As the cost of living continues to rise, we’re all looking for ways to cut down on our grocery expenses. It doesn’t have to be as tough as what you may think – simply employ these strategies and you’ll be well on your way to saving money on your next grocery shop.

1. Meal prep

Not only can meal prep help you be more prepared for the week ahead, but it also means you’re less likely to buy dinner when you come home after a long day at work. Having something that you simply have to reheat in the microwave or oven keeps you motivated to eat the food you’ve already bought in your groceries. Plus, avoiding last-minute takeaway purchases stops you from indulging in unhealthy foods.

2. Cook from scratch

You might be thinking that cooking from scratch is so time consuming – but it doesn’t have to be. Basically, all we mean is that you should avoid buying premade or pre-packaged foods (such as store-made potato salad for example). You’ll be surprised by how much money you can save simply by making your own potato salad, not to mention it’s healthier.

3. Stick to simple recipes

Have you ever opened a cookbook and immediately felt overwhelmed by the never-ending list of ingredients? Shut that book and find one that has simple, easy meals instead. You don’t need lots of ingredients to make something taste better. As the age-old saying goes, less is more, so try it out. Buying loads of different foods for just one recipe will also cost you lots and see a bunch of food go to waste.

4. Write a shopping list

If you’re one of those people who heads to the grocery store and is immediately tantalised by the specials, this tip is definitely for you. Writing a shopping list before you head out is a great way to utilise the ingredients you already have at home. If you want to check specials, you could also consult your go-to store’s online site first so you can decide if you’ll put an item on your list or not. Stick to your list and you’ll be in and out of the supermarket in no time.

5. Think about where products are placed

A lot of people tend to do their groceries in a hurry, meaning they grab the item they need and keep moving. As we all know though, there are so many different brands of each item, it can be a tad overwhelming. That’s why supermarkets will place the more expensive brands right in your direct eyeline (generally the middle shelves). Play the smarter game by actually stopping to look above or below the shelves right in front of you – you won’t believe how often you find a cheaper brand of the item you want stashed just out of your immediate clutches.

6. Sign up to a reward program

Every Australian knows our big supermarket contenders of Coles and Woolworths have their reward programs that allow you to earn points when you scan your reward card on each shop. Joining these types of programs isn’t just an incentive for the supermarkets, it’s also an incentive for you. Often, you will be able to use your points to receive discounts on your groceries or fuel as well as having access to vouchers or exclusive products.

7. Specials are your friend

Remember how we mentioned earlier that specials can be tempting? Well, they can be a good temptation, when used properly. Marked down products are a great way to stock up on items that are usually expensive – make sure you definitely do this when the products are reduced to clearance or half-price. Did someone say two-for-one toothpaste?

8. End of day reductions

Similar to specials, a great time to benefit from cheaper products, such as meat and baked goods, is when they get reduced at the end of the day. These products are generally close to their expiration date or can’t be sold the following day. Good news for you though because you can simply chuck these in your freezer if you’re not ready to use them right away. Your brain should be saying cha-ching right about now!

9. Shop around

Just because Coles and Woolworths are known as the major supermarkets doesn’t mean you’re restricted to exclusively shopping at these stores. You can get some great deals on fresh fruit and veggies from your town’s regular markets – plus, this produce is generally better quality, so you’re getting value for your money. There’s also no shame in heading to stores such as Big W or The Reject Shop which frequently offer bulk products (such as coffee, laundry detergents and body washes) for cheaper prices.

10. Cook extras

It can be hard to gauge how much is too much, especially if you’re a smaller family or live on your own. Just because you made more food doesn’t mean it needs to go to waste though. After all, you spent the money, why not get as much bang for your buck as possible. If you find you constantly have leftovers, start freezing and labelling these meals – they’re great to pull out on those nights where you’re feeling tired and unmotivated to cook.

11. Check unit prices

When you’re buying things like toilet paper and paper towel (for example), you’ll notice there is always a price listed under the main price which says how much it costs per a certain number of sheets. This is called the unit price and it’s actually a very helpful thing to read. It tells you how much value you’re getting for the product you’re buying. You might think that $5 toilet paper is the cheapest option, but if it lasts you two days before you have to buy more, you’re starting to spend more money than is necessary.

12. Fresh isn’t always best

Okay, you might be thinking that yes of course fresh fruit and veggies are better than frozen ones, but do frozen strawberries still taste like fresh strawberries? Of course they do! Just because something is frozen doesn’t mean it’s not as good. In fact, frozen produce can often be cheaper and better value for money. Plus, if you’re buying fruit and veggies just to throw into a stir-fry, stew or smoothie, you might as well opt for the cheaper option.

13. Bake instead of buying

So, you’ve got some mushy bananas that you don’t really want to eat and are considering throwing out? Don’t – keep them and turn them into banana bread instead. You can make this a super healthy snack that you can pop in your kids’ lunches or take to work. It means you don’t have to buy baked goods (that are going to tase the same anyway) and you’re not losing money on products you’ve already bought.

14. Keep the off-cuts

Instead of throwing out the ends of veggies and fat off-cuts from meat, keep them in your freezer until you’re ready to pop them in a pot with hot water to make your very own stock. It saves you buying stock for future recipes and it means you’re using every last bit of the ingredients you’ve already bought. Plus, stock freezes well, so there’s no pressure to use it as soon as you’ve made it.