You’ve no doubt seen the skyrocketing grocery prices at your local store – and with no sign of slowing down, we’re in for a long ride.
With continued price hikes on all our household staples, plus inflation at its highest in 20 years and food prices up by 10% since June last year, it figures that you’re probably feeling the strain – and you’re not alone. A recent survey shows 62% of shoppers are worried, with nearly a third of participants revealing they have to drop over a hundred dollars for their weekly shop.
And it’s only getting worse. But it’s not all doom and gloom – we have a few simple steps you can take to keep your trolley full (and your wallet too!) Here’s how:
Freeze your meat, veggies and fruit.
Freezing your meat and fresh produce is one of the easiest ways to extend the life of your food and make your dollar go further. This technique is especially helpful for those with families to feed, ensuring you save money without compromising on nutrition and healthy eating.
With meat prices up by 10% from last year, many are feeling the strain. A calamitous flood season combined with labour shortages and a higher consumer demand, is to blame for soaring prices. While lentils, beans and tofu pose a solution for cheaper sources of protein, there is another way for meat-lovers to save their favourite food – and their wallets too. This is where freezing comes into play. You can buy on-sale meats in bulk and use them slowly as you need them, or even buy larger portions of meat than you usually would, as these are usually cheaper per kilogram.
The most common way to do this is by double wrapping the meat in one of these materials:
- Plastic wrap.
- Parchment paper.
- Plastic zip-lock bags.
But these materials, especially plastic, lead to overflowing landfill and pollution, with 8 trillion tonnes entering our oceans each year. There is a better way that not only extends the life of your food, but that of the environment too.
Try these freezing methods instead:
- Reusable containers: Stainless steel works well in the freezer.
- Beeswax sandwich bags and containers: These are reusable and can even be added to your compost heap.
- Soy wax paper: This is a biodegradable option, plus it's non-toxic.
- Silicone sandwich bags: If you prefer the convenience of sandwich bags, silicone makes for a greener option as it's reusable and free from harmful chemicals like BPA.
Then keep it in the freezer until you need it. Keep in mind, ground beef usually lasts around 3 months when frozen, while steaks last longer – between 6 and 12 months.
Meat’s not the only product with prices through the roof – some of our humble fruit and veggie staples are getting the inflation treatment too. With vegetable prices up by nearly 7% and fruit prices up by almost 5%, it’s time to get creative. These nutritious household essentials can easily be frozen, with items like spinach and garlic being ideal to freeze as it’s we rarely use all of it at once. You’ll also say goodbye to food waste – with 45% of produce going to waste globally – as you can simply use the amount you need without worrying about unused goods going off.
To freeze your fruit and veggies, you’ll need to lay them out on a freezer-safe tray, then pop them in the freezer to harden. All that’s left to do is transfer them into zip-lock bags or containers, then take them out when you’re ready to use them. This could be in a week’s time or even a few months. The flexibility of freezing food means you don’t have to hit up the supermarket as often, and in the long term, it means more money saved.
Our recommendation: Make a veggie stock – or buy some in bulk – and freeze the liquid into ice cube trays. This is an easy way to ensure you have stock for all your future soup recipes and save money on unnecessary supermarket trips.
Make a list.
Supermarket shopping can get overwhelming, with blinding white lights, crowds and endless aisles, we’ve all felt the mid-shop paralysis. It helps to come prepared with a list and a plan of attack, to reduce the chance of getting distracted by goods we don’t need, along with ensuring we know which foods are on sale and which are not. Here are a few things to have on your list:
- Items you need.
- Brand names and sale prices.
- Options in case your planned purchases are sold out.
- Other optional items pending their cost – check for instore-only sales.
This way you can check that the online costs match the instore costs, along with fighting forgetfulness and confusion that arise in a chaotic environment.
Our recommendation: Eat before you go shopping! We’ve all fallen prey to shopping on an empty stomach and then impulse buying a bunch of unplanned goods.
Swap this for that.
Some foods tend to be more expensive than others, with meat and exotic fruits usually topping the list. To maximise savings, it can help to swap out meat for other protein sources like tofu or beans – mung beans are a strong contender, packing in 15 grams of protein per cup. Switch out exotic or off-season fruits for those that are in season, as these tend to be cheaper since there is an abundance of produce. Try these simple swaps:
- If you usually drop a bag grapes in your trolley, try opting for winter specials like mandarins or oranges instead.
- When it comes to berries, swap blueberries and blackberries for strawberries around this time of year.
- Select spinach or artichoke in favour of green beans, which tend to be cheaper in Summer.
Brand choice is also a major factor in cost. At supermarkets like Woollies and Coles, their home brand options tend to be cheaper, but a quick online search before you head to the shops will reveal the best sales of the day. Consider scanning sales among all your local stores – having flexibility on where you shop will also ensure you have access to the latest sales.
It’s no secret that organic produce tends to cost more than non-organic, so it could be a good option to pick up the latter on your next shopping trip. If you’re concerned about pesticides, according to a study shows a simple solution of bi-carb soda and water removes nearly all the pesticide residue on the produce. Just soak your fruit or veggies for 15 minutes and it’s good to go!
Our recommendation: Try out the cheaper, imperfect produce as well, with major supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths offering campaigns like “I’m Perfect” and “Odd Bunch”, respectively, these options are widely available. With the same taste and nutrition, the only significant thing that changes is the price! We also recommend adapting your meal plans to make the most of seasonal foods. For instance:
- When making soups, opt for veggies like pumpkin, leafy greens, eggplants and potatoes.
- Fruits like apples, bananas and citrus fruits are in season at the moment and they make a great addition to any warming oatmeal or muesli bowls.
- Veggies like zucchini, cabbage and carrots happen to be in season all year round, and as such tend to be on the cheaper side. They also make for a great addition to your morning omelette.
For some simple recipes to help you save, while also eating nutritiously, check out the I Quit Sugar Sugar-Free Baking Cookbook.
These are just a few of our tips and tricks to save big at the supermarkets and help you navigate your way through this catastrophic period of inflation.