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6 Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget

As we have now learned, the way to aim for FIRE is to spend less than you earn and save/invest the rest.  This means that it is important to keep expenses down wherever possible. One of the biggest areas of spending for us is our food and groceries – with three growing kids, one of them a teenager – we understandably go through a lot of food each week!

Read on to find our top 6 tips designed to help you keep your own grocery shopping budget down.  These have been a big help to us too.

1. Set a Weekly/Monthly Budget

We have become quite savvy with our shopping and set a monthly budget that we do our best to stick to.  As I’ve mentioned previously, we use the Pocketbook app to track our spending and set our budgets. It’s amazing how agreeing on a figure and seeing it in front of you helps to keep you on track.  So write it down, put it in a spreadsheet or use an app, but make sure you can see that number!  

Having that figure in mind helps us make wise choices.  Do I REALLY need that extra block of chocolate or that cool kitchen gadget that’s on sale?  I admit that chocolate especially is hard for me to walk past!

2. Stick to a Shopping List

This sounds so simple, but it is amazing how a shopping list keeps our family on track!  We commit to only purchasing the items on our weekly shopping list (this is easy when I send Cam and the kids to do the shopping, they are focused and happy to go home ASAP!).  This stops us from mindless spending on things we don’t need or already have plenty of at home.

When we run out of a household product, I jot it down immediately on a little magnetic notepad stuck to our fridge, then I know exactly what we DO need when compiling our weekly shopping list.  I’ve even taught the kids to add to the list, otherwise they know they will miss out on their favourite things!

We are a bit geeky and actually have a shopping list spreadsheet that we fill out each time.  It lists food and groceries in order of where they can be found in the supermarket (making it hubby/kid-proof) and it filters our list down when I mark a number 1 or more next to the item.  I simply print it out and we’re ready to shop! Our weekly meal plan is also at the bottom of the list which helps me cross-check the list. 

Cam and the three kids are super-fast at their task and have been known to complete a $160 weekly shop (full trolley at Aldi) in under 11 minutes. That’s from the car and back to the car. It’s like a military style operation with the sniper kids running on orders delivered from the trolley commander (Dad). Nearly every trip an older shopper will commend the kids on what a good job they are doing. The troops are sometimes rewarded with lollipop or ice cream (60c from McDonalds).

3. Give Generic Brands a Go!

Back when we had only one child we would shop weekly at our local major supermarket, but as our son grew, so did our grocery bill!  Luckily for us, Aldi was just rolling out in Australia so we decided to give them a try initially for the German beer and chocolate.  We quickly converted our weekly shopping to them and our bill almost halved right there and then!  

Don’t be afraid to try no-name or generic brands first.  Many products are of the same quality as the big name brands, but just packaged with a different logo.  We have had fun over the years experimenting and trying out Aldi’s own products. Most are equal to, if not better than the big brands.  Of course, we all have different tastes and expectations, so there are a few products that we’d rather spend a little more on elsewhere, but it has been totally worth the trial and error.  I imagine we have saved many thousands of dollars by giving the generic brands a go!

There really is no need to get caught up with brand names – do your friends really go through your pantry or check out what brand of toilet paper you buy?  Of course not! (If they do, I’d back away from them slowly!). So give the little brands a go.  

If you have any favourite generic brands, please share them with us in the comments below!

4. Compare Price Per Weight on Each Product

Have you ever noticed the price breakdown per kilo, grams or mls on the supermarket shelves?  These are a fantastic guide to ensure that you are getting value for money. The lower pricer per weight measurement, the better deal that you are getting. 

For example, these tins of Heinz Big Red Tomato Soup are all different sizes and weights.  The breakdown per grams shows that buying the biggest size is the best value for money.  

Of course, if you don’t think you will use an entire large tin and the rest will be wasted, then by all means, purchase a smaller one.  Limiting wastage will also save you a lot of money in the long term.

5. Buy in Bulk and Decant or Freeze

As I have mentioned above, most of the time, purchasing products in bulk works out to be significantly cheaper in the long run.  How do we manage this? We purchase many products in bulk – for example: olive oil, as it has a long shelf life, but using it day to day in its huge bulky tin is not practical.  Instead, we decant the oil into a smaller bottle and simply refill it as needed.

You can do the same with:

  • Tomato and BBQ sauce
  • Flour
  • Vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Other cooking oils
  • Dry pet food

And many more.

If you read the labels on pre-packaged meat carefully, you will notice that most of the time, the larger packs are cheaper per kilo.  This means that you can purchase meat in bulk, divide it into portion sizes and wrap and freeze it for later. I tend to divide minced beef into 500gm portions as that is the standard weight for most family recipes.  I can always grab two of them out of the freezer if I want to make a bulk meal.

Another great tip – before purchasing pre-packed meat from the supermarket, check the price of the same meat at the deli/butcher counter.  You might be pleasantly surprised to find that the deli/butcher prices are cheaper per kilo and they use less wasteful packaging.

6. Keep an Eye Out for Specials and Stock Up

I say this next point with caution!  If you find that a product that you use and love regularly is on a significant special, then now is the time to stock up.  Putting a few away in your pantry for later will most certainly help you cut down your overall spend in the long term.  

I say this with caution as it is important not to aimlessly purchase products just because they are on special.  If you weren’t planning on using that product, then don’t buy it. It’s very sneaky how our trolleys pile up with things just because they seem cheap!

Three out of five of us in our family cannot eat gluten, so one of our favourite times of year is the Aldi gluten free sale!  We stock up on their awesome and inexpensive range of gluten free foods and use them throughout the year.

These are just a few ways to keep your grocery bill down.  If you can add some suggestions of your own, please comment below, we’d love to hear them!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mr LifeOnFIRE

    Thanks for sharing. Great tips! My wife and I use a similar approach to save money on groceries. However, we only shop monthly so your tips on freezing are key to having fresh ingredients throughout the month. One thing your article points out that we are really missing is having our kids do the shopping for us. Brilliant!

    1. Family On FIRE

      Thank you for your wonderful feedback! Shopping once a month is amazing! That’s a sure way to prevent impulse shopping.

      Trish & Cam

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