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13 Hidden Ways to Save on Groceries

by Julie Jaggernath 

Did you know that groceries, on average, cost Canadian households $250 – $300 per person each month? For a family of 4, that comes to a whopping $1,000 – $1,200 a month. Because grocery costs are only expected to climb as we come to terms with the economic fallout of the pandemic, saving a little anywhere we can adds up.

To help stretch your grocery budget money, here are 13 hidden ways to save that you might not have tried before:

Know Where to Find the Best Prices in Store

  1. Cheese in the deli section usually costs more than in the dairy section. If it’s just a standard cheese you want to buy, see if it’s available at a better price when you get to the dairy section.
  2. Shop the top and bottom shelves for the better prices. The more popular and higher priced items tend to be handy on the middle shelves.
  3. Don’t buy anything in the checkout line. Text with a friend, scroll through your social media feeds, or read the news if you need to distract yourself from spending impulsively on things you don’t need or want.
Hidden Ways To Save Grocery Money

Make Package Sizes and Styles Work Better for You

4. Buy powdered instead of liquid products when you can. Powdered items have less packaging because liquid items need to accommodate for the additional water content. Someone’s got to pay for all that extra packaging. Make sure it isn’t you.

5. Compare unit prices rather than package prices. Some stores display the calculations on their shelf tags, but others unfortunately don’t. This is a good trick when one size of an item is on sale and the other isn’t or when looking at multi-pack items. Use the calculator on your phone if mental math isn’t your strong suit and don’t assume that the sale item or bigger package is always the better price.

6. Share costs with a friend. Family packs, bulk buys, or Costco deals are only good for your bank account if you can use it all. If you’re single, have a small family, don’t like leftovers, or don’t have much pantry/freezer space, share bigger packages with a friend or family member and split the cost.

7. Bottle your own water. Tap water in most of Canada is perfectly safe to drink. Bottled water that you buy at the grocery store can cost 10 times as much as gasoline does. If the price at the pump filling your car gives you sticker shock, think about this cost comparison the next time you pick up a bottle of water!

How a Little Planning Can Add Up to Big Savings

8. Start Meatless Mondays or Fish on Fridays. Pick at least 1 day each week where your source of protein for your main meal of the day isn’t meat. This can mean eggs for dinner, tuna melts for lunch, or a savory bean salad as part of an entree. Search for creative or ethnic meal ideas online and you’ll likely be surprised how easy it is to adjust to this cost-saving strategy.

9. Cut out the cost of convenience. Pre-cut vegetables, bagged lettuce, frozen lasagna, snack-packs, etc. You pay a premium if some or all of the preparation has already been done for you. If you like your fridge stocked with ready-to-go items, pick a day of the week and do your meal prep yourself. Invite a friend or family member to help and make it fun!

10. Use your slow cooker or crockpot. It will let you buy cuts of meat that take longer to cook and are therefore less expensive.

11. Raid your pantry. Most of us tend to stock up when we find an item we like on sale. So clean out your pantry and freezer every 4-6 weeks and plan your meals around what you already have. This can easily save you at least half of one big grocery shop every couple of months.

12. Shop without your kids. They influence your spending choices and take your focus off the task at hand. Cost-conscious grocery shopping takes a lot of energy, from comparison shopping to avoiding clever marketing tactics while at the store and making meal planning choices on the fly. Minimize your distractions to make it easier to keep to your budget.

And finally, tip #13 hidden here at the end is to not be afraid of changing your mind about what you chose as you empty your cart at the check-out. Give what you don’t want to the cashier and they’ll have someone return the items to the shelves.

Saving Money on Groceries Helps Your Overall Budget

Groceries are a big part of your budget, and if you want to be an even savvier grocery shopper, check out these 12 proven strategies to save big on groceries, or another 25 tips for grocery shopping with a budget. Meal planning is also a great way to stretch your budget for groceries even further and create some breathing room in a busy schedule. If you need help coming up with your budget or can’t afford all of your expenses, don’t be afraid to reach out to us for help. We’re here for you if you need us.

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