How to cut food costs – 4 lessons from my nan
This article was written by Sue-Ann Chan, Content Producer for the Suncorp Group.
Almost half of Australians are struggling to fill their trolleys with groceries as the cost of living keeps biting Aussie households hard.1 This is pretty shocking considering that food waste costs the average Aussie household up to $2,500 per year.2
When I think of these figures, I think of my nan—small and round in a floral-print dress, big steaming pot of stew in hand. She'd frown and mutter about "youngins these days" not knowing the value of a "good homecooked dinner". As a domestic connoisseur, she's dedicated her life to the art of a hearty, economical meals. And in our hectic modern world, we could use some nan wisdom to trim those food budgets!
Lesson #1: Value leftovers
My nan never wastes. She turns bones into soup stock, and always finds a home for that last chicken wing—whether it's in the stomach of a force-fed guest or tucked in the fridge for tomorrow's omelette.
You don't have to force feed your dinner guests to apply nan's anti-waste principles. Simply save all leftovers, no matter how small. Get creative and craft full meals out of table scraps: think stir fries, or sandwiches stuffed with shredded chicken. Even the most minimal scraps can become pasta toppings or salad condiments. And my nan was right about the humble omelette—it's the best blank canvas for eclectic embellishments.
Lesson #2: Shop around
The fresh fish section at the supermarket is my nan's version of a theme park. She finds endless entertainment in comparing costs and cuts of fish, then moves on to tackle the other aisles.
You can still get the best food bargains without pitching a tent at your local grocer's. Just be more attentive on supermarket runs, and tailor meals around sale items! Shop around before committing to any can of beans (or even any grocery store)!
Consider bargain-rich grocers, or that family-owned shop down the street. Don't be afraid to stray from big names—after all, nan's second favourite hangout is the simple outdoor fish market!
Lesson #3: Plan your meals
My nan plans meals like a scientist – with scribbles and recipe books scattered all over the kitchen.
Weekly meal planning is one of the most cost-effective ways to maximise food resources. Cook in batches and freeze small portions for cheap, easy dinners (nan always cooks fresh, but we can keep a secret). Planning your meals in advance also stops you from buying more food than you need. According to a 2021 study conducted by The Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre (FIAL), food waste costs our nation $36.6 billion a year.
A food budget may give structure to your meal planning. You could also use Suncorp Bank's free budget planner to help you keep track of those numbers, because let's face it—it's tricky, especially when you're mentally juggling various budgets (as we all do).
Lesson #4: Grow your own food
My nan has her own vegetable garden, tending to spinach sprouts and saplings like they are her own grandchildren.
Modern lifestyles and the space constraints that come with them can limit our veggie-growing opportunities, so I'm not suggesting we all grow a pumpkin patch in the bathtub of our high-rise apartment.
But you can embrace nan's tips in small ways. It's easy to grow a tabletop herb jungle with old tins and patient fingers. If space is a big issue you don't need to dedicate an entire surface to gardening—a little section of a work desk will do, or the odd bookshelf corner. If you have a balcony, you could even upcycle large plastic containers to plant vegetables (yes, actual vegetables). Cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and broccoli are particularly adaptable to apartment-living. Clean your containers, use some paint and create a veggie garden that is also home décor! Nan-approved!
In the same spirit of nan, Suncorp Bank has teamed up with OzHarvest to help you save food, money and the planet. Check out our OzHarvest partnership page to see what we’re doing and how you could help tackle food waste.
2 FIAL (2021). National Food Waste Strategy Feasibility Study. https://www.fial.com.au/sharing-knowledge/food-waste
Read more on Learn About:
- How to budget and save money on a low income
- How to save money: 4 creative ways
- How to help save on your weekly shop
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