October 2022 Food Champions Challenge: Grocery shopping on a budget. What are your strategies, tricks and tips when food shopping on budget?

We’re all experiencing the pressure of the rising cost of living mainly due to increasing labour, energy, and transportation costs. For most of us it means careful spending to stretch the funds we have available to cover all expenses.
Whether we shop for a single or for a large household we can control our spending on food by carefully planning our meals, avoiding impulse buying etc.

For a chance to be awarded the Food Champions Badge, please share with us your own suggestions, tricks, and tips when food shopping on a budget.

Big thank you to all participants of the September challenge, congratulations to:
@pandrew3 @zackarii @Bittern56 @tim3 @uptightoutasight @thewombat @jen
You have been awarded the Food Champions Badge :clap:


Suggestion number one is knowing what a product cost last time or should cost and being ready to consider alternatives. No need to pay a premium if one is prepared to adapt. Very useful when shopping for fruit and veg which varies week to week and by season/source. Also the basis of a healthy diet.

Suggestion number two is to learn the special cycles for products that you purchase on a regular basis. For some the discounts might only be 10%, but others such as tea can be as great as 50% off. For those items including tea we purchase extra when on special, and keep an eye out for the next price cycle. Waiting for when there is only one days supply in the pantry is sure to find the store price at it’s highest.

Suggestion number three is to look for the value alternatives. At Woolies Uncle Toby’s rolled oats - “Traditional” in a 1kg box are $5.00 everyday low price vs $6.50 regular! Excuse the Woolies price marketing BS. Woolworths brand in a plastic bag - 0.75kg are $1.50 and just as good for cooking or porridge. Not all differently branded products are equal or as good. It’s worth looking to the nutrition and contents labels (glasses or phone camera) to compare, and trying the cheaper options. If the lower cost option works why waste money on the expensive brands.

It’s worth looking at the Choice reviews for value tested options. Although they only cover a limited range all are every day items, including non-food products such as detergents and toilet paper.


I suffer from agoraphobia which makes getting to the shops difficult some days . I shop Coles Online for home delivery . If you order for a Wednesday delivery the delivery charge is usually $2-$3 .

The delivery time gap is usually 6 - 7 hours so those that are working full time this delivery method would not be viable .

In my area the cheap delivery seems to be Wednesday only . Other days would be $8-$11.

By the time I backed my car out and drove to Coles it is cheaper for me to use the Wednesday delivery . I have to use 98 ron fuel ., manufacturers specification , so fuel and risking damage in the car park comes into play .

  1. Don’t rush, look at what is available and good value on the day.

  2. Buy on special where possible but don’t buy just because it is on ‘special’ unless it is something you use regularly. A fridge full of bargains ain’t bargains unless you actually need them. Take care if buying short-dated produce, if you throw half out it isn’t cheap.

  3. Keep a running list of items as they run out. Plan meals for the next few days and add to the list. Don’t buy anything not on the list unless it fits item (2)

  4. Don’t shop when you are hungry! Seriously! You will avoid all those tasty snacks that you swore you wouldn’t buy much better if you have a full belly.

  5. Shop seasonally where appropriate. Seasonal veges can be much more expensive when out of season. Lamb is better in spring, freeze it for later.

  6. Get clever about buying protein. Per kilo (excluding spices if they count as food) it is the most expensive food. Learn good recipes for cheaper cuts of meat and ways to serve a satisfying meal with a little less meat per head. The typical meat consumption in Oz is a fair bit more than dietary requirements. Go vegetarian for some meals possibly with cheese or eggs.

  7. Not food exactly but if you drink alcohol keep it for the weekend in moderation. You will save money and be healthier.


Syncretic has covered the common sense ground we use.
1: Try to shop once a week to save the petrol or, as already suggested, use delivery if it suits you;
2: As a delaying measure, we buy spares of the most used items when the special price is better than 20% off and place them on the watch list when the spare needs replacing;
3: A chest freezer makes seasonally cheaper lamb and ice cream last longer and stretches the home grown vegetables season;
4: For those fortunate enough to have space for 10 square metres or more of home grown greens and herbs, twenty minutes a day in the garden will pay dividends;
5: Check eligibility for your local food bank source; supermarkets support these too and there are good bargains to be had in limited quantities for people on lower incomes.


Everyone contributing to this post all have valid suggestions.
To add to previous suggestions:-

  1. Cook from scratch rather than using prepackaged products.
  2. Buy foods when on special e.g. tinned tomatoes, corn, pasta, rice, flour, sugar, tuna, salmon, passata (tomato paste) etc., these items store well past the use by date
  3. Always buy by “price per kilo” which is in small print on the price label.
    If you have freezer room:-
  4. Be observant with smaller packages; for example bacon, 250g Woolworths Middle bacon per kilo is $16; where a 1kg packet of Woolworths Middle bacon is $10 per kilo; I freeze the bacon in batches.
  5. Cheese & margarine freeze well, & is another expensive product which when on special can be frozen.
  6. Chicken breasts check the Deli prices & then the Chicken section in the meat dept, usually there is approx $1 to $1.50 price difference per kilo.
    another option is to buy a cooked 1kg BBQ chicken for $11 which can be used in lots of ways curries, salads, soups, pizza topping etc. At the Deli shredded BBQ Chicken sells for $25 per kilo.
  7. Some items such as gravy mix is cheaper to buy by the bucket than by individual small packets. e.g. 1x 27g pkt of Gravox Gravy = $1 & 2kg bucket of Maggi Gravy (Foodland) = $30. 2000g/27g = 74 pkts of Gravox = $74 If you eat lots of gravy this is a big saving. The Maggi gravy powder keeps for 12 mths or more in the sealed bucket. Another bonus the bucket can be recycled for other uses around the house or workshop.
  8. It pays to compare prices; I purchased 3 bottles x 500ml Olive Oil which calculated to be cheaper than buying a 1 litre bottle of Olive Oil.
  9. Skip the chips and confectionery isles. :slightly_smiling_face:
  10. Buy fresh produce that is “in” season e.g. (winter) broccoli, cauliflower, peas; (summer) tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers - expect dearer prices when fruit & veg are for sale “out” of season.
  11. Oh and another thing to watch out for is damaged packaging, dented cans - do not buy them, as there could be a pin hole that you can’t see & bacteria grows which results in food poisoning. Also jars & bottles where the lids have been tampered with & lost it’s seal - don’t buy.
    All the above boils down to is take your time, being observant & comparing prices by using the price per kilo method.

To add to what’s already been suggested, we’ve always been on a low income and always plan our weekly meals, then shop for what we need, with few extras. This allows us to make sure we cover all the food groups and get variety, on a vegan diet. Some meals we choose make a large quantity, which results in freezing enough for another day, or another week’s cycle. We buy fruit and veg from a local shop to support local producers and get coffee and tea from fair trade suppliers, all of which are more expensive choices that we could alter if we needed.


A couple of others:

  • work out where it is cheapest to buy the products one is after. Cheapest means factoring in travel costs such as driving a car and also one’s time. You need to look further than traditional supermarkets. The cheapest place may surprise you and may be different to where you traditionally shop of items.
  • Don’t get hung up where you buy things. When living in Brisbane, we bought most of our meat at Asian butchers as they were cheaper, meats often fresher and they would cut the meat exactly the way one wanted it reducing waste and cost of overall purchase.
  • Cook more at home using fresh produce/your own ingredients. Eating out and prepared foods are ore expensive. Treat these as treats rather than the norm. An good example is a coffee. Buying out can cost in the order of $5-8. Making one at home or when one gets to work using their own ingredients costs around 10% of the bought version.

Design your menu for a week and 1/2 and ensure that you can cycle through a variety of vegetables. Keep your fancy recipe books stored away for the `occasional’ dinner party to halt over spending on individual items you will be unlikely to reuse.

Purchase a variety of vegetables that you can use in many different meals (e.g. onions, potatoes, carrots, capsicum, greens). Have canned and dried staples such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, coconut milk and good stored herbs.

Cook items that you can have for lunch the next day or freeze for later (e.g. lasagne, pie). Shop for your vegetables, bread and meat at outlets and not at supermarkets to save on $ and improved quality. Do NOT buy biscuits/cakes instead purchase flour, sugar etc and make your own (nb: the shelf cream is good so keep that in your pantry for mixing into cakes/scones).
Buy bacon in bulk and freeze it (e.g. breakfast, quiches etc) and same with meat on special. Pull out the slow cooker and cook with the above items in a casserole then use the left overs for pie the next day. Delicious!

Buy in season and when plentiful and consider making your own chutney, mustard, baked capsicums (latter to freeze later for that lasagne).

As a single mum and now as a grandma I still shop this way. :slight_smile:


I don’t know what that would be, could you give some examples?

For example, I have wonderful cooking books on Cambodia, Indonesia, Creole and so on which all require different types of ingredients that you may not reuse. In other words cook simply with ingredients you can reuse - if that makes sense :slight_smile:

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I have a similar collection. I still can’t think of something that is important to such cuisine that is unusual that that you would rarely use that doesn’t have a long shelf life. What are you thinking of?

Excellent suggestions, although I have some minor qualifications.

In my experience, it is rare to find a house brand, and especially one openly labelled Woolworths or Coles, which is “just as good” IMHO (although I haven’t bought Uncle Toby’s rolled oats, or any of the house brand alternatives, in decades, because back then they were rolled too thin and therefore broke up and dusted too readily to be used in the natural muesli mix I used to make myself).

What is worse, on the rare occasions you find a house brand product that is truly exceptional, better than anything at any price, it appears only briefly before disappearing forever.

For example, some years ago Woolworths offered a Christmas special on a New-Zealand-made fruit-mince tart under their “Woolworth’s Gold” label, which was better than anything I could buy anywhere, including my local French bakery – and indeed better than the ones I made myself at home using my grandmother’s/mother’s recipe! – and much better than the one Choice was recommending (a Coles house brand, I think) at the time.

They disappeared from Woolies’ range in the New Year.

I wrote futilely to Woolworths begging for them to reinstate them, or at least give me a contact where I could find someone else selling them under some other label, including online in New Zealand.

Choice has history in making terrible recommendations in the food area, blinded by their obsession with Crude Analysis. Speaking of mueslis, I stopped making my own when I found a niche brand in both Woolies and Coles (which now seems to no longer exist anywhere) who produced a natural muesli with a similar eclectic choice of ingredients to my own, and made with ingredients of a similar high quality. Choice advised readers not to buy this muesli, because the raw nuts and raw seeds it contained were too high in fat (!!) and to instead buy Kellogg’s All Bran, which was low in fat only because it is low in every nutrient worthy of the name – the classic breakfast cereal which when fed to rats leads to the rats dying, while a control group of rats fed on the cardboard box survive.

I wonder if Choice are responsible for that truly-healthy brand going out of business?


I shop at my local cheek-by-jowl Coles and Woolies once a week when I am in the Town Centre anyway for other commitments (although I travel mostly by bus, so I am cheating a little in suggesting I have the car with me anyway – and by the way, I sometimes make my own ethanol on waste sugar to run my ageing Subaru on E85).

Specials change on a Wednesday, when my loyalty card emails me a printable list of all the things on special that week that I have bought reasonably frequently in the past.

I have tried both Coles and Woolies home delivery, and have been disappointed with both.

Firstly there’s their disappointing choice of relatively-poor-quality fruit and vegetables (including their weird substitutions when what I want is out of stock).

Secondly, they bag the soft fruit in with the hard stuff, so that it arrives even more bruised than I imagine it was when they picked it in the first place. Not only do I pick the eyes out of the fruit and veg on offer, even when shopping at farmers’ markets, I have fruit trays with multiple shock-absorbing linings in the back of my station wagon to get all my fragile purchases, whether fresh fruit or packaged snacks etc, home in perfect condition.

Thirdly, there’s their equally-weird choice of substitutions for regular groceries when they are out of stock, including substituting full-price items for O/S specials (and charging the full price), or substituting house brands whose full price is the same as the Brand Name on special – perhaps because they read Choice which regularly insists such usually-poor-quality house-brand products are the equal of Name Brands! :wink:

That said, I must give credit to Woolies for once substituting a bulk refill for a complete container, without charging any more than the complete container whose price on special was about two-thirds that of the bulk refill (which was not on special). Indeed, I tried to swap the bulk refill for the complete container I had paid for in the home delivery when I was next in my local Woolies (while thanking the store manager for his grocery chain’s generosity) but he just looked at me like I had come from Mars.

Fourthly, I thought their home delivery trucks would be equipped with refrigeration for perishables, but not so – and again, I have a car fridge into which I put my own refrigerables/frozens, which I have picked in the supermarket straight into doubled-up insulated bags with freezer bricks I bring from home, and I am usually home sooner than the same order coming by home delivery.

Given the condensation on the defrosting frozens and the warming-up refrigerables in the heavy-plastic bags used for both chains’ home delivery, I wonder what they will do when they start using the starch-based compostable bags which weaken (or even melt) in the presence of that much moisture? Mind you, some of the boxes that came in the home delivery looked like they had indeed been dropped from waist height through the bottom of a decomposing starch-based bag and then picked up and put into one of the fit-for-purpose plastic ones! :wink:

Fifthly, I wouldn’t dare order a hot roast chicken for home delivery (or roast lamb or roast pork or any of the other hot goodies on offer from Coles and Woolies) – they would certainly not pack it in doubled-up insulated bags (as I do) to both keep it warm and to keep its heat from damaging any perishables in the vicinity.

Sixthly, by the time I have checked off the invoice, which is in the kind of tiny type only teenagers and twentysomethings can read without reading glasses, it has taken me almost as long as doing my own shopping! :wink:


More excellent points.

Like you, I turn the various roasted meats into curries etc – this is particularly economical if you have bought the hot chickens etc when they are marked down, often to as little as $3, when the fact that they have been marked down because they have got a little dry in spots waiting for someone willing to pay full price doesn’t matter if you are putting the dry-ish bits into a well-sauced curry (or a soup or a stew).

I just wish I had your self-discipline to skip the chips and confectionery aisles! (And I know it’s no excuse to say I only buy junk food when it’s on special!!) :wink:

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I’m afraid Fair Trade is a rort and a con, or at least it used to be.

A friend of mine visited a farm in the Andes where a growers’ cooperative was producing quinoa. He recounted one of the dirt-poor farmer’s tales of approaching Fair Trade to label their product for export, including to Australia. A twentysomething British man in a £500 suit and dress shoes to match eventually turned up on the farm in a Range Rover he had hired from the capital city airport, five hours’ drive away, rather than fly into the cooperative’s aerodrome in a little four-seater plane, which the Fair Trade assessor deemed beneath his dignity.

He spent just two hours on one of the farms, not going anywhere his expensive shoes might get so much as scuffed, before announcing that they had passed the Fair Trade assessment, and could now fork over 20% of their gross revenue for the privilege of putting the Fair Trade mark on their product – it is easy to see where most of their money goes!

As someone who was once a buyer for a university-based food co-operative (which at the time was the largest retail purveyor of health foods in the southern hemisphere, and we got our tea directly from a growers’ cooperative in Sri Lanka and our coffee from then-new Australian growers in northern NSW and in Queensland), I have endless anecdotes of how people of good heart are regularly exploited by the salary-seekers infesting so-called not-for-profits!


Yet more excellent points.

I’m not sure what you include in “Asian butchers”, but I find I can almost always get better quality goat meat (for an Indian curry) wherever I am in Australia, from a halal butchery, and at a cheaper price to boot.

Prepared meals are not always more expensive if bought on special or on markdown (and can almost always be frozen immediately so short date is not a problem). I don’t buy coffee except to be sociable or to support a market stall, but I must admit a good barista – and one of those market stalls is staffed by a gentleman who is one of the judges for the Australian barista championships – makes a better cup of coffee than I can make myself with my French press, even with freshly-ground beans.

  1. If there is one near you, buy most of your food and other grocery items at Aldi where the unit prices (prices per unit of measurement), which you need to accurately compare values between and within supermarkets, are substantially lower than at other supermarkets. And, because there are fewer products you are less tempted to make impulse buys.
  2. Check and compare the unit prices of all foods (including substitutes/alternatives) , not just those that are prepackaged. This is because there are big differences (plus and minus) between the unit prices of foods sold prepackaged and those sold loose. And, with prepackaged foods check and compare the unit prices not only of different pack sizes within and between brands but also products sold in different forms (e.g. fresh, frozen, chilled,and canned) and with different levels of convenience (e.g. individual serves/sachets, pre-sliced/diced etc.).

Always shop with a list which includes replacements for regularly used items.
Check unit prices as a larger size is not always cheaper.
Own brand tinned goods are often the equal of name brands.
Always shop seasonally.
Use cheaper cuts of meat.
Cook from scratch.
Buy just what you need of fresh fruits and vegetables.