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Simple tips to save thousands on your grocery bill every year

Cameron Carpenter

Did you know that food is the second-biggest expense for most Australians, after housing costs and before transport, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows.

And it will come as no surprise to shoppers that the cost of groceries is surging at the fastest rate in six years. For example, Coles' prices rose 2.4% over 2019-20 while Woolworths' rose 1.4%.

Meanwhile,  Australians have been warned to expect continued price rises this year, especially when it comes to meat.

So what can you do to cut down on your grocery bill? Here are some of our top tips.

How to save money on groceries

1. Make a meal plan and write a grocery list

Before you go to the supermarket, write a meal plan and grocery list. There are heaps of tasty and affordable meal plans available online, just Google budget meal plans.  Then, once you get to the supermarket, stick to your shopping list and avoid the temptation to buy anything extra.

2. Keep things simple

One of the keys to lowering your  your grocery bill is to eat cheaper items, more often. You can make tonnes of meals with just a few basic ingredients.

Cheap, energy-rich foods include beans, wholemeal pasta, potatoes, brown rice, lentils, eggs, and oatmeal.

3. Go meat-free once (or twice) a week

Meat is usually the most expensive part of a meal, so cutting it back can help you save money.

Search for tasty and affordable vegetarian recipes online and try to have a vegetarian meal once a week.

4. Shop for markdowns

Australian supermarkets generally discount some items progressively through the day before products go out of date, so you can save big on meat and veggies by hunting for markdowns.

Shoppers say the best times snag markdowns is early in the morning or shortly before closing time (but this all depends on your supermarket).

5. Start a veggie garden

Save the planet and save cash! By spending a few dollars on seeds, plants, and garden supplies in spring, you'll produce plenty of vegetables by summer.

If you're lucky enough to have a garden with some soil, start planting. Apartment dwellers can use a planter set, which is excellent for growing vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, beans, and root vegetables.

6. Ditch the expensive brands and buy supermarket generics

We all know generic brands at the supermarket are cheaper,  but exactly how much can you save?

A recent analysis from CHOICE found that a basket of supermarket home brands was up to 40% cheaper than the equivalent branded products.

Buying house brands doesn't mean you're sacrificing on taste either. Lots of generic products now offer equal or better quality than their higher-priced competition, surveys show.

Still not convinced? Most professional chefs go for the generic option when buying staples such as sugar, salt, and butter. So don't be a brand snob and save big.

7. Shop at Aldi

Aldi is officially the cheapest supermarket in Australia. And while it does not have any of the big-name brands you'll find at Woolworths at Coles, many of Aldi's alternatives are just as good — and much cheaper too.

CHOICE says a grocery haul from Aldi is nearly 50% cheaper compared to other supermarkets, assuming you're willing to switch off the leading brands.

8. Use your freezer

Stock up on food items when they are heavily discounted and store them in your freezer. For example, found a good deal on butter or bacon? Buy two and freeze them for later.

9. Take the pantry challenge

A pantry challenge is when you use up all the food you have before buying any more. You might be surprised at what you manage to pull together.

You'll save money on food, help avoid any waste, clean out the clutter in your pantry and improve your cooking skills by learning how to do more with less.

Use Google to find recipes using the ingredients you have. For example, search recipes with pasta, broccoli, butter, bacon, and garlic. (just change the search to the ingredients you have).

10. Cook more than you need so you have lunch for the next day

Invest in some plastic food containers and cook more than you need. Freeze the leftovers for another day or take them to work for lunch. You'll save time and money.

11. Make use of a food bank if you're struggling to make ends meet

If you're doing it tough, never be ashamed to ask for help. There are hundreds of food banks right across Australia that can assist you with food parcels. To find food banks near you, visit https://askizzy.org.au/ and enter your postcode.

Here are some other top tips:

  • Stop buying fruit juice and soft drinks. Drink water; it will save you money and is better for your health.
  • Never shop when you're hungry!
  • Only use cash at the supermarket and leave your cards at home to stop you from overspending.
  • Buy whole foods. For example, a block of cheese is usually cheaper purchased whole than grated, and dried beans are much more affordable than canned beans.
  • Change recipes to cut costs. Substitute the expensive veggies or cuts of meats with cheaper ones.
  • Bulk up meals using budget foods like potato, beans, and pasta.
  • Buy ugly vegetables (they're usually discounted).
  • Grow your own herbs.

AussieSaves reader suggestions:

Louise: Fresh vegetables are unaffordable; frozen vegetables are just as nutritious. Beans are an excellent source of protein and other nutrients on the cheap. Add lots of beans to your diet.

Ruth: I grow my own fruit, nuts, vegetables, and herbs and have chickens for eggs. I also freeze and preserve and make jam, pickles etc.

Sandy: I buy the cheapest cuts of meat, and go meat-free a couple of nights a week. I have a cooking day and cook and freeze easy meals such as spaghetti, lasagna, soups, etc.

Gill: Try a growers market for cheaper fruit and veg.

Tanya: I switched to frozen vegetables. Much cheaper already prepared, no mess, and saves time, plus we're eating them more.

Keira: Buy cleaning products from The Reject Shop and the cheap shops. They are usually parallel imports and cheaper than supermarkets.

Buy the boxed muffins/cakes when they're on clearance. Freeze for school lunches.

Bulk meals up with beans and rice, which are two cheap, filling staples.

Lentils are a great substitute for mince in bolognese. Make it with half mince/half lentils. Also nutritious.

Belinda: Another way to save is to find a butcher who does bulk meat packs, divide up into portions and freeze - have saved a ton doing it this way in the long run

What are your tips for saving money on groceries? Let us know in the comments.