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Supermarket savers: 10 ways to smash your grocery shop at Coles, Aldi and Woolworths

Whatever you do, don't go to the supermarket on autopilot, experts warn.

Sticking to a budget when you hit the supermarket for a weekly shop can be a daunting task for many households these days, especially as Aussies continue to contend with the high cost of living.

While the cost of living stress may be levelling out, many Australians continue to make deliberate spending trade-offs to manage household balance sheets, according to a recent consumer sentiment survey by NAB.

The report found consumers across the income spectrum were looking for ways to save money and rein in spending. Half of Aussies had reportedly cut back on eating out and buying micro treats such as coffee and snacks, while imperfect fruit and delivery service Farmer’s Pick shared that as many as a third of Australians were reducing their intake of fresh produce.

Supermarket shot showing woman reaching for fresh produce groceries in vegetable aisle.
Supermarket experts say it is vital to make sure you're not on autopilot when buying groceries. (Source: Getty)

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With all this in mind, it's no surprise that Aussies are looking around for ways to save some extra cash. Fortunately, there are a number ways to do just that during your weekly shop.


Here are 10 easy hacks to keep more dollars in your wallet.

1. Avoid pre-cut food items

While it may seem to make sense to pick up a pack to save on time, CHOICE content producer Liam Kennedy advised to avoid them if you wanted to cut costs.

“You are paying for that convenience,” Kennedy told Yahoo Finance. “Pre-cut fruit and veggies can cost five times as much per kilo as unprocessed originals, so if you want to save, I would encourage you to sharpen up your knife skills and cut them up yourself.”

Woman and daughter get ready to chop orange in the kitchen.
Cutting up produce yourself could bring you significant savings. (Source: Getty)

2. Utilise use-by dates

According to Farmer’s Pick co-founder Josh Ball, whose company’s goal is to fight food waste, dumping food is costing Aussie households significantly. He said one of the reasons behind it was the ineffective use of use-by dates.

“Our research found that half of Australian households are not using use-by dates effectively,” Ball told Yahoo Finance.

“To combat this, Australians can adopt storage techniques such as freezing food to extend shelf life beyond their use-by dates, and develop meal-planning habits to ensure everything they buy is utilised.”

3. Check your pantry, plan your meals and make a shopping list

Ball’s suggestion of planning meals goes hand-in-hand with a couple of other money-saving tips.

Before heading to the shops, check your pantry, fridge and freezer for ingredients you may already have. This will help you avoid buying things you don’t need. Then, make a list of things you do need. CHOICE also suggests doing smaller shops for fresh produce to avoid food waste.

However, Kennedy warned consumers to be wary of strategically placed specials. “Basically, they are trying to get you to make more unplanned purchases. Be aware of these supermarket tactics to get you to buy more.”


4. Shop at night and look for weekly specials

Not all specials are bad though. Some days, they offer a great opportunity to stock up on certain staples.

Many supermarkets also offer discounts on food nearing their use-by dates at the end of the day, which means more savings if you can cook it straight away or freeze it, according to Finder.

5. Buy and cook in bulk, and look at unit prices

Items with a longer use-by date can be cheaper when purchased in bulk – but don’t forget to check unit prices.

“Below the headline price is the unit price,” Kennedy said, adding that this breaks down the cost of a product into standard units of measurement and helps consumers compare product prices more easily.

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A woman walks down an aisle at a shopping centre.
Look at unit prices when choosing items. (Source: Getty)

“Items such as honey are best bought in bulk,” he said. “You’re paying 40 per cent more for 100 grams on your smallest bottle to your bigger jars. You can probably get better value for bulkier items and unit prices across brands.”

Warehouse stores such as Costco have annual membership fees of $60 but are great for stocking up on bulk items.

Cooking a big batch of food is recognised as more cost-effective than making a single meal, especially if you are buying in bulk. Make a big batch of Bolognese and freeze the rest for later.

6. Buy ‘ugly’ produce

Consumers have become used to eating the "perfect"-looking produce but, according to Ball, consumers should consider buying less-than-perfect produce as an alternative.

“Although some stores appear to be bucking this trend, it's clear that the major supermarkets’ current requirements for ‘perfect’ fruit and vegetables are driving up the price of fresh foods – all while tonnes of perfectly edible produce are wasted, simply due to its 'imperfect' appearance,” Ball said.

“Consumers can vote with their dollars and buy more ‘imperfect’ fruit and vegetables from suppliers,” he added, noting that doing so could save up to 30 per cent on weekly grocery bills and make fresh food more accessible to Australians.

CHOICE also suggests consumers take a look at ‘The Odd Bunch’ at Woolworths, ‘I’m Perfect’ at Coles, and ‘Imperfect Picks’ at Harris Farm as alternatives.

Another alternative is to find a co-op, farmers market or keep an eye out for local growers that can offer value-for-money produce.

7. Buy fresh in season and frozen or tinned out of season

Fresh produce can be good value in season, but if you are buying it out of season, it’s often cheaper to buy the frozen option, according to Kennedy.

Finder also recommends buying canned food as an alternative as the vegetables are typically processed shortly after harvest.

8. Don’t shop on ‘autopilot’

If you want to cut costs, Kennedy also suggests not shopping on "autopilot".

“Without really thinking about it, we always go to the same shop and always go to the same products, the same brand, in the same size,” he said. “We encourage people not to shop on autopilot and pay attention to where they’re buying and what they’re buying to save money.”

Kennedy recommends comparing brands and prices at different shops to find the best deal. According to CHOICE, people who go on multi-store shopping trips save up to 40 per cent off their weekly groceries.

Finder also recommends using apps to search for specials and compare prices of goods.


9. Get loyalty cards and shop at Aldi

Join Flybuys at Coles and get an Everyday Rewards card from Woolworths. Use the points you earn to get dollars off your shop or transfer points to a frequent flyer program for future flights and other rewards.

Aldi has no loyalty program, but that's mainly because of its low prices. If you want to save on costs, shop for staples at Aldi, according to Finder. Just try to avoid making unplanned purchases from the Special Buys aisle!

Flybuys, Everyday Rewards and Qantas Premier Platinum cards on a background of a shopping trolley in a supermarket aisle.
Making the most of rewards and frequent flyer programs can bring you great savings. (Source: Getty/Supplied) (Getty/Flybuys/Everyday/Qantas)

10. Reconsider home brands and look at refills

Kennedy said consumers should not write off home brands, as these items usually got a bad rap but had actually improved a lot in terms of quality, and even occasionally outperformed flagship items at half the cost.

He also encouraged shoppers to go for refill packages of handwash, shower gel and similar products in order to save. According to CHOICE, refills can deliver average savings of 32 per cent compared with just buying another pre-filled dispenser.

“Instead of buying the pre-filled dispenser and starting again, get those items in the supermarket,” Kennedy said.

It's also a good way to avoid unnecessary plastic waste.