How to grocery shop and keep your health and budget on track.

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By Anna Rogan

Looking after yourself and eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. In this article, we’ll explore the best tips for planning ahead so you can shop, cook, eat healthily and budget to save money all at the same time.

Setting a food budget

If you’re serious about saving money on groceries, it’s an excellent idea to work out a budget. There’s no one size fits all to food budgeting, so to set a realistic budget for your household, you should first work out how much you currently spend on food.

I suggest tracking food spending for a month and itemising the spending (meat, fruit and vegetables, snacks, drinks, eating out, etc.). You can then use your itemised list to identify where to save money. For example, cutting back on expensive soft drinks and juices. Set a weekly food budget and stick to it as best you can, then reassess after a month to make sure it’s realistic for your family.

Meal planning

Putting some time aside each week to plan your meals and write a shopping list not only takes the stress out of the day-to-day “what’s for dinner?” dilemma, but it also makes it easier to shop to a budget and stay healthy. Meal planning helps to avoid those quick dashes to the grocery story to grab just “one or two” things, but where you walk out with a couple of extra unhealthy snacks and having spent more than you bargained for.

Top 7 tips for meal planning and sticking to that budget

  1. Embrace leftovers! Grilling chicken? You could use your leftovers for a yummy casserole or salad.
  1. Reuse meal plans and shopping lists. Save even more time and stress by keeping your weekly meal plan and shopping list to use again for future shops. This author suggests keeping a six weekly rotation until you need a change up.
  1. Variety is the spice of life, so include plenty of it in your meal planning. Cooking meals you and your family will enjoy, and indulging in the occasional treat will help you avoid eating out and better enable you to stick to that budget.
  1. Shop online. If you’ve written a weekly meal plan, shopping for your groceries online is a breeze and can help you make significant savings. Seeing items listed on screen can make it easier to compare costs. It’s also simpler to keep track of spending. As you add items to your online cart, the subtotal is tallied right there on the screen. You can also save shopping lists for future shops, making meal planning and budgeting even easier.

There is usually a small fee associated with delivery, so consider whether it’s worth the time and travel saved by not having to go to the store. Woolworths and Coles also offer a free ‘click and collect’ service at some of their stores, allowing you to buy online and simply drop in to pick up your groceries.

  1. Buy and cook in bulk. Cooking double batches of meals and freezing the leftovers can provide you with an easy alternative to eating out on busy nights. Many fresh foods can be bought in bulk and frozen for future use including bread, butter, grated cheese, milk, spinach, broccoli, strawberries. Check out the BBCs top tips on safely freezing food.

Costco is a popular option for bulk buying; there’s a $60 yearly membership fee. Check out their latest catalogue and find out whether there’s a Costco near you here.

  1. Shop at local markets. If you have the time, shopping at local markets can give you access to fresh foods like meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables at a discounted price. Buying fresh and in season is also better for your health!
  1. Supermarket specials and coupons can be an excellent way to save money if you stay smart. Specials are often used as a clever ploy to entice shoppers to buy more of what they don’t need. The trick is to keep an eye out for specials and coupons on items you already buy.

Have someone do it for you

Right now there is an abundance of meal delivery services that focus on providing ready to go, healthy foods. If you’re interested check out Light n Easy, Dish’d, Youfoodz, Gourmet Dinner Service and Dinner Ladies.

If you love to cook but could do without the hassle of planning and shopping, you could consider a food box service that regularly delivers fresh ingredients and recipes to your door including Hello Fresh, Marley and Spoon and Pepper Leaf.

It’s worth comparing the cost of these services with your current food spending, and considering whether the convenience and time-savings are worth any extra cost.

Find out more about what users think of these services, and also see a comparison of costs in this recent article from Choice Australia

Find out more about freezing foods

Article by Anna Rogan

Anna is a Melbourne-based writer who loves telling good stories, drinking strong coffee and travelling to offbeat destinations.

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