Practical saving tips to survive coronavirus self-isolation

As families transition to life at home, household costs will rise. Here's how to make some easy savings.

As families transition to life at home, household costs will rise. Here's how to make some easy savings. Photo: Getty

As the federal and state governments consider implementing even more stringent coronavirus lockdown measures, Australians heeding the calls to stay home are already familiarising themselves with life in self-isolation.

However, expenses including grocery bills, utility costs and entertainment are escalating as families opt to work and play from home.

With some estimates predicting the number of unemployed Australians will soar by 814,000 in the March quarter amid a raft of mass layoffs in the hospitality and retail sectors, the need to save has never been more pertinent.

With all this in mind, The New Daily has compiled a list of money-saving tips and techniques to help households squeeze the most out of their spending.

What foods will offer bang for my buck?

ABC culinary correspondent Alice Zaslavsky (Alice in Frames) said there’s a surprising hero that should be in everyone’s pantry: fermented vegetables.

“There’s a reason why South Korea is flattening the curve and I’m pretty sure it’s kimchi,” Zaslavsky said.

“[Fermented foods are] a very cost-effective ingredient because on the one hand, they’re fantastic for gut health and a great condiment, but also a way of adding more vegetables into your food.”

When it comes to household staples like rice, consumers should purchase them in their ‘natural’ forms, rather than in smaller microwaveable packs, as they are cheaper on a per kilogram basis.

And families should endeavour to cook everyday ingredients like pasta and potatoes in small batches to minimise food wastage.

In 2019, Australians threw away $10.1 billion worth of food according to Rabobank’s Food Waste Report. 

Zaslavsky says amateur chefs have 24 hours to re-purpose leftovers before they are ridden with harmful bacteria, offering up fried rice and pasta bakes as two frugal options.

Alice Zaslavsky’s top tips for keeping food costs down

  • Shop your local grocer instead of the major supermarkets: “They tend to have produce at bang-for-your-buck prices and regular specials, and it’s generally better quality too.”
  • Grow your own vegetables, if you have space: “If you’ve got a balcony, window sill or room for a wicking bed, you should be planting things like lettuce and herbs, because they tend to wilt.”
  • Winter is coming, so look towards seasonal roots: “Imagine you’re a peasant in the Middle Ages, and chances are the vegetables you’re eating would be carrots, parsnips, and maybe celery.”
  • Think about how our grandparents cooked and enjoy bootstrap meals: “This crisis is going to open our eyes to what we’re buying and seeing it with fresh eyes. If you make and freeze your own jars of passatta, for instance, you have sauce for the foreseeable future.”

How can I keep my bills down?

Australians struggling to maintain pace with their utility bills have been offered relief by nearly two dozen providers represented by the Australian Energy Council, following a crackdown on ‘dodgy’ penalties. 

The group of retailers ruled out disconnecting customers unable to afford their bills and offered to waive late payment fees for customers already in or entering hardship programs.

“Retailers will ensure there are no barriers to entering hardship programs, and ensure long-term assistance is readily available on request,” the council said.


By monitoring how much energy you use and reducing where possible, costs can quickly decline. Photo: Getty

Telecommunications giant Telstra also followed suit. 

Chief executive Andy Penn told shareholders it would suspend late fees and disconnections for households and small businesses amid a range of “initiatives we can undertake now to help support the broader economy.”

Canstar Blue editor-in-chief Simon Downes said households should monitor their energy, utilities, phone and internet usage to see where savings can be made.

“We all need to come to terms with the fact that more time spent at home means the costs for everything you do at home is now multiplied and you need to pay for those additional costs,” Mr Downes said.


Make a plan, and stick to it: That’s the advice from industry analysts to help reduce your spending. Photo: Getty

“Give yourself a bit of a plan and a budget, and try to stick to those as best as you can because we don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last for.”

Maintaining cleanliness is more important than ever. So, what’s best value?

Consumer comparison website Canstar Blue’s research of household laundry and dishwashing products will provide comforting hearing for families seeking out cheap alternatives that rigorously clean their clothes and dishes.

In most cases, surveys of Australian shoppers found home brands trump high-end names like Ultra, Morning Fresh and Radiant.

Mr Downes said consumers need to reconsider their favoured brands and stop buying into the psychology major retailers continue to exploit.


When it comes to value for money, home brand products surprisingly lead the pack. Photo: Canstar Blue

“ALDI laundry detergents have been extremely popular in our ratings for years, to the point where they’ve almost gained a cult following – it’s a simple saving looking for a home brand alternative,” Mr Downes said.

However, it’s paramount for households to re-evaluate the amount of detergent and powder they use and stop “winging it”, which could save them a couple of free washes and hundreds of dollars in the long haul.

Mr Downes said even changing daily habits around dishwashing can dramatically decrease not only their cleaning costs, but their energy and water bills.


By handwashing once a day, consumers not only save on detergent, but electricity and water too. Photo: Getty

“Families have become accustomed to only using the dishwasher once a day, but with more time spent at home, they might run it twice,” Mr Downes said.

“By buying a bottle of dishwashing liquid and hand washing dirty dishes after lunch, it saves the dishwasher for the evening.”

Other cleaning tips from Canstar Blue

  • Follow instructions on packaging to save not only money but additional trips to the supermarket.
  • When using products like shower gels or soaps, keep in mind how much you require (especially when your children may be tempted to use liberally).
  • Put some water in detergent bottles to rinse out the last remnants of liquid.

How do I keep myself fit and entertained on the cheap?

Thor superstar Chris Hemsworth offered some consolation for fitness fanatics devastated by widespread gym closures by unlocking his Centrfit health and fitness app for a free six-week trial.

Considering the cumulative cost of subscription entertainment services like Netflix, Stan and Spotify, there are numerous free alternatives to wile away the days cooped up at home.

The recently Fox-acquired online streaming service Tubi offers thousands of free movie and television series at no cost, streaming content from Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount.

For cricket fans, the International Cricket Council recently announced it will be unleashing its 45-year archive to the world, including livestreamed matches on the organisation’s Facebook page.

Of course, there’s YouTube for countless hours of diving down rabbit holes (just don’t get too caught up in conspiracy-theory circles).

And for listening fiends, there’s a litany of podcasts at your disposal on both Apple and Google’s native podcasting apps, as well as offerings from the ABC.

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