You know how they say that around 9% to 14% of your income should go to food? What if I told you there is a way to slash up to 50% off of your food expenses right now? It takes willpower to change, some creativity, and a bit of math.
1. Buy Seasonal
Some say you should buy your groceries before you plan your menu. I say you check out what's in season first, before you do either. You don't need to go to the supermarket to know what's in season. Check out this guide for Australia: http://seasonalfoodguide.com. When you know what's in season, you will know what to get in bulk; then you can plan your meals. When you’ve run out of ideas for what to cook with your seasonal produce, remember that the Internet is your friend.
2. Shop With Cash
You probably have a rough estimate on how much you spend on groceries every week or every fortnight. Withdraw that amount, and pay for your items in cash. When you have a clear visual of how much you're spending and how much you're left with, it's easier for you to stop yourself from overspending. Little extras like sweets, skin care and vanity items are all too easy to grab when you're paying on credit or debit. Those things can really add up to your bill.
3. Explore Other Brands
A lot of us become incredibly loyal to specific brands. This is completely understandable, especially when it's an item that you've known, trusted, and loved. But you have to remember that you can cut your spending up to half if you're really smart about these things. Have you ever shopped at Aldi? They have generic equivalents of most of the pantry staples, and their meats and produce are sourced locally in Australia. They even have an online shopping list so you can plan your shopping before you go. The Aldi products are just as good as brands you'll find in Coles and Woolworths but they're much cheaper.
TIP: Remember that you have to bag your groceries yourself at Aldi's. Don't forget to bring a few bags!
4. Love Local
Are there independent supermarkets, butchers, or even produce shops around your area? A lot of your local independent farmers and traders offer great deals, especially when you buy in bulk. Butchers will even prepare meat in your preferred cuts. You get to help the local industry, get fresh, artisan products, and save a few dollars all in one go.
5. Say "No" to Packaged
You know those mixed seasoning sachets, jarred salsas and sauces, and even tinned produce? Sure they're easy to make, but if you really think about it, they end up costing more per kilogram. A quick Internet search will give you recipes of some of the most amazing dishes, seasonings, and sun-dried produce. They're healthier, tastier, and a lot lighter on the pockets.
6. Check For Unit Price AND Necessity
Bigger isn't always better. You'd think that the bigger packs would end up being cheaper so you just have to get items in bigger packs, right? Not exactly, but if you're aware that the bigger the bulk of the item, the less you have to pay: congratulations! You're a step ahead of the game of saving. However, don't forget to take into consideration what items you actually need to buy in bulk. For things like hygiene products that (figuratively) take forever to go bad; go for it. But for food items that spoil, might not be such a good idea. Unless you're willing to manually preserve them at home (through canning, salting, etc.), you'll probably end up either giving or throwing them away, and ultimately wasting your money.
7. Be Creative
Are Chillies $1 per crate? You can't keep having the same dishes over and over again with the chilli as the star. It's time for you to experiment with different dishes and desserts or research on what you can do with specific ingredients. The same goes for leftovers. Instead of just reheating them, why not turn them into a different dish? Even with things crusts you take out in sandwiches. You can turn them into breadcrumbs for deep fried food, or even pudding for the next day.
With everything you need to pay for from your mortgage, car leasing, and daily expenses; you really have to be smart with your spending. Every dollar counts and, with a little bit of know-how, you'll be saving more than you thought possible. Want more tips on saving money? Check out the Alpha Finance blog.
Words by Danica Katigbak