With the cost of living on the rise, many of us are looking for quick ways to cut down on one of the biggest household expenses: food. 

If you’ve been to a café, restaurant or supermarket lately, you may have noticed you’re paying a bit – or a lot – more for food than you were a year ago.

The combination of inflation and supply-chain issues has pushed the price of everyday items to new heights, creating financial challenges for lots of Australians.

While you can’t do much about the economic conditions, there are several things you can do to reduce your food bill if it’s starting to cut into other parts of the budget. Here are 10 ideas.

1. Press pause on eating out

Who doesn’t love dining out? Sadly, this little luxury can add hundreds or thousands to your spending total over the course of a year, depending on how often you visit restaurants, cafés and fast-food outlets. On the other hand, pausing the habit for just a few months can quickly give you a bit of a cash buffer for the future.

2. Forget the brands

When you hit the shops, think about targeting generic or home-brand groceries. While the quality is often similar, generic products usually trade at a discount.

3. Grow your own

If you tend to use a lot of spices or veggies in your cooking, think about heading to the nursery and starting your own kitchen garden. Not only will you save at the checkout, you’ll also be eating produce that’s freshly picked.

4. Head to the source

Depending on where you’re located, you may also be able to gather some cheaper raw ingredients by shopping wholesale. Think farmers’ markets, which often sell fresh food for less than you’d pay at the supermarket. You may be able to save even more by buying imperfect items – such as potatoes with a few bumps and bruises that can easily be cut off.

5. Buy in bulk

For non-perishable items, it often pays to upsize. A quick way to do the maths on how much you could save is by looking at the per-item cost of the things you’re buying. For example, if you’re thinking of bulk-buying a box of 12 tins of tomatoes, divide the cost of the box by 12 and compare that to the single-tin cost.

6. Shop the season

Fruits and veggies that are abundant often come cheaper than those that are out of season and harder to get. As such, you’ll often be able to save by choosing produce based on the current season.

7. Create a co-op

If you have a bunch of friends who are similarly looking to cut down on their grocery bill, you could create a co-op network to shop for fresh groceries. For some, the concept works like this: Several families pool a set amount each week, then one buys a bunch of fresh items from farmers’ markets and shares them among the group.

8. Use apps for savings

Supermarkets now advertise their weekly specials via their app, so it’s worth having a scan to see what may be on sale before going to the shops. There are also a number of apps, like SmartCart and Frugl, that compare grocery costs at different retailers.

9. Stick to the plan

For many of us, it’s easy to overspend if you’re hungry or shopping with a vague idea of what you’d like to buy. Instead, create a list and try not to waver from it.

10. Make the most of leftovers

Reducing food waste is another way to cut down on how much you need to buy. Think about making slightly bigger portions and freezing leftovers for a second meal. It all counts.

Source: Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA)

28 July 2023