Tips for saving on your grocery bill as supermarket prices soar
A growing number of Australians are struggling with high grocery bills as the effects of inflation hit family budgets, with renewed scrutiny over how the major supermarkets price goods.
The latest figures from Finder show almost half (42 per cent) of Australians now say groceries are one of their most stressful expenses, with the average household spending $188 per week.
Prices for a broad range of staples have soared; bread rose 9.6 per cent in 2023, dairy goods shot up 6.4 per cent and eggs skyrocketed by 10.6 per cent, according to the latest ABS data.
But other essentials have become cheaper too, with beef and veal falling 4.5 per cent in 2023, lamb is down about 15 per cent, and fruit and vegetables prices declined slightly by 0.2 per cent.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your grocery budget.
Research and shop multiple chains
One Big Switch analyst Joel Gibson says there are savings available at the supermarket for savvy shoppers, with where you shop often being just as important as what you buy.
“The way these businesses work is they will heavily discount certain items each week as a way to get you into the store, but then they’ll make their money out of other items,” Gibson said.
“You have to keep an eye on that if you want to pick the eyes out of the prices.”
Timing is key here; supermarkets publish a list of their discounts for the coming week (from Wednesday) on Monday evening, which will give you an idea of where to shop for what.
Finder’s head of consumer research Graham Cooke said Australians should at least compare their two most local supermarkets, which can be done through their online shopping apps.
“Shopping around is the best thing to do,” Cooke said.
It will get easier to compare grocery prices later this year when consumer group Choice begins publishing regular reports about supermarket pricing, thanks to government funding.
Hunt the deals
Another way to save money at the supermarket is to hunt for promotions.
It might sound like a laborious task that involves running a highlighter over a stack of grocery catalogues, but in reality it can be as simple as shopping late in the day when markdowns occur.
Cooke said supermarket loyalty programs can also be a good way to save money, with each offering cash back on your groceries or the option to earn frequent flyer points.
Woolworths has even started offering “member exclusive” deals to customers using its loyalty program, though Cooke said there is a trade-off to consider.
“You’re trading your data for that discount,” he said.
Gibson said supermarket loyalty programs can be valuable, particularly if you put the effort into trying to game the system and maximise the discount offers you receive.
But he cautioned that this shouldn’t distract you from focusing on getting the lowest prices.
“They make them seem more valuable than they actually are,” Gibson said.
Look outside the supermarket
Another way to save money on groceries is to realise that not everything needs to be bought at the supermarket, or even in store to begin with.
Gibson said non-perishable goods such as cleaning liquids can often be cheaper when bought online at places like Amazon and Catch.com.au.
If you do find yourself looking for non-perishables in person, try a discount store like the Reject Shop, Gibson said, because you might be able to find discounts there, particularly for bulk buys.
The same logic can apply to fresh produce, with larger markets potentially offering superior value to the supermarket chains if you’re buying enough.
“I’ve been in syndicates before with other families, buying for four families,” Gibson said.
“There are ways to do it. It’s just a little bit more work, of course.”