Inflation Nation: Grocery price hacks – save money with planning and reducing food waste

The internet and social media are a wealth of information when it comes to getting the best bang for your buck in the grocery aisle.

Regardless of your household size and budget, there are hacks on how to group items in your trolley to stop overbuying, recipes for leftovers in the bottom of your fridge and meal planners to avoid waste.

There is no denying food is one of the biggest unavoidable costs facing families.

Love Food Hate Waste NZ has tips on storing perishables to keep them fresher for longer such as keeping potatoes away from onions (who knew?) and keeping cucumbers in the plastic wrap to stop them drying out.

Also doing the rounds at the moment is a TikTok ‘hack’ that promises you’ll never waste half an avocado again (store it in a bowl of water).

Love Food Hate Waste stresses the importance of detailed meal planning before you shop but warns against buying in bulk, saying stocked up food often spoils or is forgotten about.

Spokeswoman Sarah Pritchett said lack of planning and not storing food correctly were the most common reasons for food waste.

The company has an online meal planner called Easy Choice Family Kai which provides recipes and shopping lists for five family-friendly meals for under $100.

Other apps and websites such as Food in my Fridge and Supercook give meal ideas when you list the leftover ingredients you have on hand.

Instead of the usual advice of buying in bulk to save money, Pritchett said buying for the week and storing perishables properly was key.

Airtight containers in the fridge helped keep food fresh and stopped cross-contamination, she said.

Barbara Cameron from North Harbour budgeting services said exorbitant grocery prices meant they were increasingly telling people to start growing their own veges at home.

Tomatoes could be grown in pots on the deck and vegetables such as silverbeet, lettuce, beans and carrots could work in small spaces.

Multibuys for food often meant overeating or waste but if space allowed buying extra grocery items on special was a great idea – as long as you don’t forget you bought it.

Top tips for saving at the till

Plan ahead: Clean out your fridge and cupboards before you head out and make a list. It’s money down the drain to buy a bag of carrots and then find you had some at home.

Stretch out your shopping: Try to make a tasty meal with what you have in the fridge or freezer. Apps such as Food in my Fridge can help.

Buy in season: Cauliflower $14 a head? Put it back and find an alternative. In season local produce tastes better and is usually cheaper.

Put something back: If you know you are over budget look in the trolley and put back items you know you can do without that week.

Consider home delivery or meal plans: If the budget allows, check out home delivery and meal kits. They reduce waste and are good for those who struggle with meal planning. Shopping online stops the random purchase of five chocolate bars at the checkout.

Storage is king: Invest in good storage so leftovers can be stored, heated easily, or taken as lunch the next day. A good lunch box means fruit can be chopped and shared and bigger bags of snacks can be divided.

Cook once, eat twice: A big batch of mince can be used for spaghetti one night and eaten in burritos the next.

Have a theme night: Try setting up a weekly theme night. It might be meat-free Mondays, Taco Tuesdays or Fish Friday. This will put some structure into your weekly meals and make it easier to plan those meals.

Have a Plan B: Always have a backup in the freezer. A bag or two of dumplings or frozen fish and chips means a quick and easy meal so you can still feed your family without a trip to the supermarket.

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