- Write a menu and a shopping list and only shop once a week or once a fortnight. Check supermarket flyers for their specials that week and maybe plan your menu around them. Eg if minced beef or chicken are very well-priced, buy some and plan several meals around them. Ensure every meal of the week is covered so you do not need to resort to takeaways which can take a huge chunk out of your food budget. If you dislike cooking, try to cook large batches at once (keep rest in fridge or freezer), so you can get several meals out of one cooking session.
- If you run out part-way through the week, or find you have forgotten to buy something, try to ‘make do’ and not visit the supermarket again (or the dairy).
- For most items eg flour, sugar, eggs, milk, butter, washing powder, tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, weetbix, porridge, pineapple, burrito wraps, meat, baking powder/soda, rice, pasta and some bread, there is no difference whatsoever between what is in the packet in a ‘branded’ pack and a ‘plain’ pack so buy the cheapest. For some items such as soup, baked beans, tinned spaghetti and some biscuits there may be a difference in taste and you may prefer the branded item. In this case only buy it when it is on a significant special (not just 10 or 20 cents off). Keep a notebook with the standard prices of things you normally buy. When you are shopping and you see a ‘special’ you can then check if it is really a good price or not. Many items are much cheaper if you buy a larger packet, but not always. Use the ‘unit price’ on the shelf to help you work out what is cheapest per 100 grams or mls.
- Try not to buy pre-prepared food (except for tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, tinned pineapple, bread, baked/chilli beans and frozen vegetables).
- For fruit and vegetables, the fruit and veggie shop is usually cheaper than the supermarket. Buy seasonally (when a fruit or vegetable is in season it will be cheaper). Frozen vegetables are often a good buy eg (peas, corn, mixed vegetables) especially if on special.
- Buy one cleaning product each week (out of dishwashing liquid, washing powder, toilet cleaner etc). Use the same product for cleaning floors and toilet etc. Remember you can use baking soda and vinegar to clean (if for cleaning, these items are much cheaper if purchased in bulk). You may need to alternate each week between toilet paper and washing powder, depending on use. Also buy one personal care item each week (from deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc). This will prevent you running out of everything at once and having to spend precious food money on cleaning and personal care items.
- Try to keep flour and baking powder in the pantry. Freeze a small quantity of butter and milk. If you have these, you could make scones when there is no other food in the house. Also try to keep rice and one type of dried pasta in the house so, again, you could cook this when no other food available. Buy one herb or spice each week (eg mixed herbs, cinnamon, cumin, curry powder, chilli powder, ginger, powdered beef stock, powdered chicken stock) to give your meals some variety and build up a small stock of these items.
- If there is room in your budget, buy one or two ‘luxuries’ each week, such as a tub of ice-cream, bacon, chocolate biscuits, bakery item. On special, these items should be $2 – $4 each.
Thanks to Sophie Gray ‘The Destitute Gourmet’ for some of these tips