10 Small, Easy, and Practical Ways to Save Money on Your Weekly Grocery Shop
A common misconception we hear a lot is that healthier eating is more expensive. However, not only does healthy eating benefit our energy levels, wellbeing and longevity, but it can also be easier on the wallet.
In the 2017 SMILES Trial study, participants who were prescribed the Mediterranean Diet (one of the world's healthiest diets) spent $26 less per week on their groceries compared to those who followed a typical western-style diet.
No matter your budget, shopping for healthy foods is possible. Don’t know where to start? Here, we’ve put together 10 simple tips on how you can save money on your weekly grocery shop - and still benefit from healthy eating.
10 genius grocery hacks to save money
1. Use what you already have
Before you head out to the shops, do a reconnaissance of your pantry and freezer to see what you already have available. Tinned foods often sit in our cupboards for a long time but can be transformed into delicious meals. If you have tins of chickpeas or beans hiding at the back of the cupboard, or frozen vegetables in the freezer, search for recipes that can make these ingredients into the star of a meal. Doing so means that you’re wasting less food at home and have already saved some money on ingredients in your weekly shop.
2. Write a meal plan
Get the family, your partner, or your roommates (whoever you share meals with) together each week to write a weekly meal plan together. Ensuring that everyone has input, you are more likely to cook meals across the week that won’t go to waste on fussy eaters. You can also ensure that ingredients or foods everyone likes can be front of mind and purchased when they’re on sale at the shops.
3. Write a grocery list
Writing a grocery list before shopping is essential to saving money. A little bit of pre-planning helps to ensure you know exactly what you will need for your meals for the week, you can cross anything off that you’ve already got at home (refer back to tip #1) and it’s less likely ‘extras’ will make their way into the trolley.
4. Compare prices per unit
Whether you’re at the grocery store or shopping online, compare the prices between product by unit rather than their outright price. Even if something appears to be cheaper or on sale, check the unit price and the quantity/volume you actually get for that price. In saying this, avoid buying a bigger pack of something just because it’s cheaper if you know it’s likely to go to waste.
5. Shop online
Are you prone to letting extra treats slide into the trolley when you’re out shopping? Or do you find it overwhelming to shop in crowds and end up with more food in the trolley than you expected? Shopping online can be a great way to save money as you can overcome those barriers, and ensure you only shop for exactly what you need. You’re also less likely to fall prey to clever marketing in grocery stores, such as placing certain foods at eye level to convince you to add the items to your trolley.
6. Don’t shop while hungry!
The age-old trick really does work - if you shop while hungry, it’s much harder to avoid the temptation of adding treat foods into your trolley or buying foods in larger portions than you may need. When you shop while feeling satisfied, you’ll have a clearer mind to stick to your grocery list.
7. Buy seasonal produce
Vegetables and fruit are cheaper when they are in-season. It is easy to buy foods out of season thanks to imports, however, they are more expensive. If you need help, search for lists of in-season produce in your state and try to base your weekly meals on the foods from that list.
8. Avoid wasting food at home
It’s easier said than done - we’ve also been there with the bag of wilted, sad spinach at the end of the week. Wasting food at the end of each week is money that could’ve been spent on food the next week, instead.
To avoid food waste, make it your mission to use up what you’ve got, or at least make a plan for the leftover foods, before you do your next week’s grocery shop. If it’s fresh vegetables you often have leftover, search for recipes that can utilise slightly wilted vegetables such as soups, stews, and risotto. Turn sad fruits into muffins, or banana breads, and make sure you keep packaged foods with short shelf lives (such as yogurts or fresh soft cheeses) at the front of your fridge shelves so you’re constantly reminded these need to be used up before going out of date.
9. Prioritize vegetables and plant-based proteins over meat
While meat can be a part of a healthy diet, buying meat is often more expensive than purchasing plant-based proteins such as beans and lentils. You don’t need to go completely meat-free, but bulking up your meals with more vegetables and legumes can help stretch your meat further, saving you money in the long-run.
Try halving the meat in recipes and replacing with beans or lentils such as Mexican mince for tacos, or in a spaghetti Bolognese or lamb ragu. Maybe you could try one meat-free dish a week to build up your confidence with cooking meat-free more often.
10. Leave the over-spenders at home
You might be implementing all our above tips yet still find shopping with your significant other, the kids or your roommate can throw those good intentions out the window. If they are adding extras to the trolley, it might be more helpful to shop alone so you can stick to your budget-saving plan.
Explore more content like this in our series, Ask a Dietitian.
Health & Performance Collective is the brainchild of Sydney Dietitians Jessica Spendlove and Chloe McLeod. They use their 20 years of combined knowledge and skills as dietitians to work with motivated people to live and perform at their best.