How to Save Money on Food and Groceries in Australia

As an international student living on a budget, it’s always good practice to try and save on costs where possible. Cutting back on your weekly grocery shop doesn’t only free up income to splurge on exploring your city or enjoying fancy restaurants with friends, but it can also help reduce food waste and clutter in the fridge. Plus, eating on a budget doesn’t mean eating ‘badly’.

Here are five tips for cutting back on your weekly grocery spend as a student. 

Tip 1: Shop at the right time

That’s right! Showing up at the supermarket or fresh food markets at the very beginning or end of the day, particularly on a Friday, can make a huge difference to your spending.

Stores want to get rid of perishable items (like meat or bakery items) at the beginning or end of the day. This means that they often put out a ‘reduced’ section in the bakery, one in the chilled section, and sometimes one in the fruit and vegetable section.

If you really want to go out to eat, remember that many places have cheap days or ‘meal deals’ for students and workers – for example, you might hear about ‘cheap Tuesday’. Local pubs also usually have special days of the week for lunch and dinner deals.

Tip 2: Try a food subscription service

Grocery shopping online is a new phenomenon, and with it comes food/meal subscription boxes. These are popular, convenient ways to have food and recipes delivered to your door, and they take the pressure off trying to come up with dishes each day. Plus, because the ingredients are measured for each meal, you avoid wasting food.

Picking an affordable plan through bigger providers like Every Plate (perfect for if you want to share the subscription with housemates, as you can order meals for up to six people) or though local meal kit boxes specific to your city (to support smaller businesses and your local community) can be an excellent way to save money on food. A number of meal kit delivery services will offer free trial periods, so you can jump around until you find the perfect one for you.

Tip 3: Eat the foods that give you the most energy

You don’t just want to look for food that will just make you feel full; you want food that gives you more energy, for longer.

When you shop, buy high-energy, nutritious foods such as:

  • Wholegrain bread and pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Yogurt
  • Dark chocolate (if you’re after something sweet)

Tip 4: Know where to shop

A question many new arrivals to Australia ask is, ‘What are Australia’s cheapest supermarkets?’

While Coles and Woolworths may be the biggest names in the Australian supermarket industry, they’re far from the cheapest options available. According to reports, the three cheapest supermarkets in Australia are: 

  1. Aldi (located in NSW, VIC, QLD, SA, WA and ACT)
  2. Costco (located in NSW, VIC, QLD, SA and ACT)
  3. Foodland (located in SA)

One thing to consider with Aldi is that the chain doesn’t use a lot of locally produced products (although this is improving!), so if you’re environmentally conscious, you may want to consider local greengrocers, butchers and bakeries in your area instead.

If you’re prepared to pay the membership fee and wish to buy certain items in bulk, Costco may be the ideal supermarket for you. A Costco membership card (AUD $60) also gives you access to their petrol stations, allowing for great savings on petrol. You could even share the membership with housemates, so you can buy pantry staples/milk/bread in bulk and share the cost. Which takes us to Tip 5…

Tip 5: Share food

Yes! Communal eating is cheaper – and more fun!

Organise regular meals with your friends or, if you have housemates, take turns cooking for everyone – this saves on the essentials like oil and spices (and electricity). You can cook in big batches and keep leftovers for later.