Lets not kid ourselves. Times are pretty tough Especially here in Australia, where the dollar is dipping to a record, recent-year low. Because of this, I decided to share some tips that I use every time I shop, that have proven to save me some serious money over the years.
- Get a heads up on the specials. Each week, grocery stores put out catalogues with their current specials in them. These are often included in newspapers, or put in a mailer route, and delivered right to your mailbox. In most cases, they are made available online the day before the sale starts, so it’s a good idea to get a heads up on special each week. If you have more than one supermarket in your town, use that to your advantage. Often stores will compete with each other to try to get your cash. When putting together your list (see below) write separate sections for each store. Trust me, the inconvenience of going to two or more different store is far outweighed by what you will save.
- Plan meals and write a list accordingly One of the biggest struggles I used to have when I did my weekly shop was not knowing what I would (want to) eat for the rest of that week. That caused me to overspend and buy things on impulse that I really didn’t want or need later. To overcome this, my wife and I sat down and wrote out a meal plan for the week ahead. There are literally BILLIONS of recipes and meal ideas available on the internet, for free (one of my favourites is taste.com.au), and you can find inspiration on the web so easily. By working out a meal plan, you can then sit down and figure out what you need to be able to cook each of the meals on the plan. Once you have the list, its important that you stick to it. It’s so easy to impulse buy, but by having the list in front of you, you can go in – get the items you need – and get out. This not only saves you precious dollars, but (more importantly) time!
- Buy generic where possible So much money is wasted on buying name brands when it’s not necessary. There are items in your store that have generic or store brand counterparts that are just as good, if not better, than the name brands. I’ll run through a few examples:
- Table Salt Salt is salt. There’s no other way of putting it. Plain, granulated table salt comes in many different shapes and sizes, but there is no difference between them. In this example, you pay twice as much for four times less salt. And all you are paying for is the brand. Both are made in Australia, both contain nothing but pure salt. But, if you’re the type of person who puts your salt in a separate shaker, then this is the deal for you:
- Cocoa This is one case where the generic brand is actually BETTER than the name brand. The Cadbury Cocoa is packaged in Australia from local and imported ingredients. The Home Brand (generic) cocoa is packed in Germany from imported ingredients. This means that the cocoa going into the cheaper box is likely German, Dutch, or Swiss. This means that of the two, the Home Brand cocoa is much richer and has a fuller flavour. From my experience, cakes made from the Cadbury are bland and less impressive than those made from the generic. My advice here is to give generic a shot, you never know what hidden tasty gems you’ll discover!
- Cling Film This item is a lot like the salt, in that there is literally no difference between the two. They both keep food fresh, they are both a pain in the rear to tear properly, they are the same thing. But when you look at the prices, they are very different: Whilst the individual savings of the products I’ve detailed here aren’t much, every little bit adds up to mega savings!
- Loyalty Programs So many stores these days offer memberships to their loyalty club. These programs offer many different things, depending on which one you join. I have a loyalty card to both major supermarket chains here in Tasmania. The first, Woolworths Frequent Shopper Club, allow you to collect ‘points’ (1 point for $1 spent) and in the weeks leading up to Christmas each year, they mail you a voucher to spend in store (100 points = $1 on voucher). The other one is the Coles Flybuys program. This allows you to again collect ‘points’ (again, 1 point for $1 spent), and you can redeem rewards anytime throughout the year. These rewards include vouchers to reduce your total at the checkout (2,000 points = $10), as well as many other goodies and seasonal items available on their website. Both supermarket chains have ways for you to earn bonus points, from mail out vouchers, to in catalogue specials, to special events where everything is ‘double points’. These boosts help to earn you savings much faster. Check with your grocery store chain to see what rewards system they offer, and use the card for EVERY purchase. Even if you’re just running in to buy a carton of milk. Every point adds up, and the rewards are worth it.
- Per unit pricing In Australia, by law, every item on supermarket shelves has to have a ‘per unit’ price. In the examples I gave above, with the salt, cocoa, and cling film; the price per unit is included in the listing. This is a very handy tool to work out if what you’re buying is actually a good deal or not. A very common practice for supermarkets is to charge more per unit for smaller sizes of the same item. A classic example is nappies (disposable diapers, for those not familiar with Australian slang):
When bought in the smaller pack, each nappy costs $0.64. But if you pay the extra $19, you get each nappy for $0.52. It seems weird, but spending a little bit more can actually SAVE you money!
- Quick sale items
Most supermarkets, desperate to make money where they can, will reduce items that are near their best before date. Things like meats, and bakery goods can be bought and frozen, and will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Never shop while hungry!
This one is an oldie but a goodie. It really works. If you’re hungry while grocery shopping, a 2013 study has found, you are more likely to impulse buy higher calorie, junkier foods. Eat before you shop (even having a small latte can help satiate hunger), and stick to your list to stop unnecessary spending.
- (Bonus tip) Take your own bags
More and more stores are doing away with disposable, lightweight plastic bags, as they are bad for the environment; so stores are replacing them with heavy-duty, re-useable plastic or canvas bags. They generally charge for these bags, from 10-15 cents (for plastic) to $1-$2 (for canvas). They are designed to be reused, so re-use them! While 10 cents per bag may not seem like much, over time it adds up!
Hopefully you can save some money with these tips. I put each one of these into practice every time I enter a supermarket. Its become second nature to me, and hopefully it will be second nature for you too!
*Please note that these tips are designed to be used as a guide only. Instances provided are an example of grocery shopping here in Tasmania, and may not be reflective of shopping experiences in other states and countries. No money was paid for this post, and any indication of preference to any particular brands is purely unintentional. Example products given are indicative of general products one might purchase in everyday shopping.