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Grocery Shopping Hacks to Save You Dollars

Cut your Grocery Bill in Half

“I spend less than $100 a week on groceries” – Insider secrets from a consumer behaviour expert


 After some internal debate, I decided to go public with a post that seems to have stuck a chord with fellow mums enduring cost of living pressures. My thinking is that it takes a village – not just to raise a child but to survivie, and this village is awesome.

My insights come from the front line: I’ve worked with – and for – the biggest brands in the world in the area of Consumer Behaviour. Not sure what that it? Think: finding ways to seperate people from their money! So any advice offered is my opinion only (but based on hard facts and insight from inside the boardroom) and the tips below are from someone whose job used to be to influence your behaviour in-store – we called it the last 6 feet of the sale, but in truth it starts way back in P&D (product and development). I’m reformed now (eh-hem), but it was once my job to get you to spend more than you needed to – so think of this as my way of giving back to this fantastic community of women.

Supermarket shopping, image courtesy of Tara Clark,
💰 Tip: Recognise that shopping centres are designed to make you spend

Shopping centres and grocery stores are designed to make you spend more. You may have heard of Gruen principles (through the ABC show) but you may not know that it impacts you almost every day, in every part of your shopping experience. Have you ever noticed that shopping centres are often x  or crucifix shaped, with anchor stores at the end? Think of mass retailers like Target, Big W and K Mart. Also, the fact that escalators make you walk past the maximum number of shopfronts? Or that there is a coffee shop at each anchor point so the smell of coffee lures you there and gives you a boost to spend more? As consumers we are habitual – from parking spots to choice of stores. No judgments btw– its universal – but be aware you don’t actually have the free will you think…. And after two decades designing shopping centre and in-store “space”, I try my best to no longer step foot in them. What’s the solution? Write a shopping list to stay on track or consider shopping local to avoid the large malls – think independent grocery stores, butchers, delis, bakeries and fishmongers.

💰 Tip: Home brands are great value

Home brands or own brands are almost always produced by brand-name manufacturers. You get almost exactly the same product (if not identical) as branded versions that are twice the price, competing against themselves in the same category. Never be embarrassed to buy a home brand label – often you’re getting the same as a branded product for half the price. If in doubt, flip the product and look at the manufacturer. This goes for everything including alcohol – up to 70% of the items in liquor stores owned by the big two supermarkets are manufactured by them too – so they just market them at different price points.


💰 Tip: Go for products with less packaging to save big 

The more packaging you can see in a product, you can bet the cost will be higher. This is almost always true. Double down on that if it is small volume, or pre-prepared. So select loose veg over packaged items. By-pass pre-cut or pre-prepared items (like cut pumpkin) and DIY at home. You’ll easily save on the 1000% mark-up.

Market fruit and veg, image courtesy of Dean Xavier,
💰 Tip: Shop local and in season

Sounds simple right, but how to do it? Check out the local green grocer next to your supermarket and shop their specials first. Adjust your menu to suit the seasonal produce, not the other way around. Check out resources like the Seasonal Food Guide to help with meal planning.


💰 Tip: Only join the loyalty programs that give you $ rewards.

As someone who helped with one of the most well-known supermarket loyalty programs (here’s a hint, it rhymes with lie-buys), we often remarked that people would overspend by thousands just to get a cheap toaster they didn’t need. This applies for credit cards too. The moral of the story: if it ain’t a cash reward or percent discount, it’s likely in their favour not yours. So whether it’s groceries or credit cards, only join loyalty program that provide a tangible incentive that you can measure in savings (like a cash reward or discount).


💰 Tip: Pick a cheaper supermarket for your ‘every day’ shop

Aldi has it right with their ‘shop here first’ rhetoric. I have no vested interest in the brand  but an overall everyday discount of 20-30% will beat the specials from the big two supermarkets in every way – other than half price specials. If you do one big shop at the big two when they have half price on specific things you need, you’ll save a bucketload – but for a day-to-day shop, starting at Aldi is hard to beat.

Wall of gift cards, image courtesy of the New York Times
💰 Want to save another 3-5% off most retailers? Buy a gift card. 

If you want to save 3-5% off most retailers, you can buy gift cards at a discount through most of your utility providers –  think insurance, energy providers, and rewards programs. I’m with NIB and AGL and they always offer up to 5% off gift cards that I buy in advance and use as everyday money. So before you toss out that energy bill or hit delete on an email from your insurance company, check out their offers and you’ll save big. Think about it? If your average grocery shop is $200 a week, you’ll save over $500 a year on groceries alone – not to mention all the other retailers you regularly purchase from.


💰  Tip: It pays to shop around for a bargain

Almost noone outside the industry realises that stores under the same banner can vary wildly in price. Location can often dictate the fluctuations in price with lower socioeconomic areas offering lower starting price points, and high income areas the reverse. Whilst it’s unfair, this is the reality of the grocery and supermarket world. The big two supermarket chains may advertise weekly specials, but price points differ from store to store. * For my fellow inner west mums, the Illawarra Rd Woolies has been the best value mass grocery store for years. NOT the Woolies Metro that was the old Banana Joes (IYKYK).


💰  Tip: Never buy the high-end product if a mid-range version is available 

There is a ‘break point’ in consumer products where the over-engineering or product innovation no longer produces results relative to the cost. For example, think of a common dishwashing detergent brand, let’s say one that starts with an F and rhymes with airy. The basic tablet might start at about 30 cents (bulk/on sale) but then there are 5-6 other types like ultra, platinum, platinum total. At some point, around the middle, the product stops getting very much better and you are simply paying for a different name or fragrance. Never buy the high end tablets, the ROI is nowhere near the mid-priced range.


🌟 Some caveats:

  • These opinions are based on my own experience and insights – so other people’s experiences are also valid
  • For home-brands (see Tip #2) basic items like crackers, frozen chips, veggies, milk, common pain killers HAVE to be the same. There’s not much you can do with 500mg of paracetamol or a water cracker. There are some products, however, where it’s important to delineate and pay more for quality. Meats are graded for a reason and often the higher the grade the better the quality. Also, I’m a toilet paper snob so I’ll buy the good stuff on sale as the home brand doesn’t cut it for me! Each to their own.


Want more? This article comes courtesy of @insidersaving on Insta. If you’ve loved these tips, feel free to follow this IW mum on Insta, leave a comment below or shoot us your money saving tip at

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