From supermarket shelf tricks to finding special deals: How to maximise your grocery savings
Groceries were already one of our biggest household bills, averaging around $14,000 a year.
Then they went up by another 10 per cent last year. So we're going to need to use every Bill Busters trick to keep a lid on our shop in 2023.
Fortunately there are a couple of new savings hacks this year to add to our armoury.
Get 10 per cent off once a month at Woolies and Coles (Ends March 31 2023)
Woolworths has long had a deal where mobile customers get 10 per cent off their first shop each month, capped at $50/month. If you do a big shop, that discount could cover the cost of your mobile plan for the month.
Last year they extended it to their 'Everyday Extra' subscription, where non-mobile customers could pay $59 a year to get the same benefit, plus 10% off a monthly Big W shop.
Now, Coles have finally countered, offering a 10 per cent refund on your biggest shop each month for mobile customers. The mobile plans that qualify are at a higher price-point, starting from $35/month versus $20/month for the Woolies deal, the refund comes in the form of a gift card, and the offer is capped at $30/month for six months, but regular Coles shoppers could save $180 on their supermarket costs. The offer ends on 31 March.
Have said all that, if you're only shopping at Coles or Woolies, you're paying more than you have to…
'Be unfaithful' to your supermarket
For years I've been saying that the best way to pay bottom dollar for groceries is to shop at more than one supermarket, and make sure one of them is Aldi.
Aldi comes up cheaper in every price comparison, by anywhere from 10 per cent to 25 per cent depending on which products you compare.
I once looked at my own $15,000 annual grocery bill and calculated I could reduce it by $1600 if I visit two supermarkets each week.
The reason is that you can then pick the eyes out of the best specials and prices at each. Coles, Woolies and Aldi all have weekly specials, announced on Mondays and available from Wednesdays. If you check the catalogues before you hit the shops, you can buy the items on your list wherever they're super-cheap that week.
Even if you don't have time to do that weekly, shopping at one supermarket one week and another the week after could save you money.
For example, if you signed up to the Woolies Everyday Extra program and you're a Coles Mobile customer, you could shop at Woolies one week and Coles the next and get 10 per cent off two weeks in a row, then do an Aldi shop on the third week.
How to check weekly supermarket discounts and specials
- Download the app
- subscribe to email catalogues
- Check the website
- Join flybuys and receive weekly emails
- Download the app
- Check the website catalogue
- Join Everyday Rewards and receive weekly emails
- Download the app
- Check the website for 'Super Savers'
- Subscribe to the weekly email newsletter
If you can, it also pays to visit a bulk-buy warehouse and a farmers market once in a while.
Warehouses such as Costco or Campbells Wholesale or ABCOE usually have an annual membership fee around $60 so you need to visit at least once every six months to come out ahead.
Go with a friend or family member, buy non-perishable stuff you know you'll need and split the big boxes to get the best prices. Fill up your car while you're there because Costco has very, very cheap petrol.
Maybe make a day of it and hit a farmers market too. Farmers markets can also cost around half of what big supermarkets do, and the produce usually lasts longer because supermarket fruit and veg can be stored for months in some cases.
Buy what's cheap and build your meal plan around that
Most of us don't know what's in season on any given day, but the prices in the supermarket will tell you!
Matt Palise from Red Rich fruits says you can sometimes buy a kilo of fresh produce for less than a coffee if it's in-season, so right now you'll want to check out Royal Gala Apples, William Pears, Grapes, Pineapples, Brooks mangoes and melons. (Remember when Iceberg lettuce was as much as $12 after the floods last year? It's now about $3.) Seasonal Food Guide Australia has a good summary of what to buy when.
Take pity on ugly fruit and veg too – several supermarkets now sell imperfect produce and it can be as much as 50 per cent cheaper.
Thousands of Australians are also discovering the value of frozen veggies since prices started to soar last year.
Know the secrets of supermarket layout
The supermarket designer is an evil genius with a multitude of tricks to make you stay longer and put more in your trolley.
CHOICE's Margaret Rafferty says fruit and veg is always at the entrance to make you feel better about "treating yo self" later on in the chocolate aisle. Eggs are often hard to find because essential items are split up throughout the store to make you walk the whole floorplan.
Magazines, lollies and other impulse buys are always at the checkout where kids can't miss them.
Unit pricing is a handy weapon to counter some of these tactics. Every price label has to tell you what the price is 'per 100g' or 'per 100mL', for example. It's mandatory in Australia, so use it to see which tin of tuna offers the best value – especially if the tin sizes are different, which they often are.
What you'll probably notice is that the best deals are on the top and bottom shelves, not at eye level – and that's another trick the supermarket designers use.
Shop online if you're an impulse buyer
Is it cheaper or more expensive to shop online? Well, it's worse because you might have to pay a fee for delivery and you don't get the chance to wander the aisles and use the unit pricing to find the bargains.
But in some ways it could also be better because you might be less likely to make impulse buys and you might find it easier to stick to a set budget (it's easier to remove things from your digital trolley at the checkout if you've over-spent than it is a real trolley!)
You know you best, so do whatever works for you.
Finally, remember ….
- Don't shop with kids if you can avoid it,
- Never shop when hungry
- Never, ever shop with hungry kids!
Joel Gibson is the author of KILL BILLS & EASY MONEY. He's spent the last two decades hunting down money-saving tricks, hacks and loopholes and sharing them with households via his books, regular media appearances, and on TikTok, Instagram.
The information provided on this website is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information on this website you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs.
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