15 Ways to Trim your Grocery Bill
According to the Stats Man, the average Canadian family spends almost $10,000 a year on food. That works out to about $800 a month. This is one of the biggest categories in most families’ budgets. And it’s a great place to save if you’re smart about how you shop.
1. Shop in ethnic markets. Whether you like Little Korea, Chinatown or Little India, everything from curry to coconut milk, baby corn to mushrooms can be cheaper than in regular supermarkets. Fresh veggies and fruit may also cost less. If I buy Dragonfruit in my local supermarket, it costs me almost twice as much as shopping in Little Korea. Use ethnic markets to stock up on staples and get creative with your cooking.
2. Shop at farmer’s markets in season. Come summer, there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables and buying from farmers means you’re cutting out the middleman, which can save money. It’ll also mean you’re buying fresh since the produce didn’t sit on a truck for four days getting from the farm to your grocery store, where it sat on the shelf for another four days.
3. Buy in bulk. Small packages of toilet paper, kitchen paper or tissues usually cost more per unit. Ditto little bottles of laundry soap. If you have the space to stash extra stuff and bring it out when you need it, buy big packages and multiples when they’re on sale. If space is at a premium, you’ll have to weigh the benefit of balancing your coffee table above tins of tuna, or get creative on storage (think under the bed, at the back of the closet, in the garage). Sometimes it makes sense to join up with a couple other people and share items you can buy in bulk at wholesale prices.
4. Don’t assume bigger is cheaper. Check the unit price to be sure you’re getting a deal, particularly on cleaning agents, which can be very expensive.
5. Don’t buy pre-made meals. Cook larger portions and then freeze a couple of servings for those nights when you just don’t have time to start from scratch.
6. Don’t take the kids when you go shopping. Shopping with kids means you’ll end up spending more. They’ll not only badger you for candy and chips, kids are also far more susceptibility to packaging so up goes your bill.
7. Shop with a list. Keep a running list at home. When you open the last of something, put it on your list. A list not only keeps you on track in terms of not overbuying and inventory management, it’ll stop you from impulse shopping based on fabulous merchandising on the part of the supermarkets.
8. Shop in a less-expensive store. Discount supermarket shopping can knock 15-30% off the cost of a basket of groceries.
9. Comparison shop. Grab the fliers for your local stores and do a read through to see who has what you want at the best price. The flyers can also alert you to things that you might want to stock up on for a future cook-fest.
10. Get a rewards card that’ll help with your grocery costs. President’s Choice MasterCard let’s you earn points toward free groceries. Airmiles let’s you redeem points for grocery coupons. And most grocery stores have a loyalty card. Get it and use it religiously.
11. Use coupons smartly. If you’re using a coupon, applying it against a product that already on sale results in bigger percentage savings. When you see shelf coupons for stuff you buy regularly, grab a couple of extra coupons for future shopping trips.
12. Stay out of convenience stores. If milk is cheaper at the convenience store, okay. But nothing else is, so don’t even go into the store.
13. Watch for scanner errors. It’s been estimated that in the U.S. scanner errors cost consumers between $1 and $3 billion (gulp!) a year. Watch for prices that haven’t been changed at the till and for fruit and veggie codes that are entered incorrectly.
14. Time your shopping. Too much time in a store and you’ll wander the aisles, browsing and tossing stuff into your cart. Too little time and you’ll be all stressed out and less likely to miss best-by dates.
15. And, of course, everyone knows not to go to the store hungry. Grab a snack before you head out the door and your bills will be lower.