Inflation Nation: grocery price hacks – save money by planning and reducing food waste

The rising cost of living is impacting Tauranga’s mother, Chanchal Saraswat. Her weekly food cost has gone from $120 two years ago to $250 now.

The internet and social media are a wealth of information when it comes to getting the best value in the grocery aisle.

No matter your household size and budget, there are tips for consolidating items in your cart to stop overbuying, recipes for leftovers in the back of your fridge, and meal planners to avoid waste.

There’s no denying that food is one of the biggest unavoidable costs families face.

Love Food Hate Waste NZ has tips on storing perishables to keep them fresh longer, like keeping potatoes away from onions (who knew?) and keeping cucumbers in plastic wrap to prevent them from dry out.

A TikTok ‘hack’ is also doing the rounds right now that promises you’ll never waste half an avocado again (keep it in a bowl of water).

Love Food Hate Waste stresses the importance of detailed meal planning before shopping, but cautions against buying in bulk, saying stored foods often spoil or are forgotten.

Organized hack of Australian mother Carmen Strong's $62 fridge went viral in 2020. Photo/Instagram
Organized hack of Australian mother Carmen Strong’s $62 fridge went viral in 2020. Photo/Instagram

Spokesperson Sarah Pritchett said lack of planning and improper food storage were the most common reasons for food waste.

The company offers an online meal planner called Easy Choice Family Kai that offers recipes and shopping lists for five family meals for less than $100.

Other apps and websites like Food in my Fridge and Supercook give meal ideas when you list the leftover ingredients you have on hand.

Instead of the usual advice to buy in bulk to save money, Pritchett said it’s essential to buy for the week and store perishables properly.

Airtight containers in the fridge helped keep food fresh and stop cross-contamination, she said.

Barbara Cameron of North Harbor Budgeting Services said sky-high grocery prices meant they were increasingly telling people to start growing their own vegetables at home.

Sarah Pritchett of Love Food Hate Waste says buying only what you need each week reduces waste and saves money.
Sarah Pritchett of Love Food Hate Waste says buying only what you need each week reduces waste and saves money.

Tomatoes could be grown in pots on the deck and vegetables such as silver beets, lettuce, beans and carrots could work in small spaces.

Multiple food purchases often meant overeating or wasting, but if the space allowed for buying extra groceries on special, that was a great idea – as long as you remember you bought it .

Top tips for saving at checkout

Plan ahead: Clean out your fridge and cupboards before you leave and make a list. It’s money thrown out the window to buy a bag of carrots and then find out you have some at home.

Stretch your purchases: Try making a tasty meal out of what you have in the fridge or freezer. Apps like Food in my Fridge can help.

Buy in season: Cauliflower $14 a head? Put it back and find an alternative. In season, local produce tastes better and is usually less expensive.

Submit something: If you know you’ve gone over budget, look in the cart and turn in the items you know you can do without this week.

Consider home delivery or meal plans: If the budget allows, discover home delivery and meal kits. They reduce waste and are good for those who have trouble planning their meals. Online shopping stops random buying five chocolate bars at checkout.

Storage is king: Invest in good storage so leftovers can be stored, easily heated, or eaten as lunch the next day. A good lunch box means fruit can be chopped up and shared and larger bags of snacks can be split.

Cook once, eat twice: A big batch of ground meat can be used for spaghetti one night and eaten in burritos the next.

Organize a theme party: Try hosting a weekly themed party. These can be Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays or Fish Fridays. This will put some structure into your weekly meals and make it easier to plan those meals.

Have a plan B: Always have a backup in the freezer. A bag or two of dumplings or frozen fish and chips means a quick and easy meal so you can still feed your family without going to the supermarket.

About Kristina McManus

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