food

8 ways to save $2,600 at the supermarket this year

Easy ways to get that money tree flowering. You’re welcome.

When it comes to budgeting for a family, food can be one of the biggest money-drainers, especially if you’re a family who likes to eat out. Not many of us have the three months in emergency savings we should have just sitting there in our bank account, waiting for a rainy day. Most families would be drained of funds after one month, and this is a huge problem.

We know Australia is one of the most expensive places to live in the world. If the reaction of foreign friends to food prices isn’t enough to convince you, a recent survey by Deutsche Bank confirms Aussie’s pay premium prices for food, alcohol, gadgets, hotel room, even clothing, movie tickets and flowers. In fact a basket of groceries in Australia can cost up to 50 per cent more than it would in the UK and it’s hard to understand why. We’re a nation of farmers. Food should be cheaper.

Whatever the reason for it, food remains one of the biggest expenditures for families in Australia as compared to the rest of the world but it’s also one of the easiest areas to trim.

If you follow these easy tips you could save a minimum of $50 per week which will add up to an additional $2,600 in savings each year.

1. Make a list

We've been told to do this over and over again. Those who make a list of what they plan to buy are more likely to avoid spontaneous purchases. Do you really need three blocks of the latest brand of chocolate, just because it's on a special display case? Are hot cross buns really a necessity in January? Make a list and stick to it.

One of the easiest ways to drift way from your carefully-made shopping list is shopping with children. Mum, can I have...Mum can I get... Solve this buy involving them in the process. Get them to help you write the list if they are old enough or they can hold the list if they are younger. Talk about the list and explain on the way to the shops that you can only buy what is on the list.

I do make a list but I am hopeless at sticking with it so I've resigned myself to the fact that I must grocery shop online. This is a brilliant way to stick to your list and your budget. Before you check out, look over the contents of your trolley and remove anything you weren't planning to buy or don't need. If you've managed to take advantage of specials and have saved, stock up on items like toilet paper and your kids favourite snack foods.

Yes, online shopping normally involves a delivery fee of $9 - $11, however you can save at least $50 buy shopping online instead of in person. It's a no-brainer.

2. Buy in bulk when you spot specials

There are certain items it's easy to save money on because they are on special regularly. Items like bread, fruit, vegetables and toilet paper are always on special at my local grocery store.

When you can, buy these items in bulk so you don't miss out on savings. Families who have an additional freezer in their garage can make the best use of specials such as these because they can store them easily and it's a good idea to keep an eye out for one to buy.

Vegetables are a great item to bulk buy when on special because you can par-boil them and freeze them for soups, salads and stir fries.

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Choice Magazine recommends that when it comes to specials, ignore the large price tag and look at the per unit price. That's how you know if it's a real special.

3. Cook up a storm

Each Sunday afternoon I cook up a storm for the week ahead. I make pasta sauce, par-boil vegetables, puree over-ripe bananas and make them into mini-muffins for breakfast and school lunches. This is a great way to make sure you are ready for the week and you are using all the food you have in your fridge and cupboard. And this is when you should make you list of groceries needed for the week ahead.

Once you've prepared and cooked what you can, sit down and fill in the gaps for the week. The great thing about kids is that they are easy to cook for once you know what they like and they are happy to eat the same dinner over and over again.

Inexpensive dinners such as pasta, tacos and home-made fried rice are winners because you can hide vegies in all of them, making use of those vegetables you've pre-prepared.

4. Save treats and alcohol for special occasions

Do you find yourself adding sweets, chips, alcohol and cakes and cake mixes to your shopping trolley each week? Repeat after me...cakes are for birthdays.

When it comes to treats you can easily save money on groceries and well as make a brilliant health choice for you and your family. Cut out the treats, even if they are discounted, and save them for special occasions.

Fill up your trolley with foods you are happy for your children to eat on a daily basis such as fruit, cheese sticks, pretzels, air-popped popcorn...by the way, if you buy the popcorn you pop yourself it is so affordable and stays fresh when placed in sandwich bags. I pop extra each time and bag it up for snacks and school lunches.

Alcohol is an easy cost to trim. Drink less or save it for special occasions only.

5. Meatless Monday

If you have just one meat-free meal each week you can save $10 per week. You don't have to make a big deal out of it either. Just make a vegetable pasta or some fried rice with lots of vegies. You can even do a delicious potato salad with some bread and fruit for dessert.

Meat can be expensive, especially fresh fish. It's a health part of any diet however one meat-free meal each month is a great way to save money.

Save fresh fish for once a month and try tuna pasta instead. You can use affordable brands of tuna for this and just toss tuna in with some pasta, tomatoes and a little olive oil. Or, for a richer dish, make white sauce and toss through pasta, tuna and broccoli. Serve as is or bake it with a bread crumb topping. Affordable and delicious.

6. Save eating out for special occasions

We're a family of five so whenever we eat out it adds up, no matter where we go. Save eating out for special occasions and try a picnic instead. Kids love picnics at the park and it's a great way to use up leftovers you've accumulated during the week.

A lunch-time picnic at a park is a perfect day out and so affordable. Save eating out in family restaurants for special occasions and try and use discount vouchers and offers when possible.

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When we have a picnic I normally make chicken drumsticks, fairy bread, fruit skewers, cheese cubes or slices, some crackers and lost of bottles of water. Add ball, frisbees, scooters and you're all set.

When you go to the movie you can still get snacks but don't go overboard. Let you kids choose one snack each and make them share. Bring water from home and some lollypops in your handbag. You'll save so much.

7. Use leftovers

You can use leftovers for weekly picnics but also for lunch the next day. Things like leftover chicken, pasta, rice and vegies are perfect for lunch and snacks the next day. Don't throw anything away.

I don't even throw the kids leftovers away. As long as they haven't made a mess of their dinner, why get rid of it? Do you think countries that are starving throw away perfectly good just because foods their kids have had a few bites? It's silly and a terrible waste.

We always eat leftovers for lunch the next day and I also use them to pack my husband's lunch. He's a truck driver so I pack his little esky full of leftovers in sandwiches, salads and snacks and he's in heaven. He swears he only occasionally buys fast food while on the road. I choose to believe him.

8. Make use of Farmers Markets and other alternate retailers

Farmers markets are springing up everywhere and they are a great way to find out what is in season. Not everything at a Farmers Market is affordable so beware of gourmet bread displays and lolly shops. Have a browse and think about what you can make use of.

A great tip is to turn up around an hour before closing time for ever better deals. This is true of markets as well. If you have a huge market near you, go near closing time for some amazing bargains.

The great thing about markets is that they double as a family outing. My kids love them because there are lots of food samples on offer and they are usually near a park or somewhere they can play.

You can find local markets online.

Also, make use of alternative retailers such as those that offer daily deals. Don't buy things you wouldn't normally buy or go overboard on junk food, however you can get some great staples on special like olive oil, cleaning products and pet food.

Final thoughts...

Choice Magazine recently released a guide on saving while shopping and urged customers to ask for refunds and exchanges on faulty goods. So, if you buy a product and it is old, stale or below quality, take it back instead of just throwing it away. You work hard for your money and you deserve a quality product. The magazine warns that "no refund or exchange" signs are illegal when the product is faulty or not up to acceptable standard.

I know it sounds a little overwhelming but trust me, it's worth it. Once you get started it will become a way of life and just think of that extra $2,600 left over in your bank account each year.

How do you save money on groceries each week?

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