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Ten ways to save on grocery shopping


Laine Gordon

By Laine Gordon

5 min read

Want to cut the costs of your grocery shopping and actually save money? Here are 10 great ideas for reducing the cost of feeding the family and outsmarting supermarket marketing traps.

Plan before you shop

Planning doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process. Paint a kitchen wall with blackboard paint and make keeping a list more fun for the family. Simply take a photo of the shopping list using a smartphone before you head out to the shops, rather than having to write it down.  

Don’t just plan your food list or meals, though. By planning when to visit your supermarket or store could help to slash your bills. Shopping later in the day, for instance, may be when certain items are heavily discounted. If you don’t know the time your local store marks down its good, then ask.

Don’t let it go to waste

Foodwise estimates that Australians waste over $1000 every year on uneaten food, on average, with up to 40 percent of the average kerbside garbage bin being food.

Preserving in times of plenty is one of the most effective guards against waste. Knowing how to make jams, sauces, chutneys and pickles means you’ll never throw away veggies again – or your hard-earned cash. Also consider using up extra fresh food for home-made frozen meals.

Organise your fridge

To keep your refrigerator from becoming the graveyard where celery goes to die, keep stock of what's on the shelves. When you buy new groceries, borrow a trick from the supermarkets and rotate older items to the front; if you see them, you're more likely to use them. As items near their use-by date, move them to a "use it up" shelf, so you remember what needs to be eaten soon.

Grow your own

Start a veggie garden – it’s a great entertainment for kids and a big money saver. If you don’t have space in the yard, consider growing a herb garden – you can buy potted herbs for a few dollars, which is a bargain when you consider supermarkets charge upwards of $2 a bunch!

Don’t be lured by supermarket traps

Consumer research shows that we’re vulnerable to subtle – and even not-so-subtle – marketing techniques and impulse buying accounts for a significant proportion of supermarket purchases.

For instance, look to the bottom shelves at the supermarket – chances are that’s where you’ll find the budget-priced goodies.

Also, consider shopping alone. Not only will you get some peace and quiet, you’ll save money (and time) avoiding the kid-pester factor.

Shop clockwise

A report on supermarket tricks, published by Choice and based on US research, found shoppers who worked their way around a store in an anti-clockwise direction will spend, on average, $2 more per trip than clockwise shoppers.

Do your shopping online

Aside from the obvious convenience of grocery shopping from your lounge or desk at work, shopping online can also be a money saver. By shopping virtually, you’re able to sort products by price and see a running total of your shopping trolley. You’re more likely to stick to buying what you need, not what you’re tempted to buy like when you’re in the store.

If delivery times and costs turn you off shopping online, consider ordering online and collecting from the store at a time that is convenient.

Leave the credit card at home

Paying with cash or using a debit card, rather than paying on credit, is another good way to help you stick to your grocery budget because you’ll be less tempted to spend on things that you don’t need at the supermarket.

Also do your homework on rewards cards – rather than using the rewards points on merchandise, consider swapping points for supermarket vouchers. But bear in mind that credit card rewards aren't for everyone – one report shows that you’d have to spend $170 a week at one of the major supermarkets for a year to earn a $50 gift card. The same is true for most credit card rewards – most shoppers would be better off using a low-rate credit card (if they pay interest), with no annual fee, rather than a rewards card. Compare credit cards to see which option is suitable for you.

Shop around

Spending $100 on groceries at one store may be as little as $70 at another. If you can, shop around for the best deals and know what things cost – that way you can tell if something really is a bargain.

Buy direct and save

As cook and television presenter Maggie Beer says: "think local and think seasonal" when shopping. Using local farmer's markets is one of the best ways to not only ensure low food miles, but also fresher food options.

If you can’t get to the markets every other week, consider joining a co-operative of shoppers and share the responsibility.

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