Cutting Your Grocery Bill

Let’s face it. Food prices are increasing every year, and this has become a significant expense for most households. I’m sure that my husband and I spend at least as much now as a couple as we did when we had teenage sons regularly clearing out the fridge.

According to the annual Canada’s Food Price Report, the average Canadian family of four will be paying almost $350 more to feed themselves in 2018. This will increase the total average food cost to almost $12,000 a year.

Blame is placed on changes in the global economy, growing consumer demand in China and India, weather related droughts, floods and disasters, and the exchange rate between the Canadian and US dollar. On top of that, companies are jacking up prices or they’re hiding price hikes by shrinking the size of their packaging.

Cutting Your Grocery Bill

There’s not much we can do about that. Nevertheless, you can still save a significant amount of money on your grocery bill by changing the way you shop.

Shop the sales

No matter what type of food you prefer to buy, you can spend less by simply shopping the sales. As much as possible, buy food when it’s at its lowest possible price.

Don’t assume you know which store has the best deals until you’ve actually checked. Browse store flyers in your area to find the best sale prices. Traditional grocery chains often have the highest prices overall, but they also usually have the best sales. Consider buying generic brands. Ethnic food departments often have significantly lower prices.

Related: Flipp vs. Checkout 51 Grocery App Comparison

Know your prices and you will be able to spot a fantastic deal when you see it.

The best way to make sure you are always buying your food at its lowest possible price is to maintain an ongoing “rock-bottom price list” for all the items you buy.

To keep track of prices, use a small notebook, create a simple spreadsheet, or something like this downloadable template here. Whichever method you use, include categories for all types of food you buy and the best price you have found for each item.

Stores know that consumers are shopping around and looking for deals, and many are now price matching the competition. Take advantage of this and get all your groceries at one place.

After you’ve started paying attention to prices for a few weeks, you may be surprised at how sale prices will immediately begin to jump out at you as you wander through the grocery aisles. You may also start to notice a pattern. Many follow a regular sale cycle – sometimes as often as six or eight weeks. More seasonal items once or twice a year.

Stockpile, stockpile

Understanding this sale cycle is a key component of cutting your grocery bill. The goal is not only to buy items when they are on sale, but also buy enough of those items to last until they go on sale again. This is key.

So, if a particular item goes on sale every eight weeks, then you will need to buy enough to last your family eight weeks. If you only buy a week’s worth, you will be forced to pay full price the next time you shop because you didn’t buy enough.

At first it may seem counterintuitive to buy more instead of less. After all, you will be spending more for those multiple items. However, over the course of six or eight weeks (or whatever the cycle) you are actually saving quite a bit because the next few times you go to the grocery store you won’t have to buy that item.

Related: Could you feed your family on $5 a day?

You may even be able to skip a grocery shop and live off what you’ve stockpiled. It is a very small adjustment, but this one simple change with much of the food you buy can save your family hundreds of dollars in one year.

It does take time to build up a stockpile – usually anywhere from two to six months to establish a good variety of the foods your family eats. Your goal is build up your own mini grocery store in your pantry that you can then use to plan your family’s meals. Most people tend to cook the same meals on a regular basis, anyway.

Eliminate food waste

Of course, this method is not going to work if you’re constantly throwing out food. You may buy something you don’t like, but don’t make the mistake of buying things you won’t use or that will spoil. And, you want to watch your expiry dates – stick with non-perishables or items that can be frozen.

It’s only a good deal if you use it. But, most of the time we tend to buy the same things over and over – and those regular items are the ones you will stockpile.

Final thoughts

It may take some time to change your habits, but simply knowing your prices, careful planning and changing the way you shop can save you hundreds of food dollars.

I’ll give more grocery saving tips in upcoming posts.

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10 Comments

  1. fbgcai on February 28, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Marie,
    Further to your stockpile suggestion – by buying more when stuff is on sale you may also trigger bonus rewards points – eg. spend X dollars on anything and get a bunch of bonus points – adds up in the long run.

    • boomer on February 28, 2018 at 10:24 am

      @fbgcai. That’s an excellent point. I’m thinking here of the Superstore Optimum points that you download. There’s usually not a maximum purchase amount, but once you have bought the item you don’t get any more points for it for the rest of the week.

  2. Diane Hieatt on February 28, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Cooking from scratch, slow cooker food, freezing in serving sizes and using a marker or china pencil to describe and date, “eating out” the fridge and freezer periodically as well as the stored groceries cupboard…

  3. Rummy on February 28, 2018 at 10:21 am

    Using ” small notebook, create a simple spreadsheet, or something like this downloadable template here…..”…It is little dated. There are number of Apps on your phone – one of them is called FLIPP which will help you find cheapest price for that week and you can price match at the store as well (if they allow). Note: Not all grocery stores do price match.

    • boomer on February 28, 2018 at 10:29 am

      @Rummy. I don’t think it’s dated at all. You are looking for the lowest price of all time (well, within reason) – not just a comparison for the week. I know not all stores price match – and usually it’s just advertised prices. I did say “many” stores.

  4. Frito on February 28, 2018 at 10:27 am

    I’ve learned the freezer is your friend! After years of wasting stale crackers sitting in the cupboard, turns out crackers love staying fresh in the freezer, plus are pretty much edible right out of the cold. Another hack I’ve learned in the past few years is saving waste of green onions. Chop them as normal when you buy them and put them in a container to freeze. When you need them for your egg or potato salad, just grab a handful from the freezer. Easy peazy. No liquid onions in the bottom of the vegetable drawer! On top of that, keep the bottom 2 or 3 inches, put in a glass of water and in a few days you’ll have second bunch of onions to use. Fun project for kids, too!

    • boomer on February 28, 2018 at 10:33 am

      @Frito. There’s lots of things you can freeze that you wouldn’t think you could. I guess I should have said “stockpile in your pantry AND freezer.”

  5. Valerie on February 28, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Marie, Thank you and all the comments. Valerie Waterloo Ont.

  6. The Curious Frugal on March 1, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    For eliminating food waste, I needed to change one of my habits. I love to buy random unique ingredients with the idea that I’d make something fun and different with them. Then the evenings would be busy and I’d make an old standby instead. The new fun ingredient would expire in the pantry or go bad in the fridge. Now unless I have a plan for that new ingredient ahead of time (a recipe picked out), I try to leave it in the store.

  7. Kevin Chester on March 2, 2018 at 8:32 am

    We shop the outside part of the store reducing the amount of sodium, sugars transfats etc. in prepared, processed or canned foods. Nothing wrong with a good sale but food is one of the last few luxuries we can manage and enjoy. Buy quality, spend the extra money and find otherways to save money e.g. less restaurant meals.

    Thrifty but wanting to retain one of my last enyoments in my senoir years.

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