So you've all heard the tips on how to save money doing a grocery shop. Don't shop on an empty stomach, write a list and stick to it, etc etc. Well I've got a couple more that might change the way you think about grocery shopping and help you save even more money. Being in my late 40's I've done quite a few grocery shops over the years and I get sick of the 'games' supermarkets try to play, thinking we are stupid. A lot of it comes down to us as consumers though and sticking to basic ingredients, avoiding ready made products and prepared meals.
The red dots indicate supermarkets in the greater Brisbane area.
Please note, these 5 tips are something I follow. I have no less than about 30 different grocery stores within a 15 kilometre radius from home so I am spoilt for choice and convenience. For those who live hundreds of kilometres from the nearest grocery store and have to buy in bulk, some of these may not apply to you. Also, here in Australia we don't have a coupon system like they do in the US so I'm not sure if these rules are applicable over there, but here goes.
1. Don't look at the supermarket junk mail
I used to look at the specials in the supermarket junk mail a while ago and then I stopped. From one of the top supermarket's specials brochure this week, I actually counted the number of items that were advertised and, excluding toiletries, cleaning items, pet food, alcohol and miscellaneous items like plastic containers, mops, DVDs etc, there were 124 food items advertised. Out of that 124, there were only 19 items that I would actually buy to stock my basic fridge and pantry items. They were:
Out of the entire brochure, there were only 3 fresh produce items. Three! Can you believe it? The rest of the brochure was filled with ready made meals, sweets, snack items, soft drinks etc. Having a basic pantry/fridge/freezer list and keeping that stocked plus basing all of your meals around meat specials and seasonal produce is definitely the cheaper option.
Also, don't buy a lot of a particular product just because it's on special. I'm not a stockpiler. If you live close to supermarkets like I do and you regularly read the junk mail, you'll find that the same store will have that exact same product on sale within a 4 week period. Between the 2 big supermarket chains in Australia, either one will have it on sale when the other doesn't.
2. Look either side of the grocery item to find the cheaper option
I've noticed my local supermarkets have been putting lower priced brands and homebrands either side of the actual product now, instead of above or below. I usually buy the homebrand rice cakes but they are usually just to the right of the higher priced brands. Don't get caught thinking they are out of stock and you're forced to buy a more expensive brand.
3. Calculate the price per kilo to compare the cheaper buy
Sometimes the packaged ham slices might be $3 for 100grams but calculated per kilo that's $30! You should find it a lot cheaper in the delicatessen section or butcher shops sell ham on the bone at really good prices throughout the year for less than $10 per kilo.
4. Avoid buying sliced or grated cheeses
The amount of money you pay for something that can be done so simply at home is just outrageous. For example, my most recent supermarket brochure has a 200gm packet of grated cheese on special for $3.99. That comes to $19.95 per kilo. In the same brochure a block of Edam cheese from the deli is $14.99 per kilo. A saving of $5.00 per kilo and you can cut it into cubes for lunch boxes, slices for sandwiches or grated for sandwich melts. I usually buy a kilo block of plain cheddar for around $8 per kilo each time and get the food processor out and grate half and pop it in the freezer and use it frozen. Lasts for ages.
Growing up, our local butcher shop had sawdust on the floor and wrapped all the meat in paper like above.
5. Avoid buying meat and produce from the supermarket
I know it is a bit more inconvenient, especially if you've got to drag small children around and when my children were younger I did tend to buy everything at the one store. Now I've got a bit more time on my hands, I'll get my fruit and vegetables online or at a nearby green grocer and buy my meat in bulk. (We don't buy much meat anymore except for chicken, sausages and mince but it does work out a lot cheaper from a butcher or meat wholesaler.) Check the per kilo prices for meat and don't rely on the supermarket's word when they say that fruit and vegies are fresh. Most often they're not.
Like I said before, everyone's different and shops a different way for convenience and necessity. Having a basic pantry list and keeping it topped up works out a lot cheaper for us which enables my standard grocery shop to be around $50 per week with fruit and vegies around $30 per fortnight and meat at around $30 for the month (for 1 adult and 2 school aged children). We bulk out our meat with lentils, chickpeas etc or have egg based dishes. I hope these tips help you in some way.
This post is part of domesblissity's THRiVING - Thrifty Living feature.