Did you know that the weekly average cost of food for a family of four was around $427 last year? It will come as no surprise that food prices have continued to rocket this year, alongside the cost of living in New Zealand.
With that in mind, finding the best ways to save money on groceries is at top of everyone’s priority list right now (especially if you have an army of hungry mouths to feed…)
We’ve talked about the overall benefits of meal planning; how to save time, money and eat better. But how can you save even more money on your grocery bill?
Buy in season 🥑
Simply put, when produce is in season and generally more abundant, it’s cheaper. This is especially true for produce which is readily grown in New Zealand, as it cuts down heavily on the need for imported goods and their associated charges (and, spoiler alert, is also better for the planet).
Being in tune with the seasons can really help in cutting down on grocery costs and help you avoid accidentally spending $10 on a cabbage. As a general rule of thumb, prices for fresh vegetables are lower during the winter months, while the same can be said for fresh fruits during the summer.
And as a bonus tip — make the most of local farmer markets! You’ll often find a wider variety of seasonal produce than at your supermarket, at lower prices, and with greater nutritional value!
Buy in bulk 🛒
Buying items in bulk can generally be done in a few ways…
The most common is to use bulk food stores such as Bin Inn and Bulk Food Savings. For items like pantry staples, grains and nuts, you can grab as much or as little as you need, which can help you avoid food waste and save money in the long run.
Another great way is to make the most out of deals and specials in the supermarket? Non-perishables like rice, pasta, and canned goods last almost indefinitely and can be great to stock up on when the price is right.
But don’t limit yourself to the non-perishables. Did you also know you can freeze pretty much anything? This also opens up the door to stocking up on meats, fish and other fresh food when there’s a great deal on.
Which leads us on to…
Plan around what’s already in the fridge ❄️
(not just the fridge, but the pantry, freezer, cupboards too...)
It might seem glaringly obvious, but using up what you already have before buying more groceries can save money (especially if you already bought them at a discount) and cut down on food waste.
Already have beef mince in the freezer? Or maybe half a cabbage left to use? Plan a meal or two around including those, and cut a few things off of the grocery bill.
Remember, the same can also be said for leftovers: don’t let them go to waste! If you're making a roast chicken, plan to use the leftovers in a chicken pie or chicken salad for the next day's lunch (or as we said before, chuck ‘em in the freezer!)
Store foods properly 🍌
We’ve all opened the fridge to find some not-so-happy looking fruit, or reached for a pack of bread, only to find specs of green mould. Having to throw away food is no different from throwing away money, and learning how to properly store the fresh produce we buy can really help to stretch the budget.
A recent Food Waste Survey showed that as a nation we waste $3.1 billion (yes BILLION) of food. Per household, this is around $1520.
Did you know that most fruit should be kept away from bananas? Or that onions and potatoes shouldn’t be stored too close together or they both start to go off faster? Well now you do, and you can find some more great tips here!
Cook in batches 🧑🍳
Meal prep, batch cooking, or just “I really really like this meal and want to eat it a lot”. Making large batches of the same meal can be a great way to save on money, as you’ll use fewer ingredients and can make the most of bulk offers and specials. It’s also a fantastic way to maintain a healthy diet when you’re stuck for time.
And remember, batch cooking isn’t just for lunches and dinners. Pre-prepared breakfasts can be a great way to maintain a tasty, nutritious breakfast on the go.
If breakfast time is a little hectic in your house try making a large amount of overnight oats and store in the fridge! This way everyone can enjoy a hassle-free morning (and take it a step-further with their own tailored toppings too).
Opt for frozen 🧊
Buying frozen food is a wonderful hack for grocery shopping on a budget. You can find big packets of vegetables, fruits, fish, and even things like spinach at more affordable prices than the fresh options.
And don’t worry, they are still just as nutritious! In fact, two independent studies found that frozen vegetables contained more antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta carotene compared to the fresh varieties.
Including frozen foods in your meal planning are also beneficial for those with smaller fridges who struggle to fit a week's worth of produce onto the shelves!
Taking your first steps with meal planning already puts you on the path to saving money on your groceries. And by following the above steps, you’ll become a professional at stretching the dollars and maximising your budget (while still enjoying delicious food!)