- Compare prices
Don’t pick up the first thing you see and toss into your trolley. Compare prices of brands and even of different stores. Coles vs Woolies vs Aldi vs Costco can surprise you with what you will learn about pricing - and save on your shopping. Compare prices by WEIGHT not by item. This is where you will see savings - or cheeky price hikes!
- Buy In Season
Do NOT go out seeking watermelon or mangoes in the height of Winter! If you find it (and that’s a BIG if) you will pay top dollar; 3 - 4 - 5 times the normal in season price. Don’t know what’s in season, when? Check out this post for a handy guide.
- Meal Plan
If you’re not meal planning, you’re planning to fail to stick to a budget. Planning your meals for the week ahead, lunches for school and work and even breakast and snacks means you buy only what you need and you don’t stand at the fridge first thing in the morning or last thing at night wondering what to cook then buying pizza or giving the kids money for the canteen. There are amazing printable meal planners and also phone apps for the tech savvy so you’ve got no excuses not to plan ahead now!
- Check Farmers Markets, Local Farms and Pick-Your-Own Places
Farmers Markets, City Markets and the like are a cornucopia of food bargain! In Sydney, the Paddy’s Markets and Parklea Markets stock EVERYTHING - deli items, tissue products, fresh fish and loads of fruit and vegetables. Go later in the day before closing time to get bargain boxes full of produce. Take home, prep and freeze or dehydrate to stretch it even further.
- Cut Back on Meat
Its no secret - meat is expensive. It takes up to 7kgs of grain to produce 1kg of beef, 4kgs for 1kg of pork and 2kgs for 1kg of chicken. Now that is based on feedlots but you get the point. Meat is pricey. Switch out meat at least once a week and go for vegetarian meals. Add protein through pulses and legumes or things like mushrooms which are a great substitute in a risotto.
- Use Everything But the Oink
When you do buy meat try to find a butcher who will do a half lamb, half pig or quarter cow for you. Have them give you everything they have and use all of it! You can do a fabulous brawn with a pigs head, yummy stews with tail, shin and tongue and pates or terrines with liver. Use every single bit you buy and be creative. If you don’t like offal, then swap it with someone who does for something you do like, in your local community.
- Consider ‘Interesting’ Meats
One of our local butchers will do a half a goat for less than $80! That is a LOT of meat and to get the same in lamb would be at least double that. Different meats require different techniques though the results can be amazing - and a lot cheaper. Try things like wild rabbit, game birds and different types of fish that may not have a great culinary reputation. You may be pleasantly surprised!
- Learn to Dry and Dehydrate
A dehydrator can be purchased for as little as $40 new (even less if used!) and can produce an array of yummy goodies. You can even do your own potato chips for a fraction of the cost! Kids snacks become a cinch and are so much healthier and herbs can be dried and stored for months at just cents a bottle! Check out some of our recipes here.
- Go Generic
If you must buy store-bought things like tomato sauce or peanut butter (which you can make at home much more cheaply but anyway…) then don’t buy the best brands! Go generic in large bottles (1L of tomato sauce) and add your special touch to it when you get it home. Same goes with medications, crackers, soups. You can add something to jazz it up for a fraction of the cost of buying the ‘designer’ soup can
- Don’t Look Up - Look Down
Remember - shopping centres and supermarkets are designed for one thing and one thing only - to get YOU to part with YOUR money. Do not look at eye level when shopping - look down. Cheaper products are always placed lower on the shelves and most bargains are on the bottom shelf!
- Store Fruits and Vegetables Properly
Learning how to correctly stores fruit and vegetables means less wastage. Did you know that potatoes and onions both emit a gas that cause the other to rot? Did you know celery can be store for MONTHS if wrapped in foil? Check out our storage guidelines and free printable guide for your fridge in an upcoming post.
- Eat Before You Shop
Never ever go shopping on an empty stomach. The sights and smells will wreak havoc on your budget. Try it! You’ll know what I mean once you’ve done it…
- Research Research Research
Think Costco is ALWAYS cheaper? Believe it when your supermarket chain says that pricing is not different in different locations? Always do your research. All brands and indeed all supermarkets are designed to ensure YOU spend MORE. They will employ many tricks of the trade to get you to part with your hard earned dollars and you need to be wise to this.
- Scour the Sales Racks
Recently I ducked into my local Woolies to grab some tea as I had run out and my day was just not getting off right without my morning cuppa. I scoured the sales rack and found a Jamie Oliver Greenhouse Kit for kids for $1 and a Animal Growth Chart for $0.20c. I grabbed them both and popped them into my Gift Box to save for Christmas gifts for the kids. Winner!
The sales rack can be a source of great bargains particularly if you are not fussed on the look of something… but remember its only a bargain if you NEED IT and will USE IT.
- Use Cash
Work out your budget for shopping and take only that amount of cash with you, leaving all your cards at home. This will ensure you add up everything correctly as you pile up your trolley and will make absolutely certain that you stick to your original budget. This strategy is a winner for those of us with little will power.
- Reuse Your Shopping Bags
Most shops and supermarkets charge for bags now. Whilst is has helped a little bit with reducing plastic bag waste, it’s not enough as the prices are not prohibitive - 5c here or 10c there. Take your own reusable shopping bags to save on these amounts at the check out and also because it’s just the right thing to do. Mother Nature can’t handle all your waste - she never could - so stop creating more!
- Shop Alone
Those of you with children will laugh and say “Yeh right!”
I have two children, so I get it and I agree though I can not sing the praises of Lone Wolf Shopping enough. Aside from feeling like a holiday in and of itself, it also means you have time to think through your purchases and weigh up prices properly. If you must shop with kiddies, take some good quality distractions for them so you can better concentrate on your budget stretching.
- Take A Notepad, Pen and Calculator (or SmartPhone)
The key to stretching your shopping dollar is planning ahead and thinking things through. I never shop without my Smart Phone. I have an app which records my spending by swiping the bar code of things, and which has my shopping list with nice check boxes to tick off beside it and my Meal Plans so I know what I’m making and when. I also use the calculator when I do a Cash Only Shop to make sure there is no embarrassment at the check out!
- Get it Shaved - Thin Deli Cuts Go Further
If you buy deli meats and cheeses by the slice, then ask the Deli Counter personnel to give you shaved slices instead. You will use one slice as normal but it will cost you about ⅓ less because of the weight of each slice. Nifty hey?
- Make Your Own
This really goes without saying though it depends on how far you want to take it. I make my own spaghetti sauce from scratch but I do use store bought Tomato Paste. I make pizzas using store bought gluten free flat bread wraps. I grate my own cheese but I buy bulk blocks ahead of time. You can make EVERY. SINGLE. THING. you want to eat though I like to weight it with time and flavour. For example - to make 100mls of tomato paste would be almost my whole crop of tomatoes! Makes sense to buy that but make my own spaghetti sauce around it.
- Don’t Buy Cleaners
Fastest way to chew through your budget is cleaning products! Dishwashing liquid, tablets, laundry powder, bench cleaner, window cleaner, bathroom cleaner, oven cleaner… etc.
Save yourself a hell of a lot of money by stocking up on three things; vinegar (or lemon juice), bicarb soda and castile soap. These make most of the cleaners you will ever need, work just as well and cost a whole lot less. Most of the recipes are pour and shake in a bottle type recipes. Easy!
- Bulk Up!
Make a list of staple items that you can stockpile. Canned goods, bulk dry goods and bottled goods are a great start. Our staples like rice, gluten free pastas and canned tomatoes we buy by the carton or sack load and store. This means I can always whip up an easy pasta even in my leaner weeks because my stock pile provides nearly all of what I need. Set aside $10 or $20 a week of your total budget to start your stock pile and wait for the sales. Cross each item off when you buy it and store it and continue through the list. Then keep an eye on the stockpile stock and top up when sales come up.
- Save on Juices and Cordials
I’ll admit it - I love fruit juice. So do my children. I buy 3L bottles and dilute them 50/50 with water. The taste difference is barely detectable - even to me - and my children are chuffed. It means one 3L bottle lasts up to 10 days where as before 6L or more would not last that long! I also make my own cordials in my slow cooker using agave nectar or honey or coconut sugar. They are not as ‘pretty’ looking as they are not loaded with food colouring but they taste better and are much healthier. Check out my lavender cordial recipe here.
- Save Scraps
One man’s trash is another man’s stock mix! Save your vege scraps like onion skins, celery and beet tops and bones to make up delicious soup bases and stocks. Its easy and anything and if you go the traditional Bone Broth route (4 - 6 hours + apple cider vinegar to leech all the minerals) they are loaded with health giving minerals and a great source of collagen.
Freeze scraps in zip loc bags (that you reuse of course!) and simply whip up a batch of stock and bottle when you have an empty slow cooker and a few bags of scraps ready to go.
- Make Soups and Stocks
If you have a chicken carcass or leftover parts of a roast chook? Guess what! You’ve got a great soup base or a tasty stock! Use your slow cooker and throw in some salt, celery, onions, carrots and herbs. After 4 hours, it’s ready! You can simply add more vegetables after straining out bones etc and some noodles for a yummy soup or pour into bottles and store in the fridge to use for recipes later.
- Get Freezer Friendly
Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to stretching your grocery budget. You can freeze just about anything which means when you see a staple item (like cheese, milk, mince or bread) then stock up and freeze up. Check out our handy freezer guide here for more tips.
- Savvy Slow Cooking
One of the best ways I know to get the best from poorer cuts of meat is the slow cooker.
Freezer to slow cooker meals are my favourite as they save SO much time and hassle and can use a multitude of different things up in one go.
Slow cook roasts and tougher cuts of game for a better flavour (rabbit, fowl, pheasant and goat respond well to slow cooking). Even slow cook things like fudge, banana bread and cakes!
- Pre Pack Lunches
Fastest way to kill your grocery budget? Buy lunches.
Instead of buying kids lunches, pre-make and pre-pack them when you do your meal planning preparation on the weekend. Sandwiches, muffins, quichettes and cupcakes can be made and frozen & defrosted in lunchboxes.
Pots of soup can be frozen ahead of time and defrosted in the slow cooker, poured hot into the Thermos before school or work the next day. Left overs can be boxed up and stacked in the fridge ready to go. Its easy once you get into a routine.
- Quality over Quantity - Nutrition First
The thing about food and weight control is this - your body will store fat if you do not give it enough nutrition. When I started supplementing properly (not with synthetic vitamins either!) I noticed my body immediately let go of excess weight - without any added exercise OR less food!
My cravings for crappy food went away and were replaced with cravings for salads, fruits and water. My weight is steady and my energy is high. Why? Because I use REAL FOOD supplements to give myself optimal - as in the highest amount possible - nutrition.
I eat less now after months of good supplementing because I don’t need extra food for nutrition - just enough for energy. Check your nutrition intake is optimal - not just adequate. It makes a difference.
- Avoid Packaging
Buy pre-packaged smaller items wrapped in yet more packaging is not only bad for the environment but bad for your budget. That wrapping is written into the COST of production of the product which means YOU are paying for it. Given that it gets tossed anyway, do the green thing and buy bulk and divide into REUSABLE containers at home. You’ll save more than a few dollars!
- Forget “Artisan” Ingredients
I make my risottos from standard, normal brown rice. None of this aborio, sushi or jasmine rice for us thanks! We buy a 25kg sack of rice, keep it in a big tub in our ‘cellar’ under the house and use it for anything where rice is required. It works fine. Save your money and don’t buy artisan ingredients. Standard ones work just fine.
- Look to Your Lawn
Did you know that you’ve probably got the makings of a great salad right there in your yard? Pick some young dandelion leaves + plantain leaves + some wild lettuce leaves will give you all the greens you need for a garden salad. Combine with some Dandelion Flower Fritters and a sprinkle of lime juice and olive oil, a shake of salt and you have a delicious and crunchy Summer Salad that cost you nothing!
The Weed Forager’s Handbook is a great resource for Australian edible plants.
- Never Deviate from The List
I have a small white board on my fridge where I write down things I need through the week. By the end of the week, if it’s not on the whiteboard or in the meal plan - it doesn’t get bought. Period. This stops me from impulse purchases which blow the budget.
- Buy Meat 'Fillers'
Because the price of meat is going up and up with every passing year, each mouthful really counts.
Use things like lentils and beans to fill out mince dishes. Use rice and potatoes to fill out mince, chicken or pork dishes. Experiment making chilli con carne with mostly beans and halve the amount of meat.
- Barter and Swap
If you grown your own vegetables, have a bee hive or a few chooks why not put a couple of flyers out in the areas near you asking if anyone wants to barter?
Start a Facebook group of local growers and swap amongst yourselves.
Consider joining a Food Co op for group buying and swapping power. Put together a monthly "Vege Swap Meat" and have everyone bring something to swap or barter with, place on tables and give everyone a basket. Attendees can take as much as they like of whatever they like.
This is a great way to meet more like minded frugalistas in the local community and to get some free food you may not have ever tried before!
I also have a highly allergic / sensitive child to feed, which means everything needs to be made from scratch and we can’t scrimp with bottled or premade stuff because of the ingredients.
So how on EARTH do we live off that little?
Easily! Let me give you my best budget-stretching grocery tips to help stretch your shopping dollar as far as you can!
35 new and revised ways to cut your grocery budget. I now feed my family for less than $50 EVERY week and regularly do a $20 Challenge to see how far I can stretch our staples. To me its a fun challenge - not because I HAVE to but because I CHOOSE to.
Remember - shops are there to make you part with your money. Make them work harder for it!
Happy (thrifty) shopping Flugalistas!