33 simple hacks for saving money on groceries

Posted October 2020

Woman shopping for groceries with her baby

Fill your shopping trolley for less with our sensible shopping ideas...

Grocery shopping can take a fair bang out of your buck each week.

It's frustrating, especially if you’re trying to budget or pay off your debt!

There’s no getting around grocery shopping - we all have to eat - but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some savvy, money-saving ways to shop for less without going hungry.

To give you a hand the next time you’re walking the aisles, we’ve hand picked 33 shopping hacks that will save you money the next time you're at the store. You’ll spend less at the supermarket, and have more to save or invest!

This includes:

  • Sticking to your meal plan and your shopping list
  • Packing your lunch as well as cooking - and buying - in bulk
  • Freezing, preserving, and getting familiar with your food’s shelf life

Let’s start where all good savings strategies do - with a plan...

1. Plan your meals

Make a list of meals for the week, then create an inventory list of the ingredients you already have to avoid doubling up on items. This will leave you with a list of ingredients you need to buy for the week, so you don’t double up on things you don’t need.

2. Write a shopping list and stick to it

Write a shopping list

Heading to the store without a grocery list is a recipe for disaster. You’ll forget what you wanted, and buy things you don’t need. So go prepared, and save money on groceries by only buying items on your list.

3. Take advantage of coupons

Collecting coupons each week can help you save on your weekly grocery bill. Check out our list of the best coupon sites in New Zealand to save money on your next purchase. Believe us, every little bit counts!

4. Don’t shop hungry

Shopping on an empty stomach is a surefire way to add extras to your trolley. Snacks or quick convenient foods will tempt you into feeding your hunger, but are often expensive and will leave you feeling unfulfilled.

5. Eat in-season foods

Buying out of season is expensive. Instead, purchase fresh fruits and veggies when they are in season. They’re far more affordable, and tastier, too!

6. Don't waste food

Don’t throw away your leftovers just yet. They make great lunches or snacks when you are at home or work. If there is only a small about of leftovers, consider bulking these out with rice, potatoes, or pasta.

7. Buy generic brands

‘Premium’ brands are always more expensive to buy and often taste the same as generic brands, so save those few extra cents and purchase the cheaper brand. You’ll decrease your shopping bill and save money on groceries in the long run.

8. Pack your lunch

Pack your lunch

Buying your lunch from cafes and bakeries can cost you around $100 a week, if not more. Do yourself a favour and pack a lunch the night before to save yourself money, time, and stress in the morning.

9. Shop in more than one place

Not every store will have items at the same price, so it can pay to look at those annoying food mailers you get sent to see which stores are having sales. From here, make a list of which foods to buy from where.

It’s a great way to save more than a few cents!

10. Bulk out meals

One of the best ways to save money on meals is to bulk them out with cheaper ingredients such as rice, pasta, or potatoes. You’ll be left feeling full, and so will your bank balance as you won’t have to buy as much meat or other premium ingredients.

11. Use your slow cooker

Slow cookers are a lifesaver, especially during winter. They’re perfect for making a meal out of cheaper cuts of meat, plus you get to walk in the door to a ready-to-eat meal. That’s priceless!

12. Check the reduced to clear

You can score some absolute bargains in reduced to clear bins, and all because their expiry is coming up. So have a look and plan the week's meals around these cash-saving ingredients.

13. Buy diverse ingredients

Fresh, diverse ingredients

You can save a lot of money each week by keeping diverse ingredients in your pantry. These are go-to items with a long shelf life including rice, beans, pasta, potatoes, canned tomatoes and pasta sauces that can be used to create a variety of family dishes.

14. Purchase in bulk during sales

By purchasing in bulk, you can purchase a variety of items while saving on your groceries. For example, you could buy mince in bulk for good ol’ spag bol on Wednesday, and burgers on Friday.

15. Prepare meals and put them in the freezer

Some nights you simply forget to take meat out of the freezer or come home too exhausted to cook. It’s times like these that the temptation to just grab takeaways can set in.

Takeaways are a sure way to blow your budget out of the water, so plan in advance and precook some meals and pop them into the freezer.

16. Plate portions for the family

If you live with growing teenagers, you know there are times you’ll cook up larger portions for leftovers only to see it all demolished by your growing vultures.

In order to save some cents on groceries, ensure meals are stretched further by plating the meals instead of letting each family member serve their own.

Controlled portions will ensure meals aren’t half wasted, and there is no over-eating.

17. Cut empty calories

Fresh fruit and vegetables

Even some of the least nutritionally dense foods can be expensive. Foods like fizzy drinks, ice cream, or potato chips may be killing your budget. Spend half the amount you usually would on these treats and you’ll notice a big difference in your grocery bill, and potentially your waistline.

18. Shop around the outskirts of the supermarket

The outskirts of the supermarket are where you find fresh fruit, veggies, meat, and grains. By sticking to the edges, you’ll pass by only the healthiest and most affordable meal prep options.

19. Avoid pre-chopped produce

Pre-chopped foods are overpriced. You're simply paying for the convenience. So spend a little time instead of your hard-earned savings by chopping them yourself!

20. Store herbs and fresh foods properly

Fresh herbs and lettuce can shrivel and spoil if they’re not stored properly. A simple hack for keeping these fresher for longer is to store them in cups of water, covered with plastic.
Secure the plastic with a rubber band, and you are good to go.

21. Ask the butcher

You can use different parts of a big slab of meat for different meals. For example, you could buy one big roast and have the butcher remove the bones for soup, run half through the grinder for hamburgers, and set the rest aside for a pot roast.

22. Drink tap water

Drink tap water

New Zealand has beautiful, clean tap water so why would you want to spend $2 to $4 on a bottle of water or sugary juice? Pack a bottle of water and take this wherever you go so you don’t have to spend unnecessary money on a resource we get for free!

23. Cook vegetarian once a week

Meat is often the most expensive part of any meal, so try going meat-free for one night a week. You could save upwards of $10! Plus, there are so many delicious veggie recipes out there, you won’t even miss the taste of meat.

24. Make it at home

Many of the goods we purchase from the grocery store can be made at home. Bread, hummus, sour cream, and guacamole can all be made in your kitchen, for less.

25. Shop online

Shopping online can save you time walking supermarket aisles, and minimize distractions around the store. You will be able to see your entire shopping cart before paying for it, meaning you can watch your spending and remove items without embarrassment if you go over budget.

Then all you have to do is pick the items up from the store!

26. Use your freezer

Freezing foods is a great way to save money on groceries. Buy in bulk and freeze meat, fish, fruits, veggies, and bread. You can even freeze in serving sizes to suit your family.

27. Preserve it

Preserve your food

Freezing is not the only way to save money! If you have fruit trees, preserving is a great way to save delicious fruits for the winter time. These make delicious desserts and great toppings for breakfasts instead of buying canned fruits.

28. Learn the shelf life of products

Not every item has the same shelf life, so learn which items to buy in bulk and which items to buy only as you need them. This will save you throwing away food and money!

29. Shop high and low

You’ll often find the most expensive products in the middle of the shelves, as customers are more likely to look at products found at eye-level. Try looking above and below the middle mark and you may be surprised to find there are cheaper variants of the products on your shopping list.

30. Leave the kids at home

Taking the kids to the grocery store is an easy way to add an extra $20-$30 of ‘hush’ treats to the trolley just to keep them happy.

31. Stock rotation

Make sure that you place new items at the back of your pantry, so you’re eating the older foods first. This will minimise any chance of food going off before you get a chance to eat it.

32. Crunch unit prices

Always compare the price of goods per 100g. Just because a package looks bigger doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting the best bang for your buck.

33. Use the cash envelope system

This is when all else fails and drastic measures need to be taken. If you are finding it hard to pull in the reins on your grocery spending, the cash envelope system is a great budgeting tool.

Simply take your monthly allocation for groceries and divide this up by four, putting the four lots of cash in different envelopes, one envelope per week for groceries.

Learning to save money on groceries doesn’t have to be hard

Making simple changes to your shopping habits can go a long way, leaving you with more money to pay for other obligations such as loans, vehicle repayments, rent, and personal expenses.
You'll feel less stressed and better prepared financially.

Related Articles

The article published on this page is not financial advice and should not be relied upon as such. The opinions published in this article is not those of Unity Credit Union.