How to save hundreds at the supermarket - and help the whole family eat better

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

Anyone who is managing the household budget, or trying to save some extra pennies as the effects of COVID-19 play out, knows that you can easily spend a lot more at the supermarket than you would like to.

In many cases, even a short trip to pick up a few items can result in significant bill which can seriously increase your weekly grocery spend.

The good news is that in these budget conscious times it is also possible to spend a whole lot less, and even improve your families overall nutritional intake, when you know a few tricks of the trade. Even better, you do not need to go to the budget supermarket to reap the financial benefits.

Simply follow this simple guide and count the extra cash in your wallet at the end of each week.

1. Never pay more for the same product

While some specific foods such as high-fibre breads, artisan crackers, special sauces and indulgent treats have more expensive price tags, many other foods including dairy, baking products, wholegrains and legumes are the same product no matter what the packaging or price tag says.

This means that we are silly to be paying more for butter, cheese, flours, sugar, oats and legumes that are the exact same product whether they are branded or not.

When you seek out the cheapest varieties of produce which have minimal packaging you will slash $20 to $30 from your shop each week while the family is still eating exactly the same foods.

2. Factor in one plant-based meal each week

One the most significant supermarket spends comes via our protein rich foods - fish, meat, chicken which add at least $10 per meal to each supermarket shop.

A simple shift to including a plant based meal on the menu each week - soup, baked beans, nachos or tacos made with kidney beans, or a tomato-based pasta with cheese will not only boost your family's intake of veggies and dietary fibre, but save you a significant amount at the checkout.

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3. Go frozen

It's safe to say that most Aussie families will benefit from eating more vegetables. However, not only can it be challenging to get small children to eat them, the cost and preparation time can really add up.

A shift to frozen veggies - mixed, chopped veggies, cauliflower rice, sweet potato pasta and stir fry mixes is not only a cost effective option, at just $2 to $4 to serve a family of four, but these veggies can easily be added to all your favourite family meals - think chicken and vegetable pies, spag bol with vegetable-based noodles, stir fries with cauliflower rice and pasta bakes topped up with extra frozen veg.

Plus contrary to popular belief, frozen vegetables are just as, if not more nutritious, than overcooked fresh ones.

4. Skip the packaged snacks

Behavioural research has shown that the consumption of discretionary foods such as sweet treats, chips, snack food and biscuits is largely dependent on availability.

This means that the more of these foods you buy, the more you, and the family will eat and at $5 to 7 per serve, these processed foods can seriously hike up your weekly grocery bill. An easy way to reduce how much of this food you buy each week is to avoid the snack food aisles completely.

Or if you must buy some, seek at the items that are heavily discounted each week and buy only what you need. Even better are to bake homemade muffins and banana bread for snacks and utliise yoghurts, cheese and wholegrain crackers as the staple snacks in your family.

5. Follow the protein specials

If you have ever shopped after dinner, you will have noticed that the discount stickers appear on fresh produce items around 7pm each night. This is the time of day that meat, chicken and fish that is nearing its use by date have their prices slashed by up to 50 per cent. In addition, each week your favourite supermarket will have various meat, chicken or fish cuts on sale.

Choosing your proteins based on these price savings will significantly slash your weekly shopping bill, whilst assisting your meal planning each week, as will buying these proteins in bulk when they are on sale.

Some days you may be able to find lean mince, chicken breast and steak up to half the usual price, which means that you can still ensure your family meals are based around nutrient rich, lean proteins without blowing out the budget each week.  

Susie Burrell is a mum of twin boys and one of Australia's leading dietitians. Follow her at susieburrell.com.au or Instagram