Save Money Grocery Shopping With These Simple Effective Strategies

Why Trimming Food Costs Has the Most Impact on Your Budget

Save Money Grocery Shopping.

Learning how to save money grocery shopping will have a huge impact on your budget. 

Groceries are often the biggest variable expense families have especially since food costs have risen. Our family of five easily spends close to $1,000 per month or more just on food and household items. 

So it’s worth spending the time to review food costs. 

But having food as your largest variable expense can actually be a good thing! Why?

Because variable expenses can be controlled. Fixed expenses, however, like a mortgage, are a set predictable amount each month but cannot be changed.

Move Grocery Savings into Other Parts of Your Budget

Research shows the middle class are losing ground on savings. According to a CIBC poll done by Harris/Decima, 45% of Canadians have no emergency savings

This makes saving anywhere you can in your budget, a priority. And saving on groceries is the easiest, fastest way to stash away some of those savings.

Adopt a Holistic Approach to Saving on Food

Learning how to save on groceries is an important life skill that is part of financial literacy. It’s all part of a holistic approach to finances. How?

Money: Getting familiar with food prices and pricing strategies in different stores is all part of how to save on food. Over time you’ll figure out where and when to buy your staples at the best prices.

Health: You’ll consider healthiest options within your budget, not just cheap ones. If you want to save on organic foods, make sure you know which foods have the highest impact on health.

Time: Maintaining a balance of selecting healthier foods, at the best prices in a way that isn’t overly time consuming, which leads me to...

Why I Don't Like Couponing

As a full-time working mom of three young kids, I just don’t have the time to do extreme couponing. I did try it for awhile on maternity leave when I had the “extra time”, and managed not too badly. But the time sacrificed wasn’t worth losing time to other priorities in my life.

Instead I found that simply changing a few key habits had a huge return on my bank account:

8 Most Impactful Strategies to Help You Save Money Grocery Shopping

There are hundreds of creative ways to save money grocery shopping. But I’ve ranked the top ones in my opinion that garner you the biggest return for your efforts spent.

1. Draft up a meal plan. 

A weekly meal plan will save you thousands of dollars a year. You’ll avoid impulse buys and extra waste. It doesn’t have to be detailed and laborious – although the more detailed the better. 

  • Decide on 5 or 6 dinners to make. 
  • Have a rotating list of staple breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas.
  • Mix up your list of weekly meals for variety and throw in new recipes.

2. Eat less meat and more vegetarian protein.

Meat is a huge expense. Reduce the amount of meat you eat and increase the amount vegetarian protein. 

  • Try eating meat at dinner 3 times a week. Incorporate fish as one of those meals.
  • Go for non-meat dishes (beans, eggs, tofu, peanut butter, nuts) other 3 nights. Healthy meals like sweet potato black bean quesadillas are a huge hit with my family. The black beans only cost $2 and serves a whole meal for 5 people!! 
  • Go vegetarian for at least one night a week. 
A store brand of canned black beans.

3. Look for sales rather than coupons (I’ve already expressed my sentiments on couponing earlier). 

Although I do think coupons have their place, in addition to the time spent, you’ll need to buy products you don’t necessarily need or want and will have to go to multiple locations, look for sales to get deeper discounts, etc.. Grocery planning should be as quick and painless as possible for busy families, so you have time for other priorities.

Instead I recommend:

  • Glancing over flyers (online or delivered). A much faster, efficient way of getting a sense of what’s on sale than scavenging through several portals for printable, scannable or mail in rebates and coupons.
  • Hitting the stores with the most sale items you need and will actually use.
  • Buying as many items as possible that are on sale.

4. Use Click and Collect, or a delivery service.

This is fantastic service and so great for families. It takes me the same amount of time to search and enter what food items I need online as it would to write it down on paper. It’s a way to take charge of your budget and limits wastage.

The Real Canadian Superstore only charges me $3 for pickup during less busy hours. It’s a fee I’m happy to pay to save myself a precious 2 hours, not to mention the cost of gas and stress from screaming tired, hungry children.

5. Invite yourself to Grandma’s or other relatives homes.

If you have a good relationship with any in-laws or relatives nearby, suggest a weekly or biweekly dinner at their place. You can bring one dish to help out with the food.

Our family is fortunate to have one dinner a night with my parents, which gives me a nice break from cooking once a week.

6. Shop at Costco for high-consumption items

I usually try to shop at Superstore for the bulk of my grocery list so I can use their delivery service and pick everything up within one load. But for certain items that my family guzzles in huge amounts I defer to Costco. 

For us, these items include bulk apples, organic cherry tomatoes, bulk oranges, baking ingredients, diapers, wipes, and sometimes meats and fish. 

When we have the budget, we will buy salmon. We partition it to meal sized portions and vacuum seal them. We also do the same thing with meat purchases like chicken thighs.

We also buy toiletries like Bounce paper towels and the Kirkland brand toilet paper, which is already a good deal when it’s not on sale.

7. Plan for leftovers. 

Planning to have leftovers saves you a tonne of money and time. 

  • Designate one night a week that’s always “leftover night”. At least this way, can plan ahead to save enough leftovers throughout the week for one night’s worth of food.
  • Partition leftovers from each dinner for prepared lunches.
  • Cook enough for two meals or more. This saves you the time from preparing another meal.

8. Use a Vacuum Sealer.

Vacuum sealers can preserve the freshness of your refrigerated or frozen meats and produce for a super long time. For instance, you can freeze meats or fish for up to 3 years. You save money by the following ways by prolonging the freshness and life of your food and waste less. 

We like to buy a huge salmon fillet from Costco or Superstore, then partition into meal size portions, keep one in the fridge and freeze the rest. 

More Smart Tips on Saving Money on Groceries

  • Sign up for a loyalty grocery rewards point system. Redeem points for expensive items or items that go on sale. I find the Presidents Choice (PC) points system with the Real Canadian Superstore is one of the fastest ways for our family to gain discounts.
  • Buy store brand ingredients, especially baking ingredients (e.g., Costco’s Kirkland, Walmart’s Great Value or Superstore’s PC Choice brands).
  • Buy bulk items, rather than packaged or brand name items.
  • Make your own spices and dressings. For instance, taco seasoning is a cinch to make. All you need to get is taco shells, and not pay for the kit.
  • Grow your own herbs. Rosemary and chives are particularly hardy. Fresh basil is great too!
  • Buy in-season produce. You’ll get better prices on mangoes in summer rather than winter.
  • Stock up on frozen, canned and dried foods. Great to have on hand when you’re in a rush.
  • Buy bulk prewashed salads and throw in your own extras. Some bulk packaged salads are worthwhile. We buy the family sized Greek salad from Superstore which costs $12 but lasts our family of 5 up to 3 meals.
  • Choose chicken over beef. 
  • Use canned fish, like tuna and salmon.
  • Avoid prepared foods. Deli meats and fancy salads are expensive.
  • Know what’s in your fridge. Take a day to consume whatever is left in your fridge.
  • Watch out for hidden costs like deposits and taxes on bottles and cans. Remember to reclaim your expense through the bottle depot.
  • Shop only once a week. Or have a main weekly shopping trip. If you need to supplement your groceries mid-week you might be less for the second trip. Avoid multiple trips
  • Know your staples. It’ll make your shopping trips more predictable and you’ll learn where to get them at the best prices all at once.
  • Avoid over-processed foods. They are typically cheaper in the short-run, but costly in the long-run because of the possible health issues associated with a poor diet.

Follow these main principles and select any of the following tips that appeal to you. What tips make the biggest impact on helping you save money grocery shopping?

› Save Money Grocery Shopping