HOW can consumers save money on groceries?
That is the question Queensland University of Technology researchers Dr Clinton Weeks and Gary Mortimer aim to answer through a national grocery shopping study.
Sunshine Coast shoppers are encouraged to take part in the Australian-wide survey which examines how we shop at supermarkets, what strategies we adopt to reduce spending, and how advertising, prices and consumer education affect what we buy.
"Supermarket shopping is the biggest most regular cost for families each week," Dr Mortimer said.
"We spend such a large proportion of our household income on groceries, yet little is known about how we go about reducing this weekly expenditure.
"Retailers are fundamentally businesses aiming to get us to spend more money."
Most people want to save money but retailers keep encouraging them to spend more through innovative marketing appeals, price promotions and manufacturing tactics, Dr Weeks said.
"We're interested in the strategies people use when shopping and the impact that consumer education can have," Dr Weeks said.
Sunshine Coast mother, author and Frugal and Thriving blogger Melissa Goodwin said saving money on groceries wasn't difficult.
"Saving money can start as a challenge but after a while, it becomes a habit. And you can start by making just a few changes," she said.
Ms Goodwin said the key to spending less on groceries was to spend as little time as possible in supermarkets.
"We do our major grocery shop once a fortnight," she said.
"Shopping the perimeter of the store and not going down aisles that you don't need to (confectionary aisle or soft drink aisle, for instance) will save you time as well as temptation."
Ms Goodwin shares the top strategies she uses to keep her family's food costs to a minimum:
Cook meals from scratch: Steer away from pre-packaged convenience foods. Ensure you're not sacrificing your family's health in the quest to save as much as you can on the groceries. Basic foods are healthy and cheaper than pre-packaged foods.
Menu plan: It's a great way to make the most of seasonal produce, discounts and, particularly, using up what's in your kitchen before it expires. A menu plan will make cooking from scratch easier and avoid wastage because it helps you prepare food in advance, bulk cook and freeze and plan leftovers. It will also make evenings easier (no deciding what to cook each night or running to the store for forgotten ingredients).
Shop around: Buy outside of the supermarket from discount butchers, greengrocers, markets, health food stores and Asian grocery stores. Save money on household goods such as toilet paper by buying at discount stores including Kmart, Big W or the $2 stores.
Aldi can also be an inexpensive alternative to the major supermarkets.
Make your own cleaning products: I make our household cleaners from vinegar and bicarb soda. We make our own laundry soap, too. Avoiding chemical cleaners means a big saving in our budget.
GROCERY SHOPPING STUDY
To participate in the QUT Grocery Shopping Study, visit survey.qut.edu.au/grocery and register. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org or post your name and address to: Grocery Study, Reply Paid 2434, Brisbane Qld 4001.
Shoppers don't have to do anything outside their normal routine of grocery shopping.
Participants will be mailed a consumer information sheet every week for 10 weeks, and then asked to send back each week's grocery receipt in a reply-paid envelope.
All shoppers who participate for the full 10 weeks of the survey will go into a draw for gift cards ranging from $20 to $1000.