Sourdough bread, home cooking and the backyard vegetable patch all experienced a renaissance in a year in which families were largely confined to the comfort of their homes.
Amid the discovery of these pandemic food trends, however, families also cut back on grocery spending as the recession weighed on household budgets.
Suncorp’s annual Cost of Food report found the average weekly grocery bill dropped to $130 in 2020, down from last year’s figure of $137.
Families with dependent children spent most, with an average of $170 allocated towards groceries every week, while couples and single parents spent an average of $130 and $106 respectively.
Australians also sliced their weekly restaurant bills in half – from $54 to $27 in 12 months – but both takeaway and food delivery spending held firm.
Meanwhile, roughly half of the families studied by Suncorp’s commissioned research agency Kantar said they encountered difficulty affording food since the onset of COVID-19.
Roughly one in five households reduced their budget to make ends meet and 15 per cent dipped into their life savings, while 11 per cent redirected money that was previously allocated for holidays to food.
Elsewhere, more than a quarter (27 per cent) said they were cooking more meals from scratch now – typically cheaper than takeaways – than before the pandemic.
Suncorp’s Everyday Banking acting executive general manager Paul Evans said it was imperative families not only lay out a food budget, but update it regularly to match changed circumstances, including reduced hours at work or an unexpected job loss.
“Whether it’s making sourdough bread or planning a festive lunch with friends, it’s important to fund your food within a budget and eat within your means,” Mr Evans said.
“Have a clear idea on how much you can afford to spend on food each week in order to keep your finances on track.”
Sydney casual teacher and mother of one Samantha Miller struggled to secure work after demand slumped for casual teaching during the pandemic.
After suffering a major hit to her household finances, she switched to online shopping to reduce her weekly grocery bill.
“I can now see the dollar value of my weekly shop tick up as every item is placed into my cart and it’s become so helpful, as I found shopping in store frequently caused my costs to creep up,” Ms Miller told The New Daily.
“I would usually find myself walking past aisles and, especially with a new baby, see a special item that caught my eye and I would impulse buy despite not necessarily needing it.
“It’s even encouraged us to start organising our meal plans in advance before I’m ready to order on the weekend.”
Tips to lower a household food budget
- Draw up a budget: Break it down into groceries, eating out, and other relevant categories, such as takeaway coffee. This will help you keep on track with your spending
- Always take a shopping list: Writing a weekly menu and shopping list will help you avoid buying more than you need
- Try buying online: Although web orders come with a delivery fee, you have more convenience (and less time pressure) to remove items from your basket if you go over budget
- Think home-made: Join the home cooking revolution, as home-made meals and snacks are often cheaper and more nutritious than takeaways
- Be self-sufficient: Combining a small amount of money and a whole lot of TLC can give rise to a vibrant herb and vegetable garden, which can help shave dollars from your weekly grocery bill.