When I was a kid, I loved grocery shopping. In high school, I would even go grocery shopping with my friends and their parents. It’s strange, I know. I have no idea why I loved it so much.
That changed over the years though when I actually had to start paying for the groceries and cooking the meals myself. Primarily because it costs so much money, but also because I only cook to keep myself alive. Don’t get me wrong, I love food, but I would be happy eating the same low-effort thing every day. My husband, however, is much more of a foodie so grocery shopping becomes more than just “Pasta. Sauce. Done.” as it would be if I was only cooking for one.
So, since we have to buy groceries, I settle for making it as cost-effective as possible.
To give you some context for the tips below and how we make them work, we typically spend between $350 and $400 a month for groceries feeding 2 people. We cook most meals at home, bring our lunches to work, and only go out for dinner/get take out once or twice a month. We generally eat meat 6 nights a week (but not for breakfast or lunch), and we always buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
So without further ado, here are my ways to save money at the grocery store:
Make a List
This small step makes a huge difference. I tend to grocery shop after work, which means I’m usually tired and hungry. If I go in without direction, I will haphazardly throw things in the cart without thinking, and some of those things will be items we will never actually eat. So to avoid waste, I go in with a strict list and I stick to it.
Plan Your Meals
Before you go to the grocery store, make a list of the meals you plan to prepare for the week ahead. Meal planning will inform what goes on your shopping list and it also means you will use the ingredients you already have or only buy the ingredients you know you will need, resulting in less waste. It’s also one less thing to worry about when you get home from work – you already know what you’re going to make and you already know you have all of the ingredients.
Tip: I like meal planners like this one and this one that provide the recipes for you. Then, I just add in our family favourites in place of some of the recipes that are more costly to make, or not to our taste.
Buy in Bulk
I will buy multiples of non-perishable or “freezable” things that are on sale, so that I can avoid having to buy them when they’re full price. Things like baking ingredients, canned foods, dry pasta, granola bars, oils and sauces are great to stock up on. I’ll also buy meats when they’re on sale and freeze them.
Many grocery stores offer price matching, but be sure to check if your favourite store has a price match guarantee. We tend to do our price matching at Walmart and Real Canadian Superstore, but No Frills and FreshCo do offer it in our area as well. We save an average of $25 each trip by price matching items and since we go weekly, that adds up to $100 or more a month in savings.
Tip: We used to be those people that held up the line as we showed the cashier our 7 different flyers. Then, one kind cashier told us about Flipp, which is an app that pulls together the flyers for your region in one easy format. It also lets you search for items to find sales on the things you want. You can even type in your shopping list and it will automatically pull the sales on your list items.
Find Out if You Qualify for a Discount
Because there is a university in our city, a lot of stores in the area offer student discounts on certain days. I’m lucky in that my employer offers funding for education, so I try to take courses when I can, to keep my skills and my resume current. Because of this, I have an active student card. So, on Tuesdays, I go to Loblaws and get 10% off any essentials that we can’t get on sale through price matching. Check your favourite stores to see if there are any discounts that you can qualify for – many offer discounts for military service members, and seniors, for example.
Use Points Programs
I joined PC Plus so that when I go to Loblaws, Superstore or No Frills, I can also earn points that will get me money off on groceries. (I also use the card when I get gas at the Superstore gas station.) I don’t go out of my way to buy things for the extra points and I won’t buy anything that would be cheaper at another store just for the points, but for those things that I’m already buying (with my 10% discount), I might as well earn points while I’m doing it.
Check Out Farmers’ Markets and Local Produce Sellers
This is largely a seasonal tip, but in the warmer months, you can get great deals at your local Farmers Market. In addition to getting fresh fruit and veggies direct from the producer, you can often negotiate the price. If you live in an area where farming is an active industry, you might also be able to find deals directly on the farm. We live about 10 minutes away from an orchard, so we try to buy from there whenever there’s a new harvest – not only because it’s delicious and less expensive, but because the family is local and awesome. In the summer, there are also lots of roadside stands in front of local farms selling berries, corn or tomatoes at much better prices than you can find at the store.
With all these ways to save money, grocery shopping is back to being like this again:
What ways have you found to save money on groceries?
A coworker just told me about an app called Checkout 51 that sends you a rebate cheque if you buy certain products and upload a picture of your receipt to the app. I’ve never tried this so I can’t endorse it yet, but if you have, let me know in the comments!