Ways to save
Waste not, want not. Work out how much food you’re throwing away and stop it from ending up in the bin. Wilting vegetables make great soup. Soft fruit can become smoothies or stewed for desserts.
Use it up. Check what’s in the pantry, fridge and freezer. Then search recipe sites for meal ideas using ingredients you already have.
Have a food budget. A rough rule of thumb is to allow about $100 a week per person in your household, but the overall amount shouldn’t be more than one-third of your household’s after-tax income.
Plan meals. Save money and time by planning meals for a few days or a week. This will also help reduce food waste. Then make a shopping list that corresponds with your meal plan.
Buy imperfect produce – it's cheaper. Major supermarkets often sell misshapen produce under brand names like ‘imperfect picks’ and ‘the odd bunch.’ Many online vendors sell ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables at reduced prices, too.
Buy low-processed food. Items that have sauces added, or are shredded and sliced into salads, mean you are paying extra.
Shop by unit price. The cheapest item on the shelf doesn’t always offer the best value for money. For a better buy, check the item’s unit price. This is a standard measure such as price per kilogram or price per litre.
Have a meat-free meal at least once a week. It’s better for your health and will leave you with extra cash in your wallet.
Know the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’. ‘Use by’ means it’s not safe to eat an item after this date. ‘Best before’ means the quality of the item may decline after this date. So, give ‘best before’ items a sniff test first rather than throwing them straight in the bin.
Love your leftovers
Look at your leftovers in a new light and learn to use up all your odds and ends first. You’ll save cash and stop expensive food from ending up in the bin.
Save money and make the most of what you buy with the NSW government’s free online program to reduce food waste and easy hacks for upcycling your leftovers.
Australian food rescue organisation Oz Harvest has a ton of tips to transform your leftovers – from ‘anything arancini’ to ‘cheesy cabbage bread bakes’ and ‘use-it-up milk ricotta’.
Got leftover food in the fridge? Turn it into something special (and be more sustainable) with the Food Wise recipe finder and meal planner. You’ll find ideas for just about every item in the pantry.
Recipe search engine Super Cook shows you how to fully use the ingredients you already have at home and stop wasted leftovers.
More cost-cutting ideas
- Search online for ‘scrappy cooking’ tips to get the most out of your food scraps.
- Visit your local council’s website for food-waste ideas and advice.
Cook up a plan
Get better value for your money by working out what you need in advance. Don’t have time? Use a meal planner instead. You’ll see a real difference in your supermarket spend.
No fancy ingredients? No worries! The University of Newcastle has you covered with easy recipes and budget meal plans that meet all your nutritional needs (including a $60-a-week menu).
The Australian Government’s Eat for Health website provides nutritious recipes using mostly vegetables, and sample meal plans that include the 5 food groups.
The non-profit community-based organisation Nutrition Australia has plenty of cash-saving sandwich, snack and wrap ideas to prep ‘grab and go lunches’ ahead of time.
Consumer advocacy group Choice helps you weigh up the value of frozen meals and other pre-packaged items to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.
More cost-cutting ideas
- Prepare double batches of meals like curries, soups and casseroles to either freeze or eat later in the week.
- Cook more of your meals at home. This might include cheaper and healthier versions of your takeaway favourites.
- Make ground beef recipes like hamburgers and meatballs go further by adding breadcrumbs, rice, rolled oats, homemade oat flour or finely chopped vegetables to the mix.
Supermarkets are convenient and provide a big range. But if you’re looking for a bigger bang for your buck, it can pay to go straight to the grower. Try searching online to ‘join a food hub to cut grocery bills’ or ‘buy fresh, imperfect produce’. You can save up to one-third on your produce compared with online supermarket prices over the seasonal cycle.
More cost-cutting ideas
- Meat is usually the most expensive item on the shopping list. Buy it in bulk from a local or online wholesale butcher to save money (search online for ‘wholesale meat NSW’). Then break it into meal-size portions and freeze for later use. If you don’t have the freezer space, consider going halves with a friend.
- Swap some fresh vegetables and fruit with canned and frozen varieties. They’re just as nutritious because they’re picked at their peak and canned or frozen straight away.
- Switch between stores and make the most of their weekly specials to cut costs. Bulk-buy items that you use a lot when they are on sale.
Grow your own
You don’t need a lot of space to grow a few veggies. By planting one or two easy-grow crops, you get to control what goes into your food while offsetting the high price of groceries.
There are hundreds of community gardens in NSW that can you give ideas on what to grow – and maybe even a few seeds to get started. Consider swapping your time for a free share of the harvest.
This not-for-profit organisation is a good resource for planting schedules, growing guides, online workshops, and other ideas for getting your hands dirty.
More cost-cutting ideas
- Polystyrene boxes are ideal for planting lettuce, parsley and leafy greens. You’ll need a deeper box for larger vegetables – cut the base off one box and stand it on top of another for extra depth.
- If you don’t have a suitable pot or box, try using garbage bags or reusable grocery bags instead.
Emergency and disability relief
If you’re struggling to pay for food or essentials, these community resources provide free meals, emergency parcels and other practical assistance.
The Ask Izzy website lists thousands of support services around Australia. Search by postcode to find free community meals, street kitchens, school breakfast programs and emergency food services nearby.
Not-for-profit community organisation One Meal offers food relief services such as free community meals and pantry packs in 5 areas of greater Sydney.
Australian hunger relief organisation Food Bank sources food for people in need. Search by postcode to find food support services and help near you.
Christian charity Anglicare offers low-cost fresh food and staples at its mobile pantry and op shops, as well as emergency parcels for anyone who is food insecure.
Christian charity St Vincent de Paul provides people in immediate crisis with food and other everyday essentials through its support centres and Vinnies Vans.
Well-known community service Meals on Wheels provides affordable, nutritious meals for those unable to shop or cook for themselves.
Tools and calculators
Nutritious food can be expensive – these tools can help you work out what you need to stay healthy.
Work out how many daily servings you need from each of the 5 food groups.
Check in with your current habits and see where you might be able to improve your diet.