There are good reasons more and more of us are giving attention to our monthly grocery budget. Food prices in Canada continue to rise. The ongoing pandemic is also putting pressure on the incomes of many hard-working Canadians.
In 2021, an average family of 4 in Canada is predicted to spend a whopping $13,907 per year on groceries. That’s $1,159 a month. Clearly, any way we can save money on groceries is going to help reduce that figure.
Let’s take a deep dive into exactly how savvy Canadians can maximize their grocery dollars.
Make a Meal Plan to Save Money on Groceries
It can seem a hassle, but making a meal plan for the week – or even the month- ahead is one of the best ways to save money on groceries. But don’t just choose meals out of the air and buy accordingly. First, take a look at what you already have in your cupboards to see what can form the basis of the meals.
Check Out What’s on Sale
Next, check out what’s on sale at your local grocery stores. Flyers and TV ads are the old school route but are still effective. Checking out the website of the store also works.
Most stores have weekly e-flyers they will send you via email to alert you to the upcoming sales in-store. Some come with coupons attached that you can print, or that can be scanned on your smartphone at the checkout.
There are also grocery apps that bring together deals at different stores. If you’re committed to spending a little extra time doing the rounds, you can make real savings by buying sale items from different retailers. If not, a groceries app can at least help you decide which store works best for this shopping trip.
Some apps also allow you to earn points or cashback. These small savings can add up when they reward you for buying things you were going to buy anyway.
Prepare Meals at Home
Planning to prepare the bulk of your meals at home from scratch is a great way to save money on groceries. You will buy fewer prepared items, and you can cook in bulk. This allows you to use leftovers for lunches or freeze them for when you’re in a time crunch.
Consider Once a Month Grocery Shopping
Once a month grocery shopping is another great way to save money on groceries. It allows you to buy in bulk, it reduces temptation as you’re only there once, and it reduces the time you spend shopping.
To make it work, a realistic monthly meal plan is essential. You’re going to need to grab some fresh items and produce in between. You’ll be surprised though how many fresh items are good for a month!
With careful storage, lots of produce including onion, potatoes, carrots, and apples will keep well when bought in bulk.
Once you have your meal plan in place and know what you have in stock, you’re ready for stage two.
Write a Grocery List
Be strict. The grocery list is your greatest ally in the battle to save money at the supermarket. Be realistic about what you’ll need – even use the specials page to plan for a few treats.
Calculate the quantities you will need of each item and stick to it. It’s tempting to stock up on a great deal of fresh produce on sale. But unless you’re committed to eating it or freezing it, you’ll save more money by just buying what you need.
Resist Impulse Purchases
Once you’re at the supermarket, be strict. Stick to your list.
There is an old adage about not shopping when hungry. It’s true. Plan your supermarket trip after you’ve eaten so you won’t be tempted by items that aren’t part of your plan. Amazingly, research shows that this also works with online shopping – and not just for groceries!
Snacks and candy are classic impulse purchases. But also, avoid items that are packaged for convenience but come with a high price tag. There has been an increase in produce that is prepared for you, such as carrot batons or sliced mushrooms.
Not only do these items have a shorter shelf life, but most of us can also find a few moments to do this prep ourselves, keeping the dollars in our wallets.
Experience the satisfaction of ticking off your list and seeing the savings at the cash register. Those strategically placed impulse buys won’t touch you!
Maximize Your Freezer and Store Cupboards
Buying in bulk can be a great money saver, as long as it’s done strategically. If it’s an item you know will appear on every week or month’s meal plan, stocking up makes sense.
Buy on Sale
Items that are on sale and can be bought in bulk can be a great way to save money at the supermarket. Although the initial outlay will be greater, they can save you money down the line.
However, this comes with a big caution. Coupons and sales are only good value if you’re going to use the product before the expiry date. They’re great for items you know you’ll need in future – toothpaste, canned food with long expiry dates, and toilet paper.
But be careful with fresh food that’s on sale. Make sure that you will use it before its expiry date, or within the amount of time it’s safe to keep it in the freezer. This is why it’s also important to plan to use what you already have in your house in your weekly meal planning.
Buy Produce to Freeze
Produce is not off-limits when it comes to buying in bulk. To get the benefits though, you need to commit to a little extra work when you get home.
This opens up the option of filling your freezer with seasonal produce like asparagus and fresh peas. Most fresh produce can be lightly blanched with water or steam, then stored in freezer bags with the air squeezed out.
Consider What’s Cheaper to Get Store-Bought
Making things at home from scratch is great. Often it can be a money saver – but not always.
There are certain products that if you buy them at the store, you’ll actually save money. There are obvious examples like bread and pasta. Even everyday items like peanut butter, pesto, and guacamole can be much cheaper to buy than making fresh.
Make them when it’s a special occasion or if you find it particularly cathartic. But for everyday eats, it’s best to stick to the store-bought variety.
Get the Best Out of the Bulk Store
Buying from the bulk store always means buying huge bags of everything, right? Actually, the bulk store can help you to avoid food waste by only buying the amount you actually need. The self-serve section can be a huge money saver.
For example, shredded coconut may be something you only need for one recipe. Chances are you probably don’t need the whole bag – not even close. The bulk store gives you the flexibility to buy just what you need, reducing the chance of throwing cash in the trash down the line.
How to Save Money on Groceries Online
Online shopping has doubled in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more and more of us have experienced the convenience of groceries delivered to our doors, it’s hard to go back. But how can we save money on groceries when ordering online?
The same principles discussed above apply. In fact, it can reduce impulse buys and make it easier to stick to our grocery lists. Retailers will give you the option to allow a substitute item to be delivered in case the item you want is out of stock.
You can always return this to the store when the groceries are delivered at no extra cost. But this can be a money saver because it stops you running to the store to get the item that was missed – and a bunch of other things you never planned to buy.
Consider a Cashback Credit Card
As we all spend thousands a year on groceries, it makes sense to choose a payment method that can give us something back. There is a range of credit cards on the market that offer cashback of 3 or 4% on grocery shopping.
Of course, you’ll need to do a careful comparison to get the right deal for you. Watch out for high-interest rates and annual fees, which can negate savings.
To maximize the benefits, use the card for groceries and pay it off in full each month. You could see returns of over $400 a year (based on 3% cashback on average Canadian annual grocery spend).
Master That Grocery Budget!
Groceries are a big expense, and one none of us can get away from, but put yourself firmly in the driver’s seat. By following our tips on how to save money on groceries, you can tame this potential budget buster.
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