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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