This supermarket savings hack may seem like Captain Obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be said. Grocery shopping is not a generally exciting activity and it can be pretty easy to slip into a rut, buying the same products week in, week out, from habit. I swear I spend half my shopping trip in a meditative state while my hands just grab familiar objects and toss them in the trolley. However, overhauling your grocery spending requires that you keep your eyes peeled and your creativity switched on.
Shop for clearance items
Like I said – Captain Obvious! But I want to go a bit deeper than just snagging a pack of marked-down chicken breasts and calling it a day. How can you use clearance grocery items to really make a difference to your weekly food budget?
Know when to shop
Maybe I’m just late to cotton on, but I had a revelation today: a whole lot of stuff gets marked down the day before the new catalogue comes out. At Woolworths, the new catalogue starts on Wednesday, so Tuesday they mark down all kinds of meat, fruit and vegetables to sell them before they bring in the new stock. Find out when your local supermarket restocks, and go the day before – you just might pick up some bargains. Your best bet is to go around the middle of the day, when the items are most likely to have been marked down already, and before the after-work shoppers come and nab the good stuff.
Not all clearance items are necessarily going to help your budget. Today I saw scotch fillet steaks reduced from $17 to $13 – an awesome saving of $4. But we don’t eat scotch fillet! And $13 for a packet of meat that won’t even feed the three of us is not economical! As well as scoping for clearance items, take into account the dollar per kilo amount, and ask yourself how many serves you’ll get out of that item. I chose 500 grams of chicken stir fry strips half price at $4.50. That will easily feed my family, with a bit leftover for lunch the next day.
Don’t go overboard
There were four of those marked down chicken packets when I looked, but I only chose two (one for tonight, one for the freezer). It doesn’t help my budget if I spend all my money today just to take advantage of specials, and then don’t have anything left for the internet bill later in the week and cop a $15 late payment fee. I also didn’t want to take all the half-price organic salad mix containers because there’s no way we could use that much salad mix before it all goes bad. Pick what you need and can use, and leave it at that. There will be more specials next week!
Picture how you might use it
Finally, when considering a clearance item, take a moment to think what you might use it for. The stir fry strips I bought were pretty easy to place in the menu: chicken stir fry. When I saw Asian greens on special, I knew I should grab some of those for the stir fry. I also have wok-ready noodles that I bought in a two-for offer yesterday.
Having a rough idea of what you might use a clearance item for can help you to avoid food wastage by using up what you have at home that might go, and buying other suitable items; it also ensures you actually use that clearance item instead of getting it home and realising you really don’t know what to do with it. Have some staple recipes in your head so you can look out for specials on key ingredients – eg, cheap mince to make spaghetti bolognese or shepherd’s pie; chicken thighs for curry; or sausages to cook up alongside veggies and mashed potato.
Share your tips!
Comment below and share what clearance items you like to look out for and how you use them – do you have some favourite go-to recipes? Which supermarket has the best specials in your area? (In my semi-rural part of Victoria, Australia, we’re a bit limited for choice – Woolworths is the easiest for my family).