Grocery shopping is a necessity of life.  According to Stats Can, prices on groceries in Canada are up 20% on average in just the past two years.  This increase is making it harder and harder for consumers to afford groceries.  With a bit of planning, strategizing, and mindful choices, you can significantly cut down your grocery expenses without compromising on the quality of your meals. I reached out to a group of savvy shoppers for real life tips to share.  In this blog post, we’ll explore a variety of practical tips and tricks to help you become a savvy grocery shopper and save money on every trip to the store.

  • Create a Budget and Stick to It:

One of the first steps to saving money on groceries is to set a realistic budget for your weekly or monthly shopping. Take into account your income, other expenses, and allocate a specific amount for groceries. Once you’ve established a budget, make a commitment to stick to it. This will help you avoid impulsive purchases and unnecessary splurges.

  • Plan Your Meals:

Meal planning is a powerful tool for both saving money and reducing food waste. Take some time each week to plan your meals, create a shopping list, and stick to it. Knowing exactly what you need helps prevent impulse purchases and ensures you only buy what you’ll use.

One person said they first look at the flyers to determine what is going to be on sale that week and plan their meals around that.  This may be a good strategy to try.

  • Shop with a List:

Building on meal planning, always go to the grocery store armed with a well-thought-out shopping list. This not only helps you stay focused on the items you need but also saves time wandering through aisles. Remember to check your pantry and fridge before heading to the store to avoid buying duplicates of items you already have.

  • Buy in Bulk:

For non-perishable items or those with a long shelf life, buying in bulk can be a cost-effective strategy. Warehouse clubs and bulk food stores often offer discounts for larger quantities. Just be sure to compare the unit prices to ensure you’re getting a better deal.

  • Take Advantage of Sales and Discounts:

Keep an eye on weekly flyers, digital coupons, and discounts offered by your local grocery store. Apps like Flipp can help you easily compare prices.  Flashfood is another app people find deep discounts on.  Timing your purchases to coincide with sales can result in substantial savings. Additionally, many stores offer loyalty programs or membership cards that provide exclusive discounts to regular customers.

In the Annapolis Valley, Sam’s Valu Foods in Canning often has good deals on food. Avery’s tends to have some good deal so on fresh produce. Many people also find Giant Tiger to have many products at the cheapest prices.

In the Halifax and Dartmouth area, Gateway Meat Market in Dartmouth is known to have deeply discounted prices on many items.

On the flip side of this, one individual said she also looks at the cost of fuel to drive to various places to get he best deal.  It was also mentioned for those paying for childcare while they shop – time is a consideration.  In a place like New Minas where everything is very close together, their is nominal extra cost – but in other places it is definitely a consideration.

  • Explore Generic and Store Brands:

Brand loyalty can be expensive. In many cases, generic or store-brand products are just as good as their more expensive counterparts. Experiment with different brands to find cost-effective alternatives without sacrificing quality.

  • Use Cashback and Reward Apps:

Several apps offer cashback or reward points for grocery purchases. Take advantage of these apps to earn money or points that can be redeemed for discounts on future grocery trips. Examples include Checkout 51, Rakuten, Scene and grocery store-specific apps like PC Optimum.

There are few great Facebook pages where people share hacks to combine programs. One local one is Adventures In Groceryland.  The administrator of this page shares a lot of great ideas.

  • Shop Seasonally:

Fruits and vegetables are often less expensive when they’re in season. Not only are they more affordable, but they’re also likely to be fresher and tastier. Explore local farmers’ markets for the best seasonal produce deals.  

  • Freeze and Preserve:

Buying in bulk or taking advantage of sales on perishable items can be a great money-saving strategy if you’re prepared to freeze or preserve them. Several people said they watch for the 50% off sales at groceries and either freeze the items immediately.  Invest in good-quality storage containers or freezer bags and learn the basics of freezing and preserving to extend the shelf life of your groceries. Learning what type of containers work best to extend shelf life of goods was another great tip.  It was suggested that glass containers work really well – so recycling from things purchased can work well.  We grew beans in our garden this summer and pickled them in jars we had saved from our spaghetti sauce.

  • Compare Prices:

Before making a purchase, compare prices across different stores. Prices can vary significantly, and you might find that certain items are consistently less expensive at one store over another. Online grocery shopping can also be a convenient way to compare prices without physically visiting multiple stores.  The Flip app is also a great tool for comparison shopping.

Even watch the prices in the store.  Look at the middle, upper and lower shelves.  Retailers put their most profitable items at eye level.  I was recently at the store buying fabric softener.  The bigger container, of the exact same brand, was $1.00 cheaper than the smaller container.  Had someone been a hurry and knew the smaller container was what was in their budget to buy, they likely would not have even looked at the bigger container.  

  • Limit Convenience and Processed Foods:

Pre-packaged and convenience foods often come with a higher price tag. Buying whole ingredients and preparing meals from scratch not only tends to be healthier but can also save you money in the long run. Invest time in learning simple and quick recipes that align with your budget.

  • Don’t Shop Hungry and Shop Alone and Less Frequently:

Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to impulsive and unnecessary purchases. Eat a meal or snack before heading to the grocery store to help curb those hunger-induced cravings and stick to your shopping list.

If it is possible, shopping alone (with list in hand) saves money.  The more people shopping (partner, children) the more likely it is to grab extras that they see.

The less frequently you are in the store, the less you are likely to spend.  Having a set shopping day and making due in between those days reduces unplanned purchases.

  • Join a Community Garden:

If you have the time and space, consider joining a community garden. Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be a rewarding and cost-effective way to supplement your grocery shopping.

  • Utilize Leftovers Creatively:

Reduce food waste and save money by getting creative with leftovers. Repurpose last night’s dinner into a new meal or incorporate leftovers into lunches. This not only saves money but also adds variety to your meals.

  • Learn the Markdown Schedule:

Many grocery stores mark down prices on items nearing their expiration date. Familiarize yourself with the markdown schedule of your local store and take advantage of these discounts. Just be sure to use or freeze these items promptly to avoid waste.

One shopper shared that Superstore is said to do markdowns at 8:00 am and also before long weekends.  

  • DIY Snacks and Convenience Foods:

Instead of buying pre-packaged snacks and convenience foods, consider making your own. Not only is this often healthier, but it can also be more budget-friendly. From granola bars to trail mix, there are plenty of recipes available online for easy and affordable homemade snacks.

In line with this idea, is buying large cuts of meat, and cutting them down into the sizes you want.  It can be cheaper to buy the whole pork loin and cut it down into pork chops or roasts on your own.  

  • Consider Online Shopping:

Online grocery shopping can offer convenience and often allows you to easily track your spending as you shop. Some online platforms also offer exclusive discounts and promotions, making it worth exploring for potential savings.  Another advantage of on-lien shopping is that if you do it with you list in hand, you can avoid impulse purchases.

Walmart offers a service a delivery service for $8.97 per month.  This is may be a viable for option to save on the cost of fuel or transportion if that is somewhere you shop.

  • Educate Yourself on Unit Prices:

Understanding the concept of unit prices (price per unit, such as ounce or pound) allows you to make more informed decisions about the cost-effectiveness of different package sizes. Compare unit prices to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.  If you look at the tiny print on many of the price tags in grocery stores you will see the price broken down by unit.  This is very helpful to watch as increasing containers are reducing in size while prices are remaining the same or even increasing.

Saving money on groceries is a skill that, once developed, can have a significant impact on your overall budget. By adopting a combination of these tips, you can transform your grocery shopping experience into a more economical and efficient endeavour. From meal planning and budgeting to taking advantage of discounts and buying in bulk, the strategies outlined in this guide are versatile and adaptable to various lifestyles. As you integrate these practices into your routine, you’ll find that not only are you spending less at the grocery store, but you’re also making more intentional and mindful choices about what goes into your cart and, ultimately, onto your table. Happy and budget-friendly shopping!

Thanks to the members of the Annapolis Valley Frugal Moms webpage for sharing their ideas.