Groceries: how low can you go?

Published on August 23, 2016 1:47 pm, by

What do you spend on groceries? How does that compare to what the average family in Australia spends?  Money Smart has some great figures to help you compare, with the figures broken into household type (single, couples, families) and life stage. It’s really interesting (and makes me feel a little better), with the average spend being $314 per week for a family with kids, where the eldest child is over 14.

Set yourself a challenge

How much do you spend on groceries? If you are set up in MoneyBrilliant, view how much you spent on groceries in the last 90 days. You can easily change the time period you see.

Are you surprised? Are you okay with it? Can you go lower? Do you want to?

If you’re ready to beat your personal best, here are the 6 strategies I like to use to keep my grocery bills down. Getting lazy and veering off course results in bill blowouts for me!

#1 Check the catalogues

Each Tuesday afternoon I take 10 minutes to check the Coles and Woolworths catalogues for the next week. All my usual suspects that are on sale, get written down. We spend a fair amount on things like yogurt, fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese and toiletries. Making sure we never pay full price for these items really impacts our grocery spend.

#2 Stock up with a weekly online shop while minimising your delivery charge

For convenience we have purchased a 1 year delivery package with Woolworths. It cost $89 and every time we spend $100 we pay no delivery charge. Given we use this 50 weeks of the year, it’s convenient and less than we would spend in petrol to go to and from the supermarket.

We purchase all the items we need out of the catalogue as well as some staples like bread, milk, flour and eggs which always gets us over the $100 mark. Lucky for us we have a Coles within walking distance, so we get the rest of our stuff between there, the Vietnamese bakery around the corner and Aldi when we are in the vicinity.

If you prefer doing an online shop with Coles, using a Coles MasterCard and spending over $100 per shop gets you free delivery. There are cards available with no annual fee. Personally I haven’t done this, and would only consider it if I paid my balance off in full each month – who needs to pay interest on their groceries? But if you can pay your card off in full, it’s a great way to get your groceries delivered for free.

#3 Meal plan

Once you have read through the grocery catalogues it’s a perfect time to scribble down some ideas of what to cook during the week.

School and work lunches? Make salads and sandwiches out of the meats that are on sale. We can normally get a chicken for $4 or less per kg during the week, that cooked up does lunches for a couple of days. Much yummier and stretches further than the deli meats.

Cooking up a Sunday roast? Get a bit extra meat and overdo the vegetables. You might get meat sandwiches for Monday and a roast vegetable frittata for Monday night.

Coles and Woolworths both put out magazines with recipes in them now. You can access them on their websites or pick them up in store. They also often have a meal or 2 in their catalogues based on what’s on sale that week.

#4 Find a good base meal that you can freeze and re-use

We don’t do this often enough. But when we do, we thank our past self. It’s such a convenient way to eat on a week night when you’ve worked all day and the kids have after school activities you need to taxi them about to.

An example is cooking up a huge pot of bolognaise. Freeze it into portion sizes that you can grab out on the nights you are tempted to eat take away instead. Bolognaise can easily be made in to a heap of things, burritos, tacos, lasagne and meat pies to name a few.

And it doesn’t always have to be beef mince, lamb and chicken are also very versatile.

#5 Don’t get too entrenched with brand loyalty

My feeling is that we are getting better with this, with the rise in popularity of Aldi and the broadening of home brand products. But still it can be easy to keep going back to the same brand. This can be familiarity, taste or just habit induced.

Home brands are just as effective as others often at less than half the price. And they make a difference to your grocery bill.

#6 Buy what you need

One of the crazy things that happens, is the more we buy the more we eat. Buying a big bag of chips is a lot more cost effective than a bag split in to portion sizes, but crazily enough it’s cheaper for us to buy the portion size bags. It just means everyone eats one portion instead of 2 – 3.

If you have the time, energy and commitment, the absolute best way to do this is to buy the big bag and split it in to portion sizes yourself. Just make sure the kids bring the containers home from school, replacing containers constantly is also a costly exercise!

Other things on special though, stock up. The tinned tomatoes, and half price toilet paper aren’t really at any risk of being consumed faster!


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Jen is an experienced banking professional who loves wine, coffee, finding a bargain and of course her three beautiful children. Since Jen's first budget led her to buy a home at 20, Jen has passionately helped others to make better decisions with their money.

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