Food prices have risen for a multitude of reasons, including rising fuel, fertilizer and labor costs.
You could “shop around” for cheaper groceries, but it would cost you more in fuel or travel, not to mention time.
Research shows that healthy eating is expensive for low-income households 20 to 30% of their disposable income. But a healthy diet is still cheaper than a diet dominated by highly processed foods and drinks.
Lowering your grocery bill takes planning and flexibility – and knowing your budget.
Read more: Yes, $5 for lettuce is too much. The government should act to stem the rising cost of healthy eating
So how do you do it?
Start by checking what vegetables and fruits are in seasonand find recipes that include them.
Swap fresh vegetables and fruits with canned and frozen varieties, and replace high-priced items with cheaper alternatives.
Eat a meatless meal at least once a week.
Read more: Health check: five must-have foods for your shopping cart
Next, create a shopping list. This saves money by reducing impulse purchases in store. Look at what you already have in the pantry, fridge and freezer, and buy only what you need. This will reduce food waste.
How much do households spend on groceries?
A Survey 2021 found that the average supermarket grocery bill was A$98 per week for a single person, $145 for two, $168 for three, $187 for four, and $255 for five or more.
A older survey from 2016 found that the average household (2.6 people) spent $269 per week on all food ($237) and alcohol ($32) purchases, both at the supermarket and other outlets.
About half the money was spent on “discretionarysuch as restaurant meals or fast food ($80), with $20 spent on lollipops, chocolate, salty snacks and potato chips, and $10 on cakes, cookies and puddings. At the supermarket, $26 was spent per week on fruits and vegetables.
A Survey 2019 found that the average person spent $300 a week on all food and drink. This included groceries ($135), restaurant meals ($52), alcohol ($31), takeout ($22), barista coffee/tea ($13), delivery services food ($12), supplements ($12) and health food ($11) .
These surveys show that it is common to spend more on food and drink eaten out than on groceries and more on unhealthy items than on healthy food.
How about saving $50?
5 tips to help you save
Putting it all together, here are five key tips to keep in mind when planning food for your household:
1) Have a food budget
The total amount of the food budget will be influenced by the number of people you need to feed, their ages and your household income. Typically, this shouldn’t cost more than a third of your total household disposable income.
Allocate target amounts in your budget for basic nutritious foods and discretionary food and beverages (soft drinks, crisps, biscuits, cakes, lollipops, pies, pastries and cold cuts) and on out-of-home food (cafes, fast food, pubs, clubs, bottle shops and restaurants).
2) Make a schedule of the week for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks
Write a corresponding shopping list. Check the pantry, fridge and freezer to see what you already have or if there is any. ingredients can be redeemed to register a purchase.
3. Prepare your lunch
Buy a box lunch and pack it the night before. Put it in the fridge so you can take it out in the morning. For ideas, see our Homemade meals for $5.
If your mornings are too busy, also pack breakfast foods.
4. Cook more meals at home
Cooking more meals at home could include cheaper and healthier versions of some of your takeout favorites like pizza and burgers.
A an American study reveals those who cooked more at home spent half as much on food consumed outside as those who cooked rarely. They also spent 17% less on food overall.
Interestingly, both groups spent the same on groceries, suggesting that infrequent home cooks waste more food, eat more, or both.
Read more: Want to be happier, healthier, save money? It’s time to cook
5. Bake double batches
Cook larger quantities of meals like curriessoups and stews, and freeze them or eat the same meal twice.
For those who need to shop on a significantly shoestring budget, we’ve put together a $60 per week meal plan on our no money no time website. This free resource contains a meal plan with inexpensive recipes designed to address key nutrients needed for health.
If you need help getting food right now, try the Ask Izzy website. By submitting your zip code, it displays support services, such as free meals, near you.
The authors thank Hannah McCormick and Ilyse Jones of the No Money No Time project team for their assistance in preparing this article.