If you think you're spending more at the supermarket lately, you're probably right. That's because NZ food price inflation has ratcheted up over the year to 'January 2020' increasing at nearly double the rate of inflation.

Feeding yourself - and possibly others - can sometimes be a challenge, not to mention time-consuming. Here are eight top tips to save you time and money on your grocery bills. They may also help save some unnecessary calories along the way too!

1. Check meat and protein specials first and plan your meals around them

A great way to save money is on your meat/protein or big 'ticket' items. When starting your grocery shop for the week, check what proteins are on special. Once you see that something (such as chicken thighs and mince) are on special for the week, you can then start creating your weekly meal plan. One of the most helpful money savers when meal planning is planning dishes that can use some of the same ingredients. Something like capsicum can be used in Mexican, Asian, and Italian dishes. This way you'll minimise waste, and your meals will still be different each night.

2. Pantry shop first.

Before you hit the grocery store, look through your pantry first. The easiest way to do this is to ensure your pantry is well organised. Have all your tinned food together and then grouped by type: beans, vegetables, fruit, etc. It will make it easier for you to see what you have on hand. Too often, pantry items get left and forgotten about. If you shop here first you can see what you can use, and a bonus, it may even give you some meal inspiration!

3. Buy in bulk

Earlier, we talked about finding what's on special. Great, now buy those in big packs.

If you are meal planning, you can use things like chicken in multiple ways and dishes; get the big pack to use for 2-3 weeknight meals, rather than buying multiple small packs of different proteins. This will reduce costs, as sometimes they offer the bigger portions cheaper than the smaller ones.

4. Shop in season

When produce is in season, there is more of it, which means it is generally less expensive than it's out of season counterparts. Plus, when you are buying in season the produce usually tastes much better because it's fresher.

5. Buy no-name products

In many cases, you can get almost the same product for a fraction of the price, of the premium product. It can be worth trying out different budget options to suss out your favourite budget saver, as some do taste differently. Once you find one, you can generally save quite a bit over the course of a year by opting out of the highly advertised brands.

6. Skip pre-made/pre-prepared

This tip saves money and calories. A lot of pre-made sauces or meals contain a lot of salt, sugar, and preservatives which, adds a lot of unnecessary calories to your diet, not to mention adds more cents onto your purchase price.

7. Make a budget and shopping list

Once you've completed the steps above, its time to make a list! Write down a budget, match it up with your list of needed items.

Online shopping has made it even easier to price compare, check progress throughout your shop on cost, and alter your shop as you go. Even if you want to choose the items yourself, you can make a list online to check prices and save it to your smartphone to take into the store.

8. Meal preparation

A great way to cut down your cooking time is to prep as much as you can on the weekend. This could mean cooking your proteins ahead of time or taking it out of packaging and putting it into marinade or spices so when you're ready to cook, it'll be straight from the fridge to oven or pan. Another great thing to cut downtime is pre-cutting fruit and vegetables.

This is not just a time saver but a money saver as well. You will be far more likely to head home to cook a quick meal if everything is prepped ahead of time, rather than feeling too rushed and stopping in for takeaways; which will cost you money and you may waste food if it is not eaten before it expires.