any purchases that will be needed.
To further save money, we write our grocery shopping lists on the back of cut up used paper so we won’t need to buy notepads. You could also write with a pencil to avoid creating plastic pen pollution. (The paper eventually gets shredded for animal bedding, then ends up on the garden as fertiliser.)
If you are very time poor, you may benefit from doubling recipes and cooking for two or more nights at a time.
We tend to only plan for six main meals a week as the seventh meal is made up of leftovers.
5. Shopping According To What’s Already In The Fridge And Pantry
This concept is something I’ve only clued onto recently and it’s made a difference to our spending.
It’s so simple I don’t know why I didn’t realise it earlier.
Here’s how it works: if I have a lot of pumpkin left over from the previous week, then I look up pumpkin recipes and plan a meal where the main ingredient is pumpkin.
This goes for any food carried over from the previous week. Bananas, carrots, a large jar of quinoa, frozen sausages, an opened hoisin sauce bottle – the opportunities to create many meals are endless.
6. Using Left Overs
The government estimates Australians waste around $20 billion dollars of food every year, costing the average individual approximately $3,800 per annum.
It would be such a shame to throw unused groceries and yummy left overs in the bin when they are super useful.
We have had many delicious meals made with left overs!
- Fry them up for breakfast with some chilli and a egg
- Chop them small and use in a quiche or frittata
- Use as an addition to stir fries
- Put them in a sandwich or wrap with some salad and a sauce
- Finely slice and add to a zucchini or macaroni bake
- Hide mashed left overs in cakes, slices or bread
- Heat and eat with gravy
- Add to a soup or casserole
7. Making Food From Scratch
Often the first thought to making food from scratch is – I don’t have the spare time.
That’s why with every change we make, I first ask will this still be achievable when we are both working full time.
When I became interested in making our bread I knew I needed to find a way that would not be time consuming. So we decided to ask around if anyone had a bread machine we could borrow.
I’d heard conflicting reports about bread machines. Some people said the bread was no cheaper to make than to buy and the loaves were too small.
Yet through experimentation with the borrowed machine and buying bulk ingredients, we were able to make a delicious 1kg wholemeal and flaxseed loaf for only 73 cents.
And it was so simple. I’d put the ingredients in the machine, press some buttons and hours later a perfect loaf of bread would be ready to eat. The machine was also very easy to wipe clean.
With some thought into efficiencies when cooking, you’ll be also be able to make large trays of slices, meals for a few nights in the slow cooker, litres of fresh yoghurt or use a cooked ingredient in multiple meals.
8. Shopping At Discount Grocery Stores
Where’s the cheapest place to buy groceries in Australia?
According to Choice, it’s without a doubt Aldi.
Our basket of leading brand products cost on average $170.54 at Coles and $168.74 at Woolworths (excluding specials), while a comparable basket of Aldi brand products ($102.50, excluding specials) offered savings of about $66-$68 (49-50%), assuming you’re prepared to forgo leading brands. And by switching to even more budget options where available, you can save as much as 59% when buying your groceries from Aldi, rather than shopping for leading brands at Coles and Woolworths.Choice
Personally, we start our grocery shopping at Aldi. Then for anything we can’t find there we go to Woolworths. We also get selected items from the wholefoods shop, a small amount of meat from our local butcher who allows us to use our own containers, and most recently, we started shopping at a bulk food retailer.
9. Meat Free Meals
There’s no doubt about it – Australians love eating meat. The average person each ate 26 kilograms of beef and 9 kg of lamb during 2017 (Meat and Livestock Association).
Yet, it comes at a high cost to our finances and a high cost to the environment as large areas of Australia’s vegetation continue to be cleared for cattle farming.
Consider replacing one meat meal with a vegetarian meal once a week. Once you’ve got the hang of cooking vegetarian it’s easy to gradually replace other meat meals when meal planning for grocery shopping.
There’s a few simple rules of thumb when it comes to eating vegetarian and ensuring you are eating a ‘complete protein’.
Complete vegetarian protein:
- Legumes (beans, peas, lentils, chick peas) eaten at the same time as a grain (wheat, rice, pasta, couscous, bread, quinoa etc) e.g. pea soup with wholemeal bread rolls
- Legumes with dairy products e.g. vegetable minestrone with parmesan cheese
- Grains eaten with dairy foods e.g. pasta with three cheeses
- Nuts and seeds with dairy products e.g. mandarin muesli cheesecake
- Legumes with nuts and seeds plus green vegetables e.g. chickpea dip (hummus) with vegetable sticks
- Grains with nuts and seeds and green vegetables e.g. cannelloni with spinach and pine nuts
Make sure you also eat plenty of iron rich foods, and food high in B12.
Rich sources of B12 are found in eggs, dairy, mushrooms and nori (sushi seaweed wrapping).
10. Not Buying Throw Away Items
This section is about the non-food items we buy when grocery shopping.
Unfortunately, successful marketing has us believing we must continuously buy, use and throw away certain products. It keeps us spending and the businesses making a profit whilst polluting the planet.
There are many good alternatives to disposable non-food items.
|INSTEAD OF||USE THIS|
|Paper towel||Washable cloths such as cut up old towels|
|Plastic dish sponges||Reusable and washable fabric dishcloths|
|Cling wrap in the microwave||Cover your food with a plate or serviette|
|Snap lock bags||Reusable containers such as a bento box|
|Plastic scourer||Stainless steel soap pads (compostable)|
|Plastic bin liners||Make bin liners from old newspaper|
|Cling wrap on food||Reusable beeswax wraps|
By switching to reusable eco-friendly products when grocery shopping you’ll save money and benefit the environment.
Here’s a summary of the 10 ways we’ve changed our grocery shopping habits:
- Avoid processed packaged foods
- Buying food in it’s most basic form
- Purchasing seasonal fruit and vegetables
- Meal planning
- Shopping according to what’s already in the fridge and pantry
- Using left overs
- Making food from scratch
- Shopping at discount grocery stores
- Meat free meals
- Not buying throw away items
Are there any of these 10 ways that could benefit you? If there are, consider changing how you grocery shop to save money and be more eco-friendly at the same time.