Saving Money on Groceries
Posted by Gail | Filed under Smart Shopper
One of the questions I’m always hearing is, “How much should I be spending on groceries?” I don’t know. How many people are you feeding? Do any of them have special dietary needs? Do you make a lot of money, or are you barely putting food on the table?
There are so many variables involved. People who are determined to eat organic will pay more for their food. People who survive on pasta will pay less. If you’re a big meat or fish eater and only like the best, your grocery bill would stagger the single mom of three making her own pizza at home.
According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian family spends $9,630 a year on food, which would work out to be about $185 a week. And that’s just food. It doesn’t include personal care, household cleaning, tobacco, alcohol or lottery tickets – things we often add to our carts.
There are 11 ways to trim your food costs.
- Buy in bulk: Know what stuff costs so that when you see a deal you can buy in bulk. When salmon hits 99¢ a tin, when coffee goes on sale, when toilet paper is a bargain, stock up. It’s not going to spoil so buy more than a week’s worth.
- Compare per unit costs: Since companies use different sizes and formats for their products, it’s easy to get confused about which package offers the better deal. Just think of all the different versions of laundry soap out there. Whew! If you don’t calculate the per unit cost, it is virtually impossible to tell what is a deal and what isn’t. Just because the package is bigger doesn’t mean the cost is lower.
- Get a raincheck: If you go shopping and something you’re looking for that’s been advertised is not in stock, make sure you get a raincheck so you extend the sale and get what you wanted at the best possible price.
- Shop in less-expensive stores: Do most of your shopping in a discount grocery store. Did you know that you can save up to 30 percent off your grocery bill just by switching your supermarket. That would be $45 in savings on a $150 weekly bill. Over a year, that’d be over $2,300. That sounds worthwhile, doesn’t it?
- Take your own bags: Are you still paying for your grocery bags every time you go to the store? What’s wrong with you? Why would you build the price of shopping bags into the cost of your food? Make a habit of putting your bags back into your car after you unpack them, or fold them all neatly into one bag if you’re hoofing it.
- Look for deals: Cuts of meat at 30-50 percent off are a great way to save; just take them home and throw them into the freezer. If you buy big on sale, then cook up what you’ve bought and divide it into individual portions for the freezer. Not only will you save money, you’ll save time by batch cooking.
- Reward yourself: Take full advantage of the rewards programs offered by grocery stores to convert food purchases into gifts, travel savings or money off future grocery purchases. I even buy my gas at a station associated with my grocery store so I save 2¢ on my gas, which I immediately apply to my groceries.
- Shop with coupons: Speaking of coupons, collect and use them. You don’t have to be rabid about this, but at least collect coupons for the products you usually buy and use them to save. Improve your odds of saving by visiting sites like GroceryAlerts.ca, SimplyFrugal.ca, WebSaver.ca and Save.ca to check for coupons that match your shopping list. I particularly like to use the coupon when the item is on sale since I feel I’m getting even more bang for my buck.
- Get in the groove: Most folks don’t realize that stores don’t drive sales, manufacturers do, and items typically go on sale in 12-week cycles. Smart shoppers keep track of sales cycles to stock up with enough to last until the next great sale.
- Take advantage of price-matching. No one wants to have to drive all over hell’s half-acre to get all the deals in the fliers that come to the door. And you don’t have to. Simply shop at a store with a price-matching policy and you can show any store’s flyer and get the best deal going.
- Shop with a list. This is the single best way to manage your food budget and not give into the temptation to overspend because you see things you want to throw into your cart impulsively. Over and over I’ve assigned the “shop once and with a list” challenge to people on my TV shows and they are gobsmacked to see how much they save.