You can't avoid the weekly or fortnightly shop, but there are simple tricks you can use to save money. Here are five of the best.
Shops are designed to make you want to buy things, and when you are trudging around the shops, it's amazing how a plastic water jug can suddenly seem like a good idea. Go with a list or plan your meals, and stick to it. By only buying what you need, you will automatically reduce your weekly shop. If you really struggle to not grab boxes of mints as you are heading through the check-out, consider doing your grocery shop online where you don't have to walk past rows of tempting items. Just keep an eye on the unit cost of items compared to your local store and go for free delivery options.
If you’re buying meat, check the prices at your local butcher. Likewise, your local greengrocer or farmers market may have cheaper and fresher fruit and veg than the big stores. It’s worth taking the time to find the best prices and who has got them, rather than shopping for everything in one place because it seems easier.
Most stores have a markdown day each week for fridge and meat items. Find out when it is and shop on that day. Meat freezes well, as do fresh pasta and pizza, which can often be heavily marked down. Although a convenience meal isn't usually good value, when marked down it becomes more cost effective. Throw it in the freezer for a cheap lunch or takeaway alternative.
Convenience costs money. Pre-made cake and pancake batters, simmer sauces, pasta sauces, pre-cut veggies, grated cheeses – if the manufacturer has done the work, you’ll pay the price. So, do it yourself. Buy a whole chicken, or fish or block of cheese and cut it up yourself - that way you haven't paid someone else to do it for you. Likewise, think again before grabbing curry pastes and pasta sauces. The few ingredients you need to make your own simple curry paste or pasta sauce are far cheaper than what you buy in the jar and store well, so you'll be cutting back on your shopping list for next week too.
Sound strange? Well it can help you buy less, which is the fastest way to save on your groceries. Slow cookers are relatively inexpensive (around $20 and often available second-hand). They’re also the secret to creating gourmet meals from cheap cuts of meats from the shop and vegetables that are on their last legs. You can slow cook everything from curries and casseroles to pasta sauces, risottos and soups. It’s a great way to fill your freezer and reduce your need to hit the shops in the first place.
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