For most of us these days, a trip to the supermarket can be a financially challenging experience. 

$5 for one avocado, ‘shut the fridge door!’ After dramatic price increases in dairy, meat, fruit and veggies, we can find it hard to fill our trolley and still keep within budget.

Sure, there’s the Countdown $15 meal ideas, and a number of websites showing how to feed a family for under $100 still.

But for most of us mere mortals, we’re not going to make and freeze 25 meals every 4th Sunday, and we don’t actually think changing out parmesan cheese for colby in our pesto tastes very good!

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A more sustainable way of saving money on groceries is by setting a realistic budget, and then sticking to it like glue. You don’t have to pre-make 7 meals on Sunday. But you do need to plan ahead and decide what you’ll eat for the week. And only buy the necessities to make those meals.

There’s 2 reasons this is vital to saving money at the supermarket:

  1. You won’t buy more food than you need, this means you won’t be throwing out expensive food that’s wilted in the grocery drawer, or gone past it’s use by date.
  2. Shopping for 7 day’s worth of food, means you should have enough to last you the week. This prevents you from ‘popping out’ for milk and bread, and spending another $80 on food you haven’t budgeted for.

Saving money on groceries

Here are some tips to help NZ parents take the stress out of shopping and make your food budget go further:

  • Set a budget. Make it realistic, something you can afford, that will still afford you a few luxuries.
  • Plan out what you’re going to make for lunch and dinner for the week ahead.
  • Think about multi-purpose meal buying. Can you buy a bulk mince and use it for bolognese on Monday, and burgers on Friday? Also, can you make enough to double-up for lunch the next day?
  • Always make a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry, stressed, premenstrual or after Friday night drinks at work!
  • Don’t take the kids if you can at all possibly avoid it – they’ll usually persuade you to add more items to the trolley. Just a few extras can easily add $20-30 to your bill.
  • Take a calculator with you so you can check that bulk deals are really worthwhile, and that you’re staying within your food budget for the week. Try out Pak’nSave’s Shop’nGo service.
  • Buy house brands that look plain with minimal branding, but provide good quality and excellent value.
  • Watch out for vouchers or coupons in the supermarket fliers in your letterbox – by collecting a number of these each week, you can save many dollars on your grocery bill.
  • If you have a choice of supermarkets close by, then make sure you regularly compare prices to get the best deal. My sister shops at Sylvia Park – and gets to compare the prices of three supermarkets – as well as The Mad Butcher and The Warehouse.
  • Buy in bulk– as a general rule bulk purchases are cheaper than smaller ones, so go for the biggest pot of peanut butter, a tray of eggs, or the biggest bag of rice (make sure you use your calculator to check that you are really getting a good deal though).
  • Another trick is to buy from bulk bins, so that you do not pay for fancy packaging. Dry foods like flour, sugar, raisins and cornflakes are often cheaper from bulk bins.
  • Explore other stores and weekend markets in your area for even better deals – I often buy dry goods from a local bulk bin store that’s cheaper than our supermarket. And I always shop for fruit and veggies at our local market, which is much cheaper.
  • Get online. Just doing your shopping online can save you money, this family saves over $2,600. But you should also check the Facebook pages like Cheaper Living NZ, and websites like Cheapies NZ, to find a whole host of discount vouchers, and savings ideas.
  • Whilst it is tempting to put treats into your shopping trolley, try hard to avoid chippies, chocolate, fancy desserts and alcohol by staying out of these aisles – you will only succeed in reducing your bank balance and adding to your waistline; when most of us are trying to achieve the exact opposite result!!

Budget Busters

Try to avoid the following if you want to save money:

  • Cigarettes
  • Alcohol
  • Lollies & Chocolate
  • Snack foods
  • Ready made dinners
  • Ready made desserts
  • Expensive brand names

Family Friends

Look out for the friends of family budgeters:

  • House brands such as Pam’s and HomeBrand
  • Bulk deals of any sort
  • Fillers for dinner such as beans, potatoes, rice, split peas, lentils and pearl barley
  • Ingredients for home baking (big bags of flour, sugar, and bran)
  • Cheap cuts of meat that can be slow cooked to make them tender

New Zealand’s cheapest supermarkets?

Now this very much depends on where you live. If you only have access to a 4 Square, then your shopping bill is going to be pretty horrendous.

But if you’re lucky enough to have most of the main supermarkets competing for your hard-earned cash, then there’s clearly savings to be made. For most main centres, for an average shopping trolley, here’s how the big chains stack up (Source: Consumer NZ):

  • Pak’nSave
  • Countdown
  • New World

For more great savings ideas, check out How we used online tools to save $57,653. To find out what you could do with your new savings check out ?

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