Grocery shopping on a budget

A guide on how to save money at the grocery store. Laura Phillips-Moye and Sally Gaedtke (4th year Nutrition and Dietetic Students on placement from the Sunshine Coast University).

Grocery shopping can be an overwhelming experience when unprepared and unarmed with a list and a plan. It is easy to make impulse purchases that can lead to spending more money than anticipated and buying items that you don’t need. It can often be assumed that healthy foods are seen to be expensive; however, with these following tips, grocery shopping can be less overwhelming.

Plan ahead

Plan ahead by writing a weekly menu, including all meals and snacks, and write a shopping list to correspond with the menu. Make the most of what you already have in your pantry, fridge and freezer. When grocery shopping, spend the least amount of money on foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar including chocolate, potato chips, sweet biscuits, cordials and soft drinks. Spend moderately on lean meat, chicken without skin, fish, eggs, cheese, yoghurt, milk and nuts. Spend the most amount of money on wholegrain bread and cereals, fruit, vegetables and legumes.

Also it’s important to set time aside each week to do the food shopping, whether it is early morning or late afternoon. Shopping less often will save time and petrol; otherwise, shopping online can be a convenient alternative for busy people.

Don’t shop when you’re hungry

An empty stomach can influence what you buy, which can ultimately result in overconsumption of energy dense, nutrient poor food and increased spending of money purely driven by hunger. Avoid temptations by eating before going shopping or take homemade snacks to cure those hunger pains instead of buying overly priced pre-packaged snacks.

Eat seasonally

It can be difficult to identify seasonal fruits and vegetables due to how the current food system operates by snap freezing or cold storing fruits and vegetables to ensure they are available all year round. The benefits associated with eating seasonally is that the fruits and vegetables are cheaper, readily available, better quality and often more nutritious. See the following table of seasonal fruits and vegetables in Queensland. Seasonal produce can also be found at local farmers markets, which has the added benefit of buying produce with low food miles. When purchasing seasonal produce look for the lowest cost per kilogram (kg) or unit to get the best value for money. A vegetable or herb garden at home can help save money too and is a fun incentive for children to get involved with.


Table of seasonality guide for fruit and vegies in Qld

Tips for saving money

  • Buy everyday foods in bulk as they are usually cheap (rice, oil, vegetables, canned foods, pasta etc.).
  • Try legumes such as tinned kidney beans, chick peas, soya beans or lentils for a tasty and cheaper alternative to meats in salads and casseroles.
  • Pay attention to weekly specials and additional mark downs found later in the day.
  • Compare prices of the brands you love with those you are less familiar with (e.g., home brands).
  • Look for food items placed below or above eye level on the shelves as cheaper foods are often placed outside of eye level.
  • Purchase meat in bulk, dividing it into portions and freeze until needed.
  • Shop the store's perimeter as the outermost edge of the supermarket contains the healthier, non-processed foods.

Last updated: June 2016

© Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. This article was written by Laura Phillips-Moye and Sally Gaedtke and reviewed by the Women's Health Queensland Wide editorial committee. It was published in Health Journey 2016 Issue 2.



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