How to save on the cost of groceries

How to save on the cost of living with groceries

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CEO of Dietitians Australia Robert Hunt making the most of his fresh produce. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

CEO of Dietitians Australia Robert Hunt making the most of his fresh produce. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

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With the increasing cost of living, food prices have skyrocketed but here is how you can save on your weekly shop.

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As inflation reaches a 20-year high, the cost of groceries has skyrocketed to the point where chicken nuggets are cheaper than an iceberg lettuce.

A head of iceberg lettuce at Coles has risen to $5.50 while a pack of 10 chicken nuggets at Hungry Jacks is $4.95.

Campaign director of consumer group-buying network One Big Switch Joel Gibson found, in a study with Frugl Grocery, the price of food in Coles and Woolworths increased by 2.6 per cent from February 2021 to 2022.

"We found some individual items increased by 94 per cent, and people found their grocery bills doubling," Gibson said.

Soft drinks, coffee, canned products like baked beans and tinned spaghetti were the worst affected.

"Cheaper meats like basic beef mince also increased in price, meaning the people that were being hit the hardest were those who were originally picking cheaper options," he said.

Despite this, there are still ways to save your money with the increasing prices. Here are 10 tips to save on groceries:

Stock up on specials

Margaret Rafferty of Choice Australia said it is important to consider where you shop, but don't let that limit you. Coles and Woolworths will often price-match, while Aldi will generally have the cheapest basket.

But more expensive supermarkets like IGA will also have good specials and discount stores like The Reject Shop claims the cheapest pasta in Australia starting at just 75c.

"Buy something especially if you know it's got a stable shelf life and it will last you a while, it's worth stocking up," she said.

Look at unit prices

Mrs Rafferty said looking at the unit price is a useful way to compare products and often more useful than buying things in bulk, especially if you have a smaller household.

"We did a check on Vegemite. The cheapest option at the time was a 380-gram jar that had a unit price of $1.32 per 100 grams. Generally, without specials, if you buy the largest size you'll get the cheapest unit price on Vegemite."

Shop seasonally

CEO of Dietitians Australia Robert Hunt. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

CEO of Dietitians Australia Robert Hunt. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Chief executive of Dietitians Australia, Robert Hunt acknowledges fresh produce is more expensive to buy, but said buying items when they are in season will make eating healthier cheaper.

"Lettuce is expensive at the moment, there are a myriad of other vegetables that you can buy in the supermarket that are seasonal and cheap. So in wintertime, broccoli can be $7 or $8 per kilo. In the summertime, it's $2," Hunt said.

Make 'smart swaps'

Substituting is often the best way to lower the cost of living without forgoing health and nutrition.

Frozen vegetables are cheaper than fresh vegetables and last longer, while pre-cut fruit can be up to five times more expensive.

"Look for the cheaper cuts of meat, for example boneless chicken breasts are the most expensive kind of chicken but we found that drumsticks were about three times less expensive per kilo," Ms Rafferty said.

Go to markets for smaller shops

Canberran and author of The Joyful Frugalista Serina Bird said if you are looking to top up on fruit or vegetables for dinner, consider farmers market options rather than going to supermarkets.

She said if you go to the Belconnen Markets before they close, they regularly drop their prices to get rid of remaining stock.

"It's about doing your big shops at supermarkets and getting fresh produce from markets to fill the gaps," she said.

Refill where you can 

Margaret Rafferty recommends going for refillable products for things like hand wash, shampoo and conditioner and various cleaning supplies.

"All of them were cheaper per 100 millilitres than the originals. The average saving was about 32 per cent, so that's, that's a good one to look out for," she said.

Plan before you shop

Author Serina Bird said she has found doing one big shop every two to three weeks is helpful, with a list on the fridge for all the family to add to during this time.

"Constantly building on the shopping list means you won't miss anything important, and makes sure you actually remember what you came for," she said.

Grow your own herbs and veggies 

Winter is the season to grow spinach, chard, parsley and rocket.

Mrs Bird said she even managed to grow herbs like parsley on her shady apartment balcony. In Canberra, you can grown them on your nature strip.

Keep track of money

Mrs Bird also said a helpful way to make sure you aren't overspending is to keep track of your money on a spreadsheet or something similar.

"Considering tracking your spending is a good way to make sure you aren't actually spending too much on your purchases, and it lets you know exactly where you are financially," she said.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

As prices continue to rise, food insecurity is likely to become a problem for more Australians. There are places that can help those who experience difficulties with food. Serina Bird suggests the Uniting Church is "always willing to help, with no shame associated". Other places to ask for help include OzHarvest and St John's Kitchen on Kitchener Street, who provide cooked meals.

The story How to save on the cost of groceries first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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