Tuesday, 22 April 2014

5 ways to save enough money on your grocery shopping to take a tropical holiday.

How would you like to move $3000 from your food budget to your holiday budget every year?  I was surprised that this was how much I was saving every year on my grocery shopping by simply following a few easy steps.  

I always appreciate good value, especially when it comes to food.  In this post I've outlined what I found works for us in terms of saving money on our grocery shopping.   To try to make it different to what you may have previously read I've also worked out the real dollar difference I save by following these guidelines. This will hopefully make it easier for you to  decide if the time and effort (although not really that great) is worth it for you too.  

If you're not in Australia, many of the tips are still relevant, or maybe just check out how I went with these Crispy Pumpkin and Quinoa croquettes.

5 ways to save money on your grocery shopping:

1.  Don't buy your fruit and vegetables at a supermarket
This is my number one tip and the thing that initially prompted me to write this post. I can't believe it when I see people buying their fresh produce at the supermarkets - it is so expensive! When I speak to friends about this I am always surprised by how unaware they are of the high prices they are paying. Maybe it explains why people think it is expensive to buy fruit and veggies. 

 I've always found a local fruit and vegetable market/green grocer to shop at, as the difference in cost is astounding.  The haul below was bought from my local fruit and vegetable market (located in the same shopping centre as the other big supermarkets) and three products on special at Aldi (grapes, blueberries and asparagus). I then compared the same products at Woolworths and guess how much I saved?

Fruit and vegetable market: plus three things from Aldi:  $39.40
Woolworths online: $76.24
Savings: $39.84!!! Nothing more needs to be said.

2.  Shop at more than one supermarket and make one of those Aldi:

When the hubby first moved out of home I was still living at home and so I learnt some of my domestic skills from him. I had always just shopped at one supermarket for all items - I think I just went there because my Mum did and it was now habit.   I was surprised when I found his shopping method was to check out the catalogues and then go to the shop that offered him the best value for the items he needed. 

Check out catalogues before you go to the shops and decide which supermarket has any of your base products on special. I change between Coles and Woolworths based on what is on special and what I need. If I need Chobani yoghurt or fish - I go to Woolworths. If I need lamb, deli meat or rice malt syrup I go to Coles.

But the big way to save money is to also go to Aldi.  There has been a bit of Aldi presence on American blogs lately with sponsored posts and the advertising in Australia has also recently ramped up.  I still find I usually need to go to a second supermarket but now I always buy my staples at Aldi.  I also keep my eye out in the middle 'special buys' section as you can often pick up a bargain on a wide variety of things (I've purchased educational posters, chocolate sauce and an outdoor shower to name a few!)

I purchased the items pictured below at Aldi and then compared the total to what I would have spend at Coles (if I purchased the cheapest/home brand equivalent).  Have a guess what I saved?

(12 eggs x2, chicken and beef stock, apricot and almond muesli, taco meal kit, microwave brown rice, lentils, red kidney beans, (not pictured asparagus, mushrooms, bananas, 2L canola oil)

Aldi grand total: $35.05
Coles grand total: $50.49
Savings: $15.44 on 14 items

Since moving last year I am very lucky to have a shopping centre close by that has a Coles, Woolworths and Aldi all under the one roof. This makes it easier for me to shop at all three places and I recognise this may not be convenient or available to everyone.

Some cons with Aldi:
- Similar products are delivered to the store in packs together e.g. tins of chick peas, lentils, cannelloni beans and often the more popular of the products (i.e. chick peas) sell out first and they are sometimes not replaced until a lot of the other products are sold which can take some time.
- Lines at the register are often a bit longer
- You need to remember your own bags  (a good thing for the environment but can be annoying if you forget)

Also don't forget your local Not Quite Right.  I recently picked up Himalayan Pink Salt for $5.99 for 800gms and long life milk 10 x 1L for $6 and Sanitarium cereal for under 1/2 price. 

3.  Purchase reduced meat close to 'use by date'

The butcher next to my fruit and veg shop always has chicken fillets for $6.99 a kilo (and even on special for $5.49/kg) and good quality lean mince for $8.99/kg.  I start with these staples and then shop for specials. 

I always check out the 'reduced meat' section at both Coles and Woolworths.  I pick up meat for 20-70% less as it is close to the best before date.  This isn't an issue for me as I always freeze my meat anyway.

Current bargains in my fridge include:
Lamb mince $5.41 reduced to $2.71
Lamb diced $12.44 reduced to $9.95
Beef rib roast $21.95 reduced to $15.37
Extra lean chicken sausages $7.99 reduced to $5.59

4.  Know your prices and shop the specials:
Supermarkets know the products that they can discount to get you in their doors. The Herald Sun recently reported that liquid breakfasts, chocolate, coffee and nappies are some of the products that we love to buy on special. 

Most products are on a discount cycle. Get to know the cycles - for example dark chocolate will always come on special for $3 each or 2 for $6 (it even went down to 2 for $5 last week). Cereal, wraps, cheese, chocolate chips... basically everything you buy will regularly come on special. Buy two on special one week and then skip them the next week. 

The only way to know if you are getting a bargain is to know your prices. Use the unit price (the small price on the bottom of the label) to compare products and make conscious decisions when buying food. Buy it it because it is good value or has a better nutritional profile or you just want to try it, don't buy it just because you always do!

5.  If you shop at Costco, be very, very discerning:

I had read a lot about Costco on American food blogs before we actually got one in Melbourne, so I was quite excited when it was being built. I tossed up the $60 joining fee and convinced my mum to go halves in the fee, but I don't know, I'm still not convinced it is worth it. 

You have to purchase items in bulk and they are often no cheaper than when they go on sale at the supermarket.  Again you really need to know your prices.  If you have a big ticket item that you can redeem your joining fee on straight away it would be better value.  

I do still enjoy the novelty of going - last time we got to sample 3 different types of chocolate including my favourite indulgence Lindt!  But it really would be the first thing to go if I needed to tighten the budget and I wouldn't really notice it.

Below are the things I purchased on my last visit.  It is great for some items I can't get at my local store i.e edamame beans ($7ish for the bag below) and coconut flour (around $6).  And I can't get enough of the Yarra Valley marinated feta which at around $7 is at a price below what I buy feta at Aldi for and is 100 times better.  Quinoa and chia seeds are also cheaper. 

But it also sells a lot of processed food, and it doesn't have any bulk bins like I think they have in the States.  A lot of people leave with really loaded up trolleys and I don't think they have all necessarily done all of the maths. 

Overall Savings:
All up I save over $60 a week with these tips.  If you work full time, you may prefer to spend the extra money to be able to order on-line and get it all done in 30 minutes during your lunch break leaving your Saturday morning free to do something much more fun than grocery shopping.  But as I have the time during the week it is definitely worth it to our budget - over the course of the year that $60 a week goes a long way towards a good holiday!

Don't forgot the other golden rules of grocery shopping:
  • Don't shop hungry
  • Have a list
  • Check out the bottom shelf, know that generic/home brands are usually just as good in terms of quality and price
  • Compare unit prices - read the fine print on the bottom of the label to easily compare prices.
  • Try to stick to the outside of the supermarket to avoid processed food.
What are your tips for grocery shopping?  Your thoughts on Costco?

Keep smiling
Dani xx


  1. All good tips. I have found that the fruit and vegie shop offers the same price as woollies for fruit and veg so I have succumbed to getting my fruit and veggies from Woolies because of this. I also menu plan to avoid unnecessary spending on items we won't use during the week.

    1. I am a little ad-hoc with the meal planning, I might start trying to formalise it a little bit as I do end up with some double ups I don't need.

  2. Great tips. It's amazing how much you can save just by knowing your prices and shopping around. We are fortunate to have both the major supermarkets, Aldi and a great fruit and veg shop close together. The prices at the fruit shop are ALWAYS lower and you often can find some great buys. Thanks!

    1. Having all shops close together certainly helps. I love when you can get a good buy on a product the supermarkets don't stock.

  3. Fantastic tips.. We try to do all of the above but some weeks when I feel overwhelmed or busy I just end up ducking into Woolies or Coles only and regret it deeply! With a family of 7 shopping at the fruit markets and recently finding a HANS/PRIMO wholesale butcher has been a godsend for me! We are saving for a tropical holiday so we are penny pinching at the moment so we can do more awesome things whilst we are away. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Shopping for 7, you would have a very full trolley! Happy savings for the tropical holiday :)

  4. Ok you have convinced me to try out the green grocer instead of going to Coles. I'll see how I go with that :)

    1. It all depends on your green grocer, some are as expensive as the supermarkets, I hope you find a good one as you won't look back!