With the ever-increasing cost of groceries burning a major hole in your pocket, here’s how to save more without losing your mind.
If the sight of your shopper docket at the supermarket checkout makes you want to run to the alcohol section to soothe your sorrows, you’re not alone.
A survey of 1,000 Aussies conducted on behalf of budgeting and debt specialists Fox Symes, finds that half of all Australians (52 per cent) are forced to use credit cards to pay for everyday costs including groceries because they simply don’t have enough cash available. Alarmingly, 2.9 million Aussies have to do this frequently.
Fox Symes director Deborah Southon says with flat wages and rising costs, now is the time to get smart about things that are in your control.
“Cutting back on the amount you spend on grocery items is always something you can improve on,” she says.
“Plus you should analyse whether you really need as much food and stuff as you think you do. Budget well and look for any way possible to cut expenses.”
Ease your pain at the cash register with these tips:
1. Prepare and do a regular stock take
To get your budget on track, observe how much your family eats and only buy and cook the consumable amount. While leftovers are good occasionally, don’t have uneaten stuff after every meal. Once a week get creative and make a stew or soup out of odds and ends. And look through your pantry and freezer regularly and use whatever’s in there within a few months.
2. Shop at the end of the day
So doing a big shop at night after a long day at work might sound like a particularly cruel form of torture. However, that’s when you’re most likely to encounter discounts.
“Perishable goods such as bakery items, fruit and vegetables are often replenished at the end of the day, so that’s when you could bag a bargain,” says Deborah.
3. Opt for stuff that isn’t perfect
Sometimes items which are a bit banged up or different will be discounted. Woolworths have some discounted fruit and veg under their “odd bunch” banner and greengrocers also sell stuff starting to deteriorate for marked down prices.
With hard fruit and vegetables such as carrots and apples, small black spots or mould patches can be cut off and you can eat the rest of the item safely. However, it’s best not to buy soft stuff such as avocados or bananas if they’re starting to go off.
4. Check out grocery clearance stores
Clearance outlets such as NQR (Not Quite Right) in Victoria offer savings of up to 80 per cent off items. What’s on offer is made up of excess stock, discontinued lines and cancelled supermarket orders.
The catch is some of it is close to or just past its ‘best before’ date.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries Food Authority reassures that foods are still safe to eat after their ‘best before’ date as long as they are not damaged, deteriorated or perished – they just may lose some taste or quality. Common ‘best before’ foods include canned foods, cereals, biscuits, sauces, chocolate, sugar, flour and frozen foods. This is different to a ‘use by’ date where food must be thrown away by the date specified to avoid food poisoning.
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5. Buy in bulk
There’s no doubt that buying in bulk will often save you money. “However, before you buy 60 rolls of toilet paper, ask yourself whether you have room for it in the first place,” says Deborah.
“Living with overflowing cupboards is not pleasant and you could forget to use some things down the track. You should also know the capacity of your fridge and freezer if you are planning to haul a lot of items back.”
Remember most bread, butter and cheese can be frozen for three months, while fresh meat can last up to six months in the freezer. Leftovers usually only last three months.
6. Join a grocery co-op
Co-ops usually require eight or more people to do their shopping as a group. A grocery co-op might visit a big grocers market once a week. Two people would typically go each time and buy everything for the rest of the group. Usually, this will be a weekly selection of fruit and veg for up to around $20 per person.
However, the downside is that your turn to shop comes up every one to two months and you often have to get to the market really early to bag the best bargains – as in 5am! If you are interested in joining a local co-op, many of them have websites.
7. Store things properly
At home, place the oldest items in boxes, jars and cans at the front of your cupboard so you use them first before buying new stuff. With meat freeze all items not being used within a few days. And store fruits and vegetables in their correct fridge compartments and use plastic bags to preserve their longevity. With proper storage, you’ll waste less meaning you don’t have to buy as much.
What tips and tricks do you use to cut down the cost of your groceries?
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