If you think you’re spending more at the supermarket lately, you’re probably right. That’s because NZ food price inflation has ratcheted up in price over the year to January 2020 – increasing at nearly double the rate of inflation. (Inflation is the general increase in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money over the years).
Feeding yourself - and possibly others - can sometimes be a challenge, not to mention time consuming. Here are eight top tips to save you time and money on your grocery bills. They may also help save some unnecessary calories along the way too!
1. Check meat and protein special offers first… and plan meals around them
A great way to save money is on your meat/protein or big ‘ticket’ items. When starting your grocery shop for the week, check what proteins are on special. Once you see that something (such as chicken thighs and mince) are on special for the week you can then start creating your weekly meal plan. While you are creating a meal plan make it realistic, don’t go too “pie in the sky” with lots of new recipes or time-consuming meals. If you are busy, are you really going to have the energy to do that beef bourguignon you have always wanted to try out? Probably not. And, sometimes the meals people enjoy the most are the simplest.
One of the most helpful money savers when meal planning is planning dishes that can utilize some of the same ingredients. Something like capsicum can be used in Mexican, Asian, and Italian dishes. This way you’ll minimise waste and your meals will still be different each night.
2. Pantry ‘shop’ first
Before you hit the grocery store. Look through your pantry first. The easiest way to do this is to ensure your pantry is well organised. Have all your tinned food together and then grouped by type: beans, vegetables, fruit, etc. It will make it easier for you to see what you have on hand. Too often pantry items get left and forgotten about. If you ‘shop’ here first you can see what you can use, and a bonus, it may even give you some meal inspiration!
3. Buy in bulk
So, earlier, we talked about finding what’s on special. Great, now buy those in big packs.
If you are meal planning you can use things like chicken in multiple ways and dishes; get the big pack to use for 2-3 weeknight meals, rather than buying multiple small packs of different proteins. This will reduce costs, as sometimes they offer the even bigger portions cheaper than the smaller ones. Bonus: this also cuts down on rubbish from packaging, as well as waste from unused meat (if you don’t use for one meal you can add to the next). Do something good for the environment and save money = win, win!
4. Shop in season
When produce is in season there is more of it, which means it is generally less expensive than it’s out of season counterparts. Try buying an apple in the middle of summer and sometimes you can’t get them for less than $4 a kilo, whereas in season you can see them for under $2 a kilo. Plus, when you are buying in season the produce usually tastes much better because it’s fresher.
5. Buy ‘no name’ products
Often, people go through aisles and look for a brand name they know and toss it in the shopping cart without giving it a second thought. But, did you know, that often the ‘no name’ or grocery store branded product are made by the name brand companies and repackaged? In many cases you can virtually get almost the same product for a fraction of the price, and the premium product is just a rip off. It can be worth trying out different ‘budget’ options to suss out your favourite budget saver, as some do taste differently. Once you find one, you can generally save quite a bit over the course of a year by opting out of the highly advertised brands.
6. Skip pre-made/pre-prepared
This tip is a favourite as it saves money and saves calories. A lot of pre-made sauces or meals contain a lot of salt, sugar and preservatives which adds a lot of unnecessary calories to your diet, not to mention adds more cents onto your purchase price. During summer avocados and tomatoes are in season and you can grab for about $3, one/two avocados and a large tomato, – put together with a few pantry ingredients (salt, pepper, and citrus juice) and you can have a freshly tasting guacamole – even get a bit fancy and add some garlic or coriander. Not only is this half of the price of the store made option, but also can be up to twice as much – therefore 4x more value for money.
7. Make a budget and shopping list
Once you’ve completed the steps above its time to make the list! Write down a budget, match it up with your list of needed items.
Online shopping has made it even easier to price compare, check progress throughout your shop on cost and alter your shop as you go. Even if you want to choose your produce yourself you can make a list online to check pricing and save it to your smartphone to take into the store.
8. Meal prep
Many people are pressed for time during the week, so a great way to cut down your cooking time is to prep as much as you can on the weekend. This could mean cooking your proteins ahead of time or taking it out of packaging and putting it into marinade or spices – so when you’re ready to cook it’ll be straight from the fridge to oven or pan. Another great thing to cut down time is pre-cutting fruit and vegetables.
This is not just a time saver but a money saver as well. You will be far more likely to head home to cook a quick meal if everything is prepped ahead of time, rather than feeling too rushed and stopping in for takeaway; which will cost you money and you may waste food if it is not eaten before it expires.
The bottom line – how to save money on your weekly groceries
Check meat and protein special offers first… plan meals around them