Margaret and Max Bell save money on fruit and vegetables by growing their own.
Margaret and Max Bell save money on fruit and vegetables by growing their own. Shannon Newley

Families feel the pinch

LIKE the rest of Australia, Warwick families have felt the pinch of increased grocery costs over the past two years.

The latest research has shown people are paying $1300 more at the check-out per year than they were in 2009, for the same products.

Warwick resident Robyn Roche said she had definitely noticed her shopping bill jump over the past two years.

“I sure have,” she said.

“And it’s only going to get worse once they get rid of the five cent piece.”

She said her best tips for savings at the counter were going for the specials and buying in bulk wherever possible.

Another local, Sandra Norris, said she too had felt the pinch.

“I have noticed a big difference, you can’t really get out of there for under $100 for two people,” she said.

“And it doesn’t seem to matter where you go now, they are all expensive.”

She said she had no idea how pensioners got by and she stuck to buying the bare essentials.

“The luxuries have gone and now I just try to go for the specials wherever possible,” Mrs Norris said.

Jasmine Reyes said she kept her shopping budget for a family of five down to $140 a week – $46 below the average of $186 – by shopping around.

“I look at the junk mail catalogues that turn up in our letter box and find the specials,” she said.

“We always have to get the staples but a lot of those luxury items, I wait until they are on special and buy them then.

“There are usually a few good specials on for those things if you look around at different shops.”

She said home cooking also kept food costs down.

“We don’t get too many take out meals. I tend to cook more and bake more as well,” Mrs Reyes said.

She said with three children and a job it was hard to travel out of her way to a farmers’ market but she thought it was a good way to save some cash.

“I live at Allora, I used to be able to come in on a Wednesday to go the (Warwick) market which was really good, but unfortunately now I just don’t have time,” Mrs Reyes said.

Max and Margaret Bell avoided forking out at the counter by growing their own fruit and vegetables and baking their own breads, cakes and biscuits.

Mr Bell said while the garden took a great deal of time and energy, there were very few fresh food items they headed to the supermarket to buy.

“You do save a bit and you know what you are eating and you know it’s all fresh at least,” he said.

“We grow tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beetroot, turnips, normal potatoes, pumpkins, lemons, oranges and plums, among other things.

“At present we are just buying a few apples but they are the hardest, most flavourless things, they are just no good. And by God they know how to charge.”

Mrs Bell said she also saved on spreads and condiments by using the leftover fruit.

“We preserve things and I make an awful lot of jam,” she said.

The Bell’s had even delved into growing tropical fruit like pineapples and papaya.

“You could say we have gone a bit troppo,” Mr Bell said.

John Thornton, of Warwick Town and Country Farmers’ Market, said he had seen a shift in the demographic shopping at the outlet.

“Since Christmas and since the floods I have noticed there are more young families coming,” he said.

“It’s an alternative way for them to get fresh fruit and vegetables for their families at an affordable price.”

He said prices were 25 per cent higher than usual because of the difficult growing conditions this year but they were still on the lower side.

“Because we have strong ties to many local farmers, we are getting the produce straight from them which means we don’t have the traditional middlemen,” Mr Thornton said.

“About two thirds of our stuff comes from local farms so this means the costs can be kept down.”

Yesterday, the Federal Government released a National Food Plan issues paper as first step towards safeguarding the food and grocery manufacturing industry’s long-term sustainability.

The issues paper – released for public consultation and industry feedback – covered food security, food affordability and the sustainability of Australia’s food and grocery sector.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council chief executive Kate Carnell said a broad-based, whole-of-government food plan was vital for Australia’s $102 billion food and grocery manufacturing sector.

To have a look at the National Food Plan go to

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