You like food, don’t you? Well if you’re going to be staying in Sydney for longer than a two week holiday you might want to consider saving on your food bill by grocery shopping in between those fancy meals. You know, that way you can go hard on the dinner menu without eyeing the kiddie menu because you’re broke.
Especially for you study abroad students…you’re…gonna go broke pretty fast here if you eat out all the time!
Umm, I don’t cook…
Well I don’t know how to tell others how to cook…but I’ve found some bloggers who can help you with that! See below:
Okay yeah you’ve got the food blogs, but where am I supposed to buy the food?
From my shopping experience I’ve got three main stores to tell you about that you’ll most likely see scattered around Sydney (and most likely all of Australia so keep that in mind!): Woolworths (woollies), Coles, and Aldi.
I won’t make any assumptions in believing that you know what Aldi is, but I also will help any fellow Americans understand these three stores by equating them to the three major chains of stores in the States. Fair deal?
That’s fair. Even if I’ve never been to the States I’m sure to have heard of the stores you’re talking about. Go on?
I’ll break them down from cheapest to most expensive. They all have ups and downs so don’t rule one out over the other in price alone!
Price range: $ – $$
Aldi is your go-to store if you’re on a tight budget and want to still enjoy more than peanut butter sandwiches and water. It’s got good essential foods that brand name won’t affect: milk, vegetables, fruits, eggs, pasta, tea, bread, basic pasta and food condiments. There are other options as well like meats that can be purchased here, but in my experience it’s cost the same if not more than the other two stores.
Plus I’ve got a psychological thing with meat being cheap. It’s weird…I know…good ‘ol marketing at its finest eh?
They also have pretty good snacks! I’m a muncher and…cheaper, occasionally healthier, snack choices are a deal-maker for me. Why should I pay so much to clog my arteries?
With all the basic food groups so readily accessible, and many of those selections have an organic option of either same price (milk and organic milk cost the same unlike America) or slightly higher value. It seems like the perfect option, however there are a couple downsides.
Be ready for a hike
Unlike the two other major chains, Aldi isn’t as generous with its locations. Usually there is maybe one or two in each neighbourhood if any at all. If you live in a town without an Aldi it not only says something about the socio-economic demographic in your town, but it also means you will have a journey ahead of you to get to the next town. On a hot or rainy day the last thing I’m sure you’ll want to do is take a bus or train to the next town over for some cheaper veggies and eggs. If you’re a student try to see if there is an Aldi by your school, and shop after class. You’re already tired and most likely going to sleep in the next day. Do yourself a favour and shop while you’re out already especially if unpleasant weather awaits. Here’s a map of the most central Aldi locations (near CBD) to help you find your nearest shop:
You need a $1 or $2 coin to use the pushcarts
If you don’t like carry loose change or cash Aldi may only suit you for quick shopping rather than your food grocery list. If you need to use a shopping cart you need o sacrifice a $1 or $2 coin to the pushcart gods in order to access them. Seems harmless enough until you are down to your last few dollars and you need those the buy the food you need but you’re using it to push the cart you’re using to shop…
It’s a tricky relationship…
Sometimes off brand really feels like OFF brand
I understand that budgeting means eating the off-brand equivalent of some more popular food brands, but with certain foods you can really feel, and taste, it. Cheese is one of them. If you’re a cheese fanatic and you throw it on everything regardless of taste (like me and Mozzarella) then you’re fine. However, if you are used to cheese that acts and tastes like it’s supposed to, and you can’t stand anything else, you might want to consider shopping at Woolies or Coles.
Now don’t get me wrong Aldi saves lives (Americans who shop there know what I’m talking about)! And wallets…but if you’re like me and believe that some foods shouldn’t be eaten off-brand-like you should consider a visit to Woolies.
Price range: $$-$$$ (the median store)
Woolworths, or if you’re feeling the Aussie spirit Woolies, is the middle price ranged store out of the three. Their weekly sales sometimes reveal little food gems that occasionally rival the everyday prices of Aldi, and they carry more of the name brands you may be more familiar with. Fun fact: it’s an Australian store company unlike Aldi. So if you’re into that sort of thing…immersion…this would be your store.
Food-wise, it’s got more of a meat and veggie selection than Aldi and their food range is more expansive at times. The body wash has its own aisle rather than being right next to the pasta. I’m looking at you, Aldi…
When shopping at Woolies keep an eye out for their weekly, sometimes daily, specials to get your favourite foods and cooking ingredients at sometimes half price. They’ve got a fresh meat and cheese deli as well for your food connoisseurs, but I’m illiterate when it comes to deli interactions…it looks good though.
Americans, think of Woolworths as a hybrid of Sam’s Club (food), and Walmart (not to offend any anti-Walmarters or Woolworthies). The prices are moderately Walmart, with Sam’s Club selections with their deli prices. They’ve got ready-cooked food that you can buy and devour immediately; same goes for dips.
Given the prices, and the quality, I’d say go here for your meats, cheeses, creams, canned goods, specialty sauces, and sweets. It’s something you’d want to pay extra for, because it’s the branded foods you’re familiar with…especially canned goods. Of course like Aldi Woolies has some downsides as well.
Shopping here weekly will heavily affect your budget
Although Woolies has those great discounts, a weekly shop here will set you back about $50, and you won’t even walk out with what should look like $50 worth of goods. If you need toiletries try going to Aldi or the Chemist Warehouse (I’ll blog about that later) to save some money for food you’ll buy later on.
They’re everywhere and convenient
I know that sounds fantastic, but if you’re budgeting you’ll have to go to other stores outside of Woolies. However, if you’re like me and get tired of life at times you’ll be lazy and just pop down to Woolworths for your weekly shop while disregarding your budget because you don’t care anymore. You care it’s just that day you didn’t get much sleep so you caved into the convenience. On the plus side, their pushcarts are free to use…
Here’s some of their central locations:
Do you see how conveniently located they are? DO YOU?! #struggleisreal
So finally there is Coles. Just…just brace yourself…and your wallet.
Price range: $$-$$$$
I was pretty generous with the price range scale only because certain things at Coles are cheaper than they are at Woolies, and are of a higher quality and quantity for the price than at Aldi. Americans, think of Coles as a combination of Target and Sam’s Club sprinkled with a little Whole Foods. Yeah, it’s complicated.
I’ll give you some context on the prices at Coles, and then explain why it helps to visit them sometimes. This one really has pros and cons.
The prices are sky high at times
I’ll compare the prices of pasta and bottled water. At Aldi a bottle of water and the register costs $0.99; Woolworths is $1.99; Coles is $2.08. It’s regular water…the Coles water bottle wasn’t larger or fancier.
The pasta, albeit off-brand, was $0.85 for Fettuccine; Woolies’ pasta costs around $1.75; Coles’ pasta costs over $2.00 and that pasta was the same brand as the one you’d find at Woolies.
You see? Madness…
More specialty foods available here
Come back from that mini heart attack. Despite the obvious price hike they do offer more specialty foods and health foods than your cheaper options. They sometimes come in bulk, and their sales may offer great discounts if you do choose to buy in bulk. I know one time I got four cans of baked beans for $3.20 instead of paying $1.40 for them each.
Certain foods are cheaper and larger here
Some of the foods, like sour cream, are cheaper here and you get more for you money. Budget-wise it makes for sense to spend $1.95 for a large container than $2.40 for a smaller one (Woolies).
So that’s my stint on Coles…the wallet drainer yet tummy savior. At times your weekly food shop can go as high as $70 and again you may walk out with a small bag of things (or not it depends on the sale week). It can be tempting to eat the bill given all the locations they have:
And one more thing…
Milk is universally affordable at every store
Just throwing that out there…
I hope this helps you on your shopping journey, and if you liked this breakdown stay tuned for my go-to’s for shopping toiletries in Sydney. Remember that Chemist Warehouse reference I made earlier? Yeah…coming soon!