11 money-saving food shopping tips to help combat the rising cost of living

Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.

If you've noticed your trips to the supermarket are taking a bigger bite out of your food budget, you're not alone.

Food prices are growing at their fastest rates in decades, and there's likely to be more pain ahead, with supply chain disruptions and adverse weather impacting what's readily available.

When our regular food options disappear from the shelves or become too expensive, it's easy to let healthy eating habits slip.

Incorporating these simple, money-saving tips into your shopping routine will help you enjoy a balanced diet and keep your food bill under control.

1. Make meal plans

Before heading to the supermarket, create a meal plan for the week, including snacks. Make your shopping list from this meal plan, and don't forget to check your pantry and fridge for things you already have.

Shopping with a meal plan means you'll only buy what you need for the week ahead and avoid impulse purchases, saving you money. It's also guaranteed to eliminate the annoying question of 'what's for dinner?'!

2. Price check everything

Comparing the cost per 100 grams is the most effective way to save money when you shop.

To get the best value, invest time checking prices on products sold in different ways and places. Compare the cost of fresh and frozen seafood. Price check fresh, canned and frozen corn. Look at the cost of nuts you scoop yourself versus prepacked options.

3. Use more frozen and canned foods

Substitute frozen and canned foods for fresh ingredients in recipes. While these options are cheaper, they're as nutritious and tasty because produce is usually frozen or canned at its best. Just watch the sodium content of canned foods and give them a quick rinse to remove any salty water or juices.

Canned chickpeas and beans are also an easy way to add a vegetable to your meals and achieve your five serves a day.

4. Switch to home brands

It's no secret supermarkets buy and repackage well-known brands to create home brands. As a result, home brands offer great value and are likely to taste the same as branded products.

Before adding home brands to your trolley, compare the nutritional panels to confirm the cheaper option is the best. More affordable options can be higher in sodium or water.

5.Ditch the ready-made meals and switch to batch cooking

It's tempting to buy ready-made meals when we're busy or don't feel like cooking. While these options are time-saving, they're not budget-friendly.

Instead, invest an afternoon batch cooking your own ready-made meals for the freezer. Preparing everything from scratch will be cheaper, and you'll know exactly what's gone into each dish.

6. Buy select discounted items in bulk

Implement the $20 rule. Allocate $20 each week to buy more of any on-sale storable staples like pasta and rice. Look for specials on higher-priced items like chicken that you can bulk buy and freeze.

Keep your pantry and freezer organised, with freeze and expiry dates visible, to avoid wastage.

7. Embrace a meat-free day or two

Vegetarian diets tend to be cheaper than diets incorporating meat. Even one day a week without the expense of meat can bring your food bill down substantially.

Tofu and eggs are inexpensive substitutes for meat, and with so many tasty and healthy vegetarian recipes available, it's never been easier to take on a meat-free Monday.

8. Shop with the seasons

In-season fruit and vegetables are cheaper than imported produce, so it's wise to pay attention to what's in season and incorporate these ingredients into your meal planning.

In-season produce tastes better, too, and shopping seasonally means you're more likely to be supporting local producers.

9. Buy imperfect produce

Major supermarkets and grocers now sell fruit and vegetables that don't look perfect at a reduced price. This food still tastes great and is ideal for recipes where you'd chop or blend them anyway, like soups and smoothies.

Buying imperfect produce is a smart way to incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables on a budget while helping reduce food waste.

10. Waste not, want not

With so many websites showcasing delicious, easy recipes and uses for leftovers, there's no excuse for throwing food away.

Make frittatas and pasta sauces with leftover vegetables. Turn stale bread into breadcrumbs. Freeze an extra cup of rice for a quick meal accompaniment.

Eating leftovers also saves you making – and spending on – another meal.  

11. Make healthier choices – they're cheaper!

It's a myth that eating healthier food has to cost more.

Eating correct portion sizes is one way to reduce your food budget. Another is cutting out discretionary 'junk' foods that add calories but have little nutritional value and leave you feeling hungry.

While some healthier foods, like leaner meats, can cost more, the tips above show the many ways to incorporate these foods into your diet cheaply.

About Dr Nick Fuller

Dr Nick Fuller is the founder of Interval Weight Loss and is a leading obesity expert at the University of Sydney with a Ph.D. in Obesity Treatment. Dr Fuller is also the author of three best-selling books and his work been published in top ranked journals in the medical field, including JAMA, Lancet and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.