When your grocery budget is tighter than the lid on a jar of pickled onions, that doesn’t mean you have to resort to cheap packaged food to help you get by.
If you need help getting your grocery bill under control — and let’s face it, who doesn’t these day? — these tips will have you saving money the next time you need to go grocery shopping.
You reasons for wanting to save money on the grocery spend have probably changed a little over the years. When you were young and raising a family you probably wanted to spend as little as possible on the food bill so that the money you saved could go towards other expenses like school fees and paying down your mortgage. Now, you might want to provide food on the table that you are going to enjoy without having to break the bank to do it. Whatever the reason, no success will be had if you don’t have a plan.
Here’s how you can eat well and save money on a tight budget.
1. Plan a simple menu
It takes a little bit of practice for this to become a habit, but menu planning can save you money because it makes you aware of what you already have in the fridge and pantry and prevents you from buying more than what you need. It can also help you reduce the amount of takeaway you purchase because you have a week’s worth of meal time ideas on the go and all the ingredients to make them.
It shouldn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes to plan your weekly meals.
2. Shop with a list… Always
Once you’ve planned your weekly meal plan you can write up a list of everything you need. This ensures you don’t miss any important items when you do your groceries, which will inevitably mean another trip (or two, or three) to the supermarket for supplies. Take the time to look in your pantry cupboard for staples, and don’t forget to check out the laundry and bathroom — shampoo, toothpaste, washing powder, toilet paper. It can be frustrating when you find you have purchased something you already had or, worse, found yourself stranded because you didn’t buy something.
3. Eat green and nutrient rich
You get more value for money when you focus on the foods that are high in nutrients; think vegetables for this one. Vegetables are both high in nutrients and low on cost (especially if you have access to a local farmers market). You can make a complete and delicious meal with a few vegetables.
You want to make sure you are ticking off your protein and fibre requirements too. Lean protein, especially at breakfast time, will have you feeling fuller for longer, which will reduce the amount of snacking you do throughout the day. The prize here is not just a saving to your hip pocket, but to the hips themselves! Fibre also keeps you feeling full. So think about foods like eggs, oats and even wholemeal pancakes for breakfast.
4. Get meat for less
If you like your meat, but don’t like the price, there are some simple ways to save — eat less of it, stretch out what you do eat, and buy the cheaper (economy) cuts.
If you’ve done your meal plan you could have a mix of vegetarian and meat meals over the seven days, which will reduce your overall meat consumption. This is not only healthier, but cheaper. When you consider ‘stretching out’ your meat you want to think about cooking foods that will go a long way, so stews, casseroles, bakes and stir fries can have great combinations of vegetables and meats that will make a meal go the distance.
The cheaper cuts of meat often include sausages, mince, chicken wings and drumsticks and those cuts of meat traditionally only good for stewing. You can stretch these meals out too by adding vegetables or beans and lentils.
Another thing you might want to consider is buying meat that has been marked down. You can save up to 20 per cent on your grocery bill. The meat that is marked down is often nearing its ‘use by’ date, but if you aren’t going to eat it straight away you can freeze it and save it for later.
5. Shop around
Don’t be afraid to look around for the best deal. Most shopping centres have butchers, bakers, fish mongers, delis, green grocers and at least two supermarkets all eager to get your dollar.
If you still get pamphlets and ‘junk mail’ delivered, you’ll find these often have the supermarket specials and it is worth the effort of going through these to identify where you will get the best deal.
Shops the sales, which is a great way to stock up on items for your pantry, and look for items that have been marked down, such as bakery goods and deli goods. While we wouldn’t recommend you risk food poisoning, sometimes you can get away with eating food passed its ‘best before’ date.
6. Make your own cleaners
Many cleaning products on the market are far from healthy, both for you, the environment, and can really put a dent in your grocery budget. A trip down the cleaning product aisle of your supermarket will highlight just how expensive household chores can be.
If you have lemons, vinegar and baking soda at home then you have everything needed to make your own homemade cleaner.
Think of the savings!
7. Keep a price diary
If there are foods you buy all the time, such as tinned tomatoes for that amazing pasta sauce, write the price of the brand you purchase down in a book. It is helpful for keeping a tally of what is on sale, what is good value for money and what is a rip-off. If this sounds like a big job, think about all the times you might have been caught out buying something on ‘special’ because it had one of those yellow labels, but it really wasn’t. It’s an excellent way of evaluating just how much you are spending on groceries.
This article originally appeared on Starts at 60.