Are you fed up with the amount you spend on groceries? Are you up for some cheap meal prep in your grocery list to eat well on a budget? Me too! Let’s get our strategy right for the grocery store and get our meal planning game on. Not only are we trying to keep the costs down, but we also need to direct our money to healthy food.
I refuse to accept that prices are rising and am determined to take control of my weekly spend!
My grocery shopping has always been reactive and mindless. I go to the supermarket on autopilot and buy what I think I need. This usually results in spending hundreds of dollars for about half a week! I needed to change and achieve my ideal cheap grocery list.
Here are my tips for reducing your shopping bill and taking back control from the marketing beast, which is Australia’s supermarket duopoly. My tips might not all apply to you, but I hope they trigger some thought about your own spending habits:
Shop locally and source alternatives like online
Research your local area for alternatives to your large supermarket. Try local farmers markets, butchers or greengrocers, online delivery services and large produce markets.
If you live regionally, source from direct farmers wholesale stores! My local suburb even has a food swap, where you can grow your own and take your surplus to swap with a local. Check your listings with your council and local newspapers.
I have local Greek market that stocks delicatessen and produce at a fraction of the supermarkets prices. An example, I regularly get premium gypsy ham for $10 per kilogram instead of $26 per kilogram form the supermarket. Learn your prices and look around neighbouring suburbs for alternatives.
When buying online I tend to be far more mindful. When I reach the end of my shopping cart, I always scan through and delete a couple of times that ‘seemed good at the time’. You can really control your spending here without the ‘at the register’ shame!
This is a classic but often forgotten tip. Don’t shop hungry and without a plan! IT’s important to have a healthy meal plan to keep you on track in your food goals. If a weekly meal plan is too much, aim for just 3-4 days at a time, rather than an entire week.
When menu planning try to incorporate your existing ingredients and include your fresh produce which has a limited shelf life. Do a stock take of your pantry, freezer and fridge before you plan. Buy an ingredient in bulk like a chicken breast, which will be lower per kilogram the more you purchase, and use in multiple recipes. Meal prepping is key to spreading your ingredients to multiple meals and portions. Repeat your meals for lunch the next day, it means less cooking, less of a need for new recipes, and make the most of the bulk ingredient price.
Try to repeat ingredients in different meals. You may get a cheaper price for a larger quantity, which will be cheaper split over multiple meals. For example, purchase bulk pack of rump steak (at a lower price per kilo) and then slice in strips for stroganoff or stir fry, and cube for stews or kebabs. Freeze the portions for use later.
What are your easy meal prep recipes! Post in the comments below.
Watch the specials and ignore the specials
It’s great to grab the specials for items you need. Be careful being swayed to purchase items with aren’t on your pre-planned list, and are not essential. It doesn’t matter if a packet of Corn Chips was only $2. It’s $2 more than you need to spend. Supermarkets conveniently put all those non-essential products in one or two aisles. Just skip those aisles!
Have you ever read a ‘Specials’ sign and seen that the original price is $2.98 and the sale price is $2.95 (true, I have seen this many times!) Not much of a saving, but I have been guilty of picking up the brand with the big red sale sign without reading (bit deceitful hey). If you are in the market for yoghurt, and it is heavily discounted, by all means save a penny, but just take the specials you actually need and analyse the savings carefully.
Look for specials like bulk olive oil tins. This always makes economical sense on a Mediterranean diet, if you use as much as I do!
Ditch the convenience
Supermarkets specialise in convenience, and rely on you not having much time. The more convenient, the more we will pay a premium for it. Take for example green beans. My local supermarket packages a portion of green beans (375 grams) and sells it at $12.00 per kilogram. However, if you buy beans loose, the cost is $8.98 per kilogram. However, the $3.02 per kilogram saving isn’t the biggest difference. You may only really need 100 grams of beans for a dish, but you have bought nearly 4 times as much subconsciously.
Other products I love buying in bulk is larger bottles of soy sauce, pasta sauce, or brown rice. Always being used in my house!
For those of us that have a few extra pennies you might be thinking ‘oh well, it’s not going to break the bank’. But doesn’t it make sense to simply buy what we need and stop wasting food?
Be conscious to marketing when you shop
Anyone that has seen the Gruen Planet will be familiar with the commercial marketing tactics of the supermarkets. The junk food (i.e the food that is always on special, that you don’t need), is in prime position with big flashing signs. Supermarkets dedicate a lot of money to researching the best layout that promotes spending.
There is a reason that ‘peanuts’ they are placed in three different sections (Fruit & Veg, Baking & Health Section). It is to get you moving about and discovering more things you ‘need’.
Unhealthy packaged food takes prime position in the catalogues and it makes the supermarkets a lot of money by promoting extras for you to pop into your trolley. Stay clear of these aisles to help stick to healthy meals.
How many times have you just gone for milk to spend $100 on other ‘stuff’? This is why milk is placed at the back of the supermarket, making you walk past the chocolate to find it. The more I’m ‘aware’ of these tactics, the more it annoys me and I purposely avoid purchasing non essentials.
Spend more on quality not quantity
We are a nation of over eaters. Maybe this tip doesn’t apply to you and you have found the right balance. But levels of obesity in most Western countries suggest most of us are still trying to find the right balance.
I often let supermarkets dictate portion control to me. For example, if I make some bolognaise for dinner I would use a 500 gram pack of beef for 4 serves. I intend to freeze some for later, but ultimately I overeat because ‘it’s there!’
Importantly, an example of spending a little more, is on peanut butter. But whole foods, especially nut butters, is preferred, rather than the one packed with all the preservatives. Its just makes you want to eat more with the addictive sugar and preservatives, so you might save a dollar, but you will pay for it in the long run.
Did you know that the recommended amount of lean ground beef per serve is 65 grams cooked beef. This means a serve for 4 people would be 360 grams of uncooked beef. Save money by ordering 360 grams of premium beef from a butcher! Our portions as a nation are increasing and this benefits supermarket profit, as you unintentionally eat twice what you need.
Let’s be realistic here. It’s much easier to pop into the supermarket, buy mindlessly and get through the week. We are tired and need to be fed. All this planning is exhausting, and I know we all strive for the easiest way. What is the point if you are managing to make it through the weeks?
The best part is to give yourself some incentive. What could saving $50 or $100 mean to you. You could direct the extra funds to saving for a new car? Put it towards a new holiday? Or could that extra money be driven into your mortgage? An extra $200 a month towards the average mortgage of $300,000 could take 6 years and 5 months off you mortgage.
It takes a little time to get creative with saving money at the grocery store, but with some planning, mindfulness and smart purchasing you can make sure you are eating healthy, fresh and like a rockstar.
I would love to hear the best ways you have reduced the extra cost on your grocery bill, ways to reduce food waste, to create delicious meals. Please share your finds in the comments below or share any of your healthy meal prep recipes! Good luck.