How to Buy Groceries on a Budget for 2

We are big foodies – eating is definitely one of the main joys in our lives.

In our early 20s, we were still novice cooks so we would eat out almost every day of the week. However there are a few reasons why we gradually started to cook more:

  • Our metabolisms just aren’t what they used to be – we gained more weight than we would’ve liked (and we can’t blame it all on muscle!)
  • Our food budget was crazy. It wasn’t uncommon for us to spend $200 a day on coffees, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks (and maybe dessert). Our grocery budget is now about $200-$300 a week which puts lets stress on our budget in times of rising inflation and mortgage interest rates.
  • We have gotten so much joy and fulfilment out of nailing recipes and learning skills in the kitchen.
  • It is actually more convenient than takeout sometimes to whip up a quick meal with proper planning. Waiting (and paying) for delivery sucks!
  • We can create more delicious food at home as we can explore different types of cuisines and spice things exactly the way we want to.

In this post, we’ll share our top 10 tips for how we reduced our grocery budget without compromising on nutrition or taste.

#1: Bulk buying meat and freezing

Costco is one of our favourite places to shop for meat – it is fresh and good value on a per kg basis. However the amount of meat they sell can be daunting, especially for a couple.

Our gamechanger has been (i) buying a vacuum sealer and (ii) freezing meat. A vacuum sealer works by sucking the air out of the meat packaging – without oxygen, bacteria has less chance of surviving. This means meat can be stored for much longer in the fridge or freezer. It also prevents freezer burn as the meat is fully sealed so that the quality of meat is retained for up to 4 months.

We used to be highly skeptical about the quality of frozen meat but it has actually worked surprisingly well – so much so that we can’t even tell difference. When you want to use the meat, simply defrost in the fridge overnight and then make sure you bring the meat up to room temperature by leaving it on the kitchen counter for another 30 minutes to an hour. You can then cook it as you would for fresh meat.

#2: Eating less meat

We are in no way saying you should turn vegan to save money – as meat lovers, the idea of this makes us shiver! In fact we are strong believers in including animal proteins in our diet as they are better absorbed by our bodies.

However did you know that it is recommended that a serving of red meat should be the size of your palm?

In fact it is recommended that you eat 600-700g of red meat per week for sufficient iron and zinc in your diet, whilst maintaining heart health.

Therefore if you are eating meat every day of the week, you should be aiming for 100g of meat a day. Compare this to when you go to a restaurant where the standard serving is a 300g-400g steak.

We definitely found that we were overeating steak to try to meet ‘restaurant guidelines’ when really, it left us too full. Instead, we now try to share one 300g-400g steak between the two of us with a side of vegetables, or portioning out a smaller amount to go with carbohydrates, for example in a delicious rice bowl.

We also include other cheaper animal proteins in our diet like eggs, milk and yoghurt for variation and to ensure that our daily protein requirements are met.

#3: Having spices and sauces in the pantry

You don’t have to compromise on flavour if you have a pantry well stocked with spices and sauces. It may feel like a big investment up front but it quickly pays off once you cook more and more at home. Think of it as a saving compared to eating out.

Some common spices and sauces we would recommend starting with, aside from salt and pepper, are turmeric, coriander seed, cumin, smoked paprika, sriracha, thyme, oregano, gochujang and soy sauce – these allow you to access so many different cuisines around the world.

#4: Learning to cook with pantry staples

Pantry staples are some of the cheapest ingredients to cook with and they’re so versatile. Canned tomatoes for example go in all types of dishes such as pasta, meat stews and casseroles, flavoured rice and curries.

Learning to cook with rice, beans and flour has meant we’re able to create some delicious, filling recipes for minimal cost. Think rice bowls, soups, home made breads and desserts, burritos, one pot rice recipes and empanadas. All you have to do is be creative!

#5: Learning new cuisines

Before we learnt to cook, our standard dish was oven baked vegetables and steak. We now cook so much more widely across Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Italian cuisines giving us more inspiration to cook at home.

There are now so many free ways to learn new recipes whether it be social media, recipe blogs or Youtube. It is getting easier and easier to learn other cuisines as language barriers are being eroded through Google Translate and there are step by step video instructions on TikTok.

Many cuisines were also developed over hundreds of years in very poor civilisations – so often the recipes are very cheap to recreate once you have the necessary spices and sauces.

#6: Planning meals around common ingredients

When we first started cooking more, we would waste a lot of ingredients and the cost of making our own meals actually wasn’t that much cheaper than eating out. This was often due to lack of planning – we would get lazy for example and then the meat would go off before we got a chance to cook it.

Planning meals, and in particular around common ingredients, can help reduce food waste (and save money as a result).

For example, we often prepare a whole cabbage in four different ways:

  1. Okonomayaki – a Japanese cabbage pancake
  2. Pan fried pork and cabbage dumplings
  3. Pickled cabbage (to use in sandwiches or as a side)
  4. Coleslaw

#7: Storing fresh vegetables properly

It can be difficult to store fresh vegetables for long and by the time you get to using them, they may have already wilted.

There are a few tricks for getting more shelf life out of your vegetables such as soaking in water to prevent them drying out (think leafy greens) or leaving them in a cool, dark place (think root vegetables).

Another way to get more out of your vegetables is to learn how to preserve them. Pickling vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots and cabbage is super easy and adds a delicious acidity to meals (adding the Acid, to Salt Fat Acid Heat!)

#8: Cutting back on alcohol

Alcohol is very expensive in Australia with our high taxes/duties. We realised we didn’t enjoy alcohol that much and now rarely drink it.

It’s better for our health and budget. Of course, some recipes will still call for wine/alcohol and we tend to just buy the cheapest bottle.

#9: Cutting back on snacks

Mr Sydney is a chocaholic and Mrs Sydney is a chip addict.

We love our snacks but came to realise that they weren’t so great for our waistlines or hip pockets. The main way we have started to cut back on snacks is to have more satisfying meals which are well balanced with meat, vegetables and carbohydrates.

Another technique we have used is swapping out chips and chocolate for higher quality snacks. For example, we’ve traded chocolate and chips for fruit and nuts. Whilst these tend to be more expensive than processed snacks, they actually last a lot longer as you get higher satiety from eating real food so you need less of it. It also goes without saying that they have higher nutritional value than processed food.

#10: Buying a Sodastream

We are also soda addicts. Before buying a Sodasteam, we went through at least 2 soda cans a day, each. We would buy bulk boxes of soda cans which we had delivered because they were so heavy to lug. Every month we’d also have to go to the effort of recycling our cans.

Having a Sodastream has now meant we can use cheaper mixers and cordials to get the sweet fizzy buzz we crave without having to buy expensive cans. We can obviously still do better on this front but it’s been a good substitute.

In conclusion

We hope our tips have been useful to give you some ideas on how to reduce your food budget. Let us know in the comments below what you think and whether you have any tricks up your sleeve for cutting back on groceries in your financial freedom journey.

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