An Aussie Redditor sparked outrage online at the price of their basic groceries this week and we all need help finding cheap fruit and veg right now.
The user shared a photo earlier this week of their Coles shopping trolley with a hand of six small bananas, a two-litre bottle of milk and a loaf of Helga’s sliced bread. The caption read: $12.50 in 2023.
Grocery prices are steadily starting to come down from their dizzying highs of 2022 but overall the cost of living in Australia is still utterly borked.
In September, Australia’s consumer price index inflation was at a 30-year high of 7.3 per cent. Food and non-alcoholic beverage product prices suffered the most and rose more than any other good or service — up 3.2 per cent the previous quarter and 9 per cent on the same time 12 months prior.
Some Reddit users commented that the same groceries at another supermarket or a small or independent grocer would have been much cheaper, and we couldn’t agree more. But getting affordable groceries is as much about knowing where to shop as it is knowing what to buy. So we’ve put together this monthly shopping guide to help you save coin.
Why has food been so expensive lately?
Short answer: the weather, and supermarkets suck.
La Niña has been crazy for farmers this year and has delayed a lot of summer produce. All the rain and cloud cover has deprived plants of the precious sunlight they need to photosynthesise and grow, and some large-scale commercial farms have also been damaged by heavy rain and flooding. Prices have naturally skyrocketed due to low supply. Coles even issued a notice to all its suppliers in October urging them to please cut their own operational costs instead of raising their prices which the supermarket giant said it didn’t want to have to pass on to shoppers.
But while farms and long supply chains — used by supermarkets to get the food from where it’s grown or produced to your local shelves — are recovering from the effects of extreme weather, you really never should buy fruit, veg or meat at a supermarket.
If your aim is to spend less money on better quality food, shop at markets and greengrocers only because they have much shorter supply chains. We explain the many convincing reasons why here.
With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s what fruit and veg are cheap in January.
Cheap vegetables to buy in January
Summer is here! It took a while, but we made it. All of the Best Foods are summer produce imo, so let’s get stuck in.
The main character of summer is obviously the tomato and they are cheap, sweet and delicious right now.
Tomatoes are grown year-round in temperature-controlled hothouses and the varieties we get in supermarkets are genetically modified to be frost-resistant (because they’re a summer plant that dies off in winter). Nothing wrong with GMO of course, but these tomatoes are frankly shite. They’re powdery, watery, grainy and are usually picked before they fully ripen. But now that the weather’s finally warmed up, we can get all kinds of tomato varieties that actually taste like tomatoes, are vine-ripened and are cheap!
Eggplants, another nightshade in the same family as tomatoes, are also very much in.
Zucchinis, squash and cucumbers (which are all in the same family) are in full swing right now and should be very cheap and delicious all over Australia.
We’re also at the end of the leafy-green season, but because they grow very well in a range of climates and the start of summer has been unseasonably wet, things like lettuce and silverbeet are still cheap and available.
If you haven’t already noticed, avocados are also stupidly cheap rn, but not for much longer.
Capsicums, chillis, tomatoes, green beans and corn are also all coming through so keep an eye out for them.
What’s out of season and too expensive rn: broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, cabbage, kale, snow peas, sugar snap peas and asparagus. The latter three are spring veg with short seasons so RIP if you missed out.
Cheap fruit to buy in January
January is usually peak fruit season but because La Niña messed up the weather, most summer fruits came in about a month later than usual.
Stone fruits like cherries and apricots normally be go nuts in early December but because of the delay they only just came in at the end of last month. As a result, cherries were more expensive this Christmas and because their season is so short, the price likely won’t come down at all.
Keep an eye out for nectarines, peaches and plums which should all be readily available by the end of January, if they’re not already in your area.
Watermelons were incredibly overpriced in December and are reportedly still pretty pricey but should also be coming down in price this month.
On the plus side, mango season is here! Right now! They’re so cheap and sweet so get ready for sticky hands.
Grapes, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are also finally in season. Now is the time to indulge.
Citrus season, however, is done. Perversely, the best to buy right now are limes because they usually come from tropical or sub-tropical areas. Lemons, oranges, mandarins and grapefruits? Forget about it. They’re too expensive for you now.
And finally, bananas are in season and cheap! Just make sure you get them from the market.