Beat the Food Budget Blues
By: Smile Elite
June 01, 2022

Budget and Save!

Now more than ever, housing, food and transport costs are impacting the family budget.

So, it’s a great time to look at refinancing your home loan, lowering transport costs where possible by using public transport when you can and reducing the weekly food bill to keep the family budget in check.

Experts say the average weekly spend for food and drinks (excluding alcohol) ranges from:

  • $122 for a single person under the age of 35
  • $239 for a couple with no kid
  • Between $282 and $336 for families with kids (depending on their ages)

Acknowledgment: ASIC’s Moneysmart website

Yes, we all need to eat, but we can keep the family food budget in check with some useful tips.

Be a home cook – Avoid/limit takeaway meals as these will blow your budget! Cooking at home is healthier and lots of fun, but it does take planning and a little time. With the SuperCook app – dictate ingredients you have on hand, for great recipe ideas.

Work to a meal plan – There’s an old saying ‘fail to plan- plan to fail’. And it is so true. By not planning your meals ahead of time, you’ll likely spend too much at the checkout. Having an idea of the meals for your coming week makes it easier to shop for ingredients and not be tempted. Try to use up items you already have in the pantry/freezer first before buying more.

Make a list and stick to it! – Use a notebook, magnetised fridge notepad or your mobile notepad, but create a list for what you need and stick to the list. It’s important to have a food budget and know what you can afford to spend.

Check your meal plan first and list the items you need, then as you run out of a staple item, such as bread, milk, eggs etc add it to your list. You’ll have a shopping list in no time! It’s also great if you can add the approx. price of items, to assist staying within budget. Then, when you’re in the supermarket, check items off your list and use your mobile calculator, so you keep your buying in check. Harsh, but it works! 

Try not to be swayed by what’s featuring on the shelves, as supermarkets are experts at diverting your attention. It’s a good idea to check out what’s on the lower shelves, as they notoriously put their highest profit margin items at eye level.

At the checkout, watch as items are scanned, especially those on sale, as mistakes can happen, and always check your docket.  The main thing is – if it isn’t on the list -you don’t buy it!  Try the Stay at Home Mum customizable shopping list here!

Hungry – then don’t shop – Always try to eat before food shopping, to prevent you from buying unwanted and extra food that’s not on your list, particularly foods that you crave when hungry – like that large pack of potato chips or chunky chocolate!

It’s been proven that shopping when hungry can see you selecting high-calorie items, as your decision-making process goes out the window. Leaving you without the wholesome ingredients you went in for and an inflated bill at the check-out.

Look out for best deals – Be supermarket savvy. Shop around for the best deals. Apps like WiseListfrugl and Half Price search for the week’s best deals. Check out Coles and Woolworths’ regular 50 per cent off specials and try Aldi and Costco for additional savings. And always check the catalogues in store for specials and price drops. Download your favourite supermarket apps to compare prices. They’ll also alert you to weekly bargains.

Shop online – Grocery shopping online is great – you can be in control, plus you don’t get easily swayed to purchase things not on your list (and as a bonus they can deliver it for you!) There are often great discounts that only apply online. Sale items are generally grouped under one page, meaning savvy shoppers can often do an entire shop from the bargain bin.

Don’t be a food snob – give home-brand a go – Home brand products, are good quality and can provide substantial savings on your food bill, so give them a try.  

Buy bulk and save – Even if you don’t have a large family to feed, look for versatile items that can be used across a number of recipes e.g., chicken/mince. Save by buying larger packs of frozen/fresh items, then re-pack zip lock bags with separate meal size portions for the freezer, to make mealtime easier. Remember to write the expiry date on the bag. A ‘use by’ date means that it is really not edible beyond a certain date, whereas a ‘best before’ may decline in quality but are not immediately inedible.

Also, when items like toilet paper, laundry detergent and toothpaste are on special, buy and store for extra savings. The golden rule, only buy items on sale if you really need them.

Skip the meat sometimes – With meat prices rising it’s a budget conscious move to try a few meatless meals each week. There are some great veggie recipes and pasta is always a favourite, so give it a go. Meat and cheese purchases can really blow the budget, so be careful.

Use it, don’t throw it – Throwing away food is like throwing away money!  It may look great, but don’t buy it if you are not going to use it. Particularly fresh fruit and veggies. We’ve all experienced the wilted spinach and withered mushrooms! By buying only what you are going to eat, you’ll save.

Frozen, canned, tubes – Fresh is great, but try frozen veggies (less waste), and canned items sometimes– they’re easy to use and store for longer. Frozen veggies are a budgeter’s dream. Being frozen at their peak nutritional point, means you’ll get the most out of them when you cook. Also, try herbs in tubes – they’re convenient, and you avoid costly waste. For really fresh veggies/herbs, why not grow your own!

Avoid pre-cut items – Convenient yes, but costly because you are paying for someone to prepare it.

Take your own – A big no-no for serious savers is buying your lunch at work. Just imagine spending $8 a day on lunch and a drink – over the course of a year that lunch would cost you $2,240.00. That’s a TON of groceries! Make extra the night before and take leftovers for your lunch or make a sandwich/salad the night before. Then grab it as you scoot out the door.

Water is free – Soft drinks and juice may taste great, but they’re loaded with sugar and costly, so try sticking with water. Fill bottles with free tap water (boil if you want to) and then store in the fridge, so you always have cool water to hand.

Ditch the cafe coffee – This really adds up! We Aussies love our coffee but make it at home and save big time. Yes, you can still have a treat every now and again but brewing your own at home and work is so much cheaper.

Hail the muti purpose cleaners – Invest in a good multi-purpose spray, bleach, glass cleaner and dishwashing liquid and you’ll keep your entire property spik and span.

Track your food spending- Keep your dockets and do a check each month to ensure you are sticking to your budget. There’s a bit of work to plan a budget and stick to it, but it will definitely be worth it in the end when you see the savings you can make.

Acknowledgements: Jessica Irvine Sydney Morning Herald, 9honey, debt negotiators, stayathomemum