Home Budgeting How to Outsmart the Supermarkets and Save Big on Your Weekly Shop – Guest Post

How to Outsmart the Supermarkets and Save Big on Your Weekly Shop – Guest Post

written by Shelley Marsh 25/11/2013

                                                                                                                                                                         Written by Cassandra from This Is Wellbeing

Are you fed up with the amount you spend on groceries? Me too! I refuse to accept that prices are rising and am determined to take control of my weekly spend!

My grocery shopping has always been reactive and mindless. I go to the supermarket on autopilot and buy what I think I need. This usually results in spending hundreds of dollars for about half a week!

Here are my tips for reducing your shopping bill and taking back control from the marketing beast, which is Australia’s supermarket duopoly.  My tips might not all apply to you, but I hope they trigger some thought about your own spending habits:

1. Shop locally and source alternatives to your supermarket
Research your local area for alternatives to your large supermarket. Try local farmers markets, butchers or greengrocers, online delivery services and large produce markets.
If you live regionally, source from direct farmers wholesale stores!  My local suburb even has a food swap, where you can grow your own and take your surplus to swap with a local. Check your listings with your council and local newspapers.

I have local Greek market that stocks delicatessen and produce at a fraction of the supermarkets prices. An example, I regularly get premium gypsy ham for $10 per kilogram instead of $26 per kilogram form the supermarket. Learn your prices and look around neighbouring suburbs for alternatives

2. Menu plan
This is a classic but often forgotten tip. Don’t shop hungry and without a plan!

When menu planning try to incorporate your existing ingredients and include your fresh produce which has a limited shelf life. Do a stock take of your pantry, freezer and fridge before you plan.

Try to repeat ingredients in different meals. You may get a cheaper price for a larger quantity, which will be cheaper split over multiple meals. For example, purchase bulk pack of rump steak (at a lower price per kilo) and then slice in strips for stroganoff or stir fry, and cube for stews or kebabs. Freeze the portions for use later.

3. Watch the specials and ignore the specials
It’s great to grab the specials for items you need. Be careful being swayed to purchase items with aren’t on your pre-planned list, and are not essential. It doesn’t matter if a packet of Corn Chips was only $2. It’s $2 more than you need to spend. Supermarkets conveniently put all those non-essential products in one or two aisles. Just skip those aisles!

Have you ever read a ‘Specials’ sign and seen that the original price is $2.98 and the sale price is $2.95 (true, I have seen this many times!) Not much of a saving, but I have been guilty of picking up the brand with the big red sale sign without reading (bit deceitful hey).  If you are in the market for yoghurt, and it is heavily discounted, by all means save a penny, but just take the specials you actually need and analyse the savings carefully.

4. Ditch the convenience
Supermarkets specialise in convenience. The more convenient, the more we will pay a premium for it. Take for example green beans. My local supermarket packages a portion of green beans (375 grams) and sells it at $12.00 per kilogram. However, if you buy beans loose, the cost is $8.98 per kilogram.  However, the $3.02 per kilogram saving isn’t the biggest difference. You may only really need 100 grams of beans for a dish, but you have bought nearly 4 times as much subconsciously.

For those of us that have a few extra pennies you might be thinking ‘oh well, it’s not going to break the bank’. But doesn’t it make sense to simply buy what we need and stop wasting food?

5. Be conscious to marketing when you shop
Anyone that has seen the Gruen Planet will be familiar with the commercial marketing tactics of the supermarkets. The junk food (i.e the food that is always on special, that you don’t need), is in prime position with big flashing signs. Supermarkets dedicate a lot of money to researching the best layout that promotes spending.

There is a reason that ‘peanuts’ they are placed in three different sections (Fruit & Veg, Baking & Health Section). It is to get you moving about and discovering more things you ‘need’.
Unhealthy packaged food takes prime position in the catalogues and it makes the supermarkets a lot of money by promoting extras for you to pop into your trolley.

How many times have you just gone for milk to spend $100 on other ‘stuff’? This is why milk is placed at the back of the supermarket, making you walk past the chocolate to find it. The more I’m ‘aware’ of these tactics, the more it annoys me and I purposely avoid purchasing non essentials.

6. Spend more on quality not quantity
We are a nation of over eaters. Maybe this tip doesn’t apply to you and you have found the right balance. But levels of obesity in most Western countries suggest most of us are still trying to find the right balance.

I often let supermarkets dictate portion control to me. For example, if I make some bolognaise for dinner I would use a 500 gram pack of beef for 4 serves. I intend to freeze some for later, but ultimately I overeat because ‘it’s there!’

Did you know that the recommended amount of lean beef per serve is 65 grams cooked beef. This means a serve for 4 people would be 360 grams of uncooked beef. Save money by ordering 360 grams of premium beef from a butcher! Our portions as a nation are increasing and this benefits supermarket profit, as you unintentionally eat twice what you need.

7. Motivation
Let’s be realistic here. It’s much easier to pop into the supermarket, buy mindlessly and get through the week. We are tired and need to be fed. All this planning is exhausting. What is the point if you are managing to make it through the weeks?

Well, give yourself some incentive. What could saving $50 or $100 mean to you. You could direct the extra funds to saving for a new car? Put it towards a new holiday? Or could that extra money be driven into your mortgage? An extra $200 a month towards the average mortgage of $300,000 could take 6 years and 5 months off you mortgage.

I would love to hear how you have reduced your shopping bill and share your local finds in the comments below! Good luck.

About the Author: My name is Cassandra, I write a blog with healthy recipes called This is Wellbeing.  I love food and cooking all day, so I look for economical and healthy ingredients to give my recipes some excitement!

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9 comments

Lucy @ Bake Play Smile 26/11/2013 at 9:25 pm

These are fantastic ideas! I can’t believe how much extra supermarkets charge for tomatoes in a container as compared to loose ones! It’s just ridiculous!! Go the fresh produce I say! xx

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Emily 26/11/2013 at 9:28 pm

Great point on portion sizes. Very useful post, thanks lovely ladies!

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Lara @ This Charming Mum 26/11/2013 at 10:00 pm

I agree about planning. I do my groceries online from time to time which is slightly more expensive per item, but I don’t get distracted by specials or extra stuff I don’t need!

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Cassandra 27/11/2013 at 12:29 am

So true Lara! I think the cost of the delivery is worth it to save on the impulse purchases. You can use the online ‘shopping basket’ as a review tool, and amend your choices if you aren’t meeting your budget

Lucy-I know! Why is it so easy to fall for it!

Thanks Emily!! I think we could all make huge cuts if we just bought for the right portions.

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Wendy Parks 27/11/2013 at 12:39 pm

Great tips!
I always shop with a list which I have written after I’ve done my weekly menu plan.
My biggest tip fro saving money at the supermarket is to shop without my husband – he is such an impulse buyer!
I sent him to get bread and milk on the weekend and he came home with those items, plus lime cordial, lemonaid, hot dogs and who knows what else!

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Cassandra 27/11/2013 at 7:57 pm

I totally agree Wendy. My husband comes back with lots of ‘treats’! He is a shocker. Maybe the supermarket advertising should be aimed at men instead of women all the time.

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Alison @ The Thrifty Issue 28/11/2013 at 9:37 am

Thanks for the tips! We shop online purely for convenience and to save time … but occasionally we need to pop down to the supermarket for somethings, and could easily swap the supermarket for the butcher or local fruit shop. Food for thought! thanks, Alison

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Cassandra 29/11/2013 at 9:02 am

Thanks Alison, it’s certainly worth checking a few out in the local area and pricing around. I quite like the warm and fuzzy feeling I get from helping small local business too 🙂 They also don’t sell any junk food to temp me to spend more! Less choice is good sometimes

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Glenda @ Healthy Stories 29/11/2013 at 5:44 pm

Nice post. I definitely agree about the specials that aren’t really specials. I hate it when you realise you will only save about 5 cents on something that costs several dollars, often only saving 1-2% on the price. But you can get some good specials if you look out for them. I watch for tinned tomatoes and legumes when they are $1 per can, and also for individual tins of tuna when they are $1 per tin. I also buy Lindt chocolate (the only chocolate I buy) when they are 2 for $5.

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