How to shop smart and save

Groceries are one of the biggest expenses for everyone, but for age pensioners who, after paying utilities, health costs and some even rent, there may be little left in the budget for food. Here are seven simple ways to slash your grocery bill.

1. Shop at ‘ethnic’ supermarkets
You may walk past Asian supermarkets, or Mexican food marts or other ‘ethnic’ outlets and not pay them much mind. Well paying them more mind will save you money, so stop walking past them!

Dried beans and legumes, nuts, noodles, rice and other staple foods are aplenty in these foreign treasure troves. Why pay for a ‘western’ branded version when you can go straight to the source and pay half the cost?

Seriously, you’ll save a bundle shopping at these types of places. And if you can’t understand a label, or don’t know how to cook a certain type of foreign food, just ask the shop owners.

It’s also a great experience stepping inside ethnic shops, almost like going on a 30-minute holiday to a foreign country. So, go on, give it a go!

2. Damaged goods supermarkets
Most states have a damaged goods supermarket chain, such as Not Quite Right, Rite Price or Discount Grocery Outlet, that sells products in damaged packages or are discontinued lines.

And they sell these goods at half price or much less.

Often, the packages aren’t even that damaged. This is because it’s cheaper for a big chain supermarket to offload a dropped pallet full of baked beans than it is to sort through and separate the damaged cans from the undamaged ones.

Just steer clear of cans that are badly dented, swollen, leaking, rusted or punctured and you should be fine. If a can has a dent deeper than your finger, leave it on the shelf.

You’ll also find products that are called ‘orphans’ – ones that just didn’t sell very well in bigger stores. There are some weird flavour combinations and strange concoctions, too. So have fun looking through apple and peppermint deodorants or purple pepper berry toothpaste.

Hey, you don’t eat toothpaste. If it’s cheap and it does the job, well …

3. $2 shopping
Drop into your local Reject Shop and check out the products they have for sale. Sometimes you can pick up canned goods, confectionary, chips, nuts and other goodies for an absolute steal. These $2 shops also sell toiletries (hint: toilet paper is super cheap), beauty products, clothing and condiments, and are well worth a visit to pick up some inexpensive ‘bits’.

4. Almost goner fruit and veg
Many supermarkets will have a section in the fresh food area that sells ‘damaged’ fruit and vegetables for a lot less than the more presentable produce.

Sometimes they’ll package up some good with some bad, but mostly it’s things such as bruised bananas or slightly squishy tomatoes that are bargain buys. Some will be close to use-by, so make sure you can eat what you purchase, or better still, buy up big and freeze.

5. Close to use-by date
Instead of doing one big shop to last you a week or two, you could try doing smaller, more regular shops. This way you can take advantage of goods close to their expiry date. Supermarkets always offer dairy products such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and cream for a fraction of the cost when they are close to use-by. Also, if you know the difference between use-by and best before, you can clean up in the dairy aisle (and others). Oh, and you can always freeze milk, so if it’s 75 per cent off, why not grab the extra bottle and freeze it?

Same goes with meat. Usually Sunday afternoons are a good time (your local may be different) to check the meat fridges for cuts that are close to expiry. I do this once a month, then freeze it. I save a fortune on scotch fillets, sausages, roasts and steaks. I rarely pay full price for meat any more.

You can either freeze meat or dice up a batch and cook it up in a stew or casserole, then freeze portions for later use.

6. Day-old baked goods
Check out your supermarket bakery, too. You’ll find bread loaves baked the day before for up to 25 per cent of the price of freshly baked bread. Snap them up and use what you can, or freeze slices for later in the month. Same goes for cakes, doughnuts, biscuits and other baked goods. One day old means one great bargain!

7. Do your shopping online
Believe it or not, but paying a delivery fee may work out saving you more money than if you shop in store. More often than not (unless you’re really disciplined) you’ll go to the supermarket and buy more food than you need (or what’s on your list). Shopping online means you’ll be more likely to stick to your list and save you money because you won’t see all the instore specials tempting you to buy what you don’t need.

And some stores won’t even charge you a delivery fee, or will reward loyalty with free shipping, so, bonus!

Do you have any tips for cutting grocery costs? Why not share them with our members?

Related articles:
Conquering Aldi
A simple way to cut grocery costs
How far does $50 go at Aldi?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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