Food…we need it, we love it (well certain foods, definitely not brussels sprouts or rye bread) and we ALL have to buy it. I live in Australia (Sydney), where the overall cost of living is pretty high. Food is quite expensive here, and we don’t get sweet Costco deals!
In Australia, buying food is referred to as “doing the grocery shop”. (They add a ‘the’ in front of a lot of things here…going to the cricket, going to the show, etc.) And when you don’t have unlimited funds, trying to buy the food your family needs while not breaking the bank can feel like some kind of never-ending struggle. So here are three tips (things that have REALLY worked for me) that can help you save on food costs, an expense we all share.
1. Use Coupons
This strategy is no great secret, but it took me until I was well into my 30’s to realize how much money it can save a family. And I’m not taking about ‘Extreme Couponing’ either (a TV show about people who can buy one bottle of ketchup for $3 but use special coupons to buy like 47 bottles of ketchup for 2¢ each instead). If you want to take your couponing (I can’t believe I just used that word as a verb) to that level, then good for you! But for those of us (myself included) who feel overwhelmed at the thought of having to buy in that amount of bulk in order to save money, I’ve got great news for you – You don’t! All I use are the little coupon books/store flyers that get put into my mailbox with lots of other junk mail each week. (Using these coupons means I save anywhere from $25-$50 a week, which is between $1,300-$2,600 a year.) And for those of you who may want to go even further, you can seek out double coupons (not really a thing here in Oz, sadly), online digital coupons and grocery store apps for even more savings.
2. Plan Out Your Meals & Make a Grocery List
Before I needed to follow a food budget (wistfully remembering those carefree times before we had a mortgage), we pretty much decided what we wanted to eat that night for dinner and after finishing work would pick up items from the grocery store on the way home. That strategy was fraught with unforeseen expenses. Buying more food than we actually ate, making a beeline to the premade (and expensive) food at the deli counter, or picking up groceries on the way home when hungry for dinner (and as we know, you definitely shouldn’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry) all contributed to additional (and unnecessary) spending. Now each week we make a plan in advance, and I often look in the weekly grocery store coupon book/flyer to coordinate our meals with what’s currently on sale. (Slam dunk for the win!) Choosing to forgo meat for a meal or two, or making a large dinner and eating it for two meals (tweaking the second round of course…think chili and cornbread one evening and spuds topped with chili and steamed veggies a few nights later) can cut costs too. Planning the week’s meals with your family also gives everyone the chance to nominate some of their favorites (even if someone ALWAYS chooses ‘Breakfast for Dinner’).
3. Shop Around
Now, I can appreciate most people don’t have unlimited amounts of time to spend doing the grocery shopping each week, so I’m not advising that you spend hours going to 15 different shops. But it can be worth your while to pick up certain items at different stores. Here in Australia we have two major grocery store chains, so I usually hit up both to buy anything my family needs that happens to be 50% off that week. (This is great for stocking up on shampoo, cleaning products, canned goods, etc.) I also buy lots of our fruits and vegetables at a food co-op, as the produce is really fresh and often less expensive than at the major grocery stores. You may find there are certain ‘speciality’ items you want to buy from a particular store (like the granola you adore for $6 a box from Whole Foods), but you’ll most likely come out ahead if you don’t buy everything your family needs from one retailer. Spread the love around a bit and you’ll be rewarded!
These top three ideas for saving money on your family’s food costs aren’t earth-shattering secrets, or even complicated, but I guarantee if you implement these strategies YOU WILL SAVE MONEY. Even making just one or two small changes will go a long way toward making a difference to the bottom line of your food budget.