Spending money on groceries is unavoidable – unless you want to eat out all the time which is even worse for your monthly budget. That being said there are things you can do to optimize your savings and minimize the amount you spend on food without compromising quality. Keep reading to find out my 15 best tips for how to save money on groceries.
Food is something that is highly valued and enjoyed in my household. Because of this, we are often willing to spend more than the “average” Canadian family. According to Statistics Canada, in 2019 the average Canadian family spent just around $860 per month on groceries.
I spend more than this in my household but am comfortable with that. We eat a gluten and dairy free diet so some foods cost more than “average.” We also make a habit of supporting our local farmers’ market regularly.
Even though my spending exceeds the average, I still like to know that I’m getting the best deal. If you google “how to save money on groceries” a ton of lists come up. Many of them are full of impractical ideas.
Here are my 15 best tips for how I save money on groceries.
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15 Practical Tips on How to Save Money on Groceries in Canada
1. Grocery Deep Dive
Right now if you were to think about the groceries you buy on a regular basis I’m sure that you could come up with a list of staples for your household. For me, some of my staples include mixings for my morning oatmeal, chicken thighs, and produce such as avocados, grapefruits and tomatoes.
Once you have your list of grocery staples then you will want to compare the price of your staples at the various grocery stores in your area. Not the sale price, the regular price per unit. That unit might be 1 item, such as with avocados. Or it might be by weight such as with walnuts (a mixing for my morning oatmeal).
I call this a grocery deep dive.
It’s not something you want to or have to do every month. Doing it once is sufficient. This grocery deep dive will help you to know what the base price is for your staples. Then you can decide what you want to do with that information.
Here are some of the things I do with the information from my deep dive. First, it changed my shopping habits. I used to shop at a particular grocery store until I realized it was more expensive than other options in my area.
Second, now I only buy certain items at certain stores. That doesn’t mean I’m going to multiple grocery stores every time I do my shopping. I just rotate stores every week and buy enough of the items to last me until my next visit to that store.
Finally, I use that the information from my grocery deep dive to have a good idea of what things cost. Then when one of my staple items goes on sale at a particular store I can easily determine if it’s a good deal or not.
2. Price Match
I have to be honest with this technique, it is something I was faintly aware of but never did regularly until recently. For some reason I thought that price matching was cumbersome and that a lot of stores didn’t do it.
Then on one of my shopping trips not too long ago I saw the lady in front of me in line price match so easily, I had to give it a try.
While I waiting in line I quickly opened my reebee app and typed in the items that I was purchasing.
Sure enough one of the items was on sale at another store. When it was my turn to check out I showed the cashier the reebee app for that particular item and BAAM! Money saved.
It was so easy!
Here’s how you can do price match easily too:
- Download a flyer comparison app (I personally like reebee, it’s free, works in my area and has all the local vendors).
- Type in the items that you are purchasing to see if they are on sale anywhere (remember to check that the sale price at another store is lower than the price at your current store).
- Shop at a store that does price matching
- Show the item in the app to the cashier at checkout
- BAAM! Money saved.
3. Shop Sales
Grocery stores seem to always have something on sale. If you watch the sales closely you will start to notice a pattern. Every week there are particular items on sale and that type of sale occurs every month.
For example, once every month or so at my local grocery store there is a case lot sale. Cases of particular items are on sale (usually non-perishable items). If I’m looking to purchase some of these items I just have to wait for the sale and stock up.
A word of caution with sales – sometimes stores jack up their prices prior to the sale so that the sale price looks better. For example, if something is “regularly” $4 and goes on sale for $1 off then the price is $3. A savvy shopper may know that the true regular price for that item is $2.75 so buying it “on sale” isn’t a good deal.
Not all grocery stores are made the same. The sale price of an item at one store may be still more than the regular price for that same item at another store.
If you’re ever in doubt then refer back to your grocery deep dive or flyer comparison app (like reebee).
4. Shop on Monthly Discount Days
Does your local grocery store off monthly discount days?
Sometimes they may have a particular day of the week (or month) where seniors save 10%. If you’re a senior – shop on those days if you can.
A few of the local grocery stores in my area offer 10% or 15% off on the first Tuesday of the month to everyone. Using all the other techniques in this list of 15 practical ways on how to save money on groceries in Canada, I know what items are a good deal at these sales.
The bonus factor here is if you can buy items already on sale on the monthly sales days – you are double dipping savings.
BAAM! Money saved.
If your local grocery store does offer a monthly discount day and you’re planning to shop then – go early. The earlier you go the better the selection (especially for fresh produce) and the less the line.
If you’re going to shop monthly discount days – go early.
I made the mistake of going after work one month to do my grocery shopping. Waiting in line ended up wasting a half an hour of my time.
I know with the rise of online shopping I could do that now and save myself some time, but I actually enjoy going grocery shopping.
Now I go early before work (the stores open at 7am). Grocery shopping at that time takes me less than an hour and I can still get to work on time.
5. Meal Plan – Shop with a List
I have a confession to make, although this list of 15 practical ways on how to save money on groceries is how I personally save money, I don’t meal plan. I do shop with a list though.
For some reason I have never got the hang of meal planning. I have tried on numerous occasions but it never works in my household.
The benefits of meal planning and making a list are you will only buy what you need. It also results in a lot less food wasted.
When you shop with a list, only buy the items on your list.
This will prevent the urge to convenience shop and impulse buy. Using a list also helps you know what you need and don’t need. That way you don’t get home to realize you already had 3 bottles of soya sauce in the cupboard and maybe didn’t need to buy the 4thone. Even if it was a good deal.
If you are proficient at meal planning (which I am not), you can master a few meals and then if you want can even figure out the cost per serving.
Even though I don’t meal plan in my household, one thing we are good at avoiding is wasting food. Leftovers are a staple in my household and food very seldom goes to waste.
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I LOVE coupons!
You’re probably thinking, why go through all the effort to save 50 cents here and 75 cents there. I’m not talking about those coupons, although I do love all coupons.
The best coupons are those that are for multiple dollars. I know that it’s not food related but I’ve recently used multiple buy 2 cases save $10 on diapers coupons. Using a few of those really adds up.
The best way to optimize using coupons is to use them when the item is already on sale.
Yes, the coupon amount is the same regardless of the unit price, but it just feels so much better to know you got the best deal possible.
Remember those diapers I just mentioned? Well they are regularly $30 a case. I knew I had a coupon for $10 off 2 cases so I waited for a sale. The diapers eventually went on sale for $18 per case. Then with my coupon I was able to get them for $13 per case. A savings of 57%! All because I was a savvy coupon shopper.
Where to get good coupons?
Check the entrance area of your local grocery store. Some stores have bulletin boards of coupons as you come in.
Other times stores will have coupons directly beside the item on the shelf. Not the best place, but if you see them pick up the coupon. Doesn’t mean you have to buy that item immediately. You can still wait for a sale to use it.
Sign up online at SmartSource. Often brands offer to mail coupons to you for customer loyalty. These coupons are often for multiple dollars and are not the regular penny savers.
If you want to really commit to coupons you can also check your local flyers for coupons to clip.
Wherever you get the coupon from, remember, the best time psychologically to use the coupon is when the item is already on sale.
This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission if you purchase through my links. Please read my disclaimer for more information.
7. Checkout 51
Checkout 51 is a coupon app. Every Thursday the app downloads new coupons that are only good for the week. If you purchase that item that week then you scan your receipt into the app and the credit starts to accumulate in your profile.
Once your profile has over $20 you can request a payout. You can be paid out by check or through PayPal – it’s your choice.
I know it sounds like it’s too good to be true but it’s not. It really works. I’ve requested a check from my profile a few times and have had it mailed to me without incident.
I’ve saved over a hundred dollars on groceries in a short period of time by using Checkout51.
The best way to use Checkout51 is to coupon stack. As mentioned previously, if you want to get the most out of your coupons buy the item on sale.
This way you can get the item for a fraction of what you would have paid full price. It doesn’t matter if you used a paper coupon or discount when purchasing the item, you can still scan your receipt into Checkout51.
If you’re not already using Checkout51, download it today.
You can get $5 as a bonus when you sign up and claim your first offer. Doesn’t get much better than that.
8. Buy in Season
Produce is often cheaper when it’s in season.
Depending on where you are located some of the produce may be locally grown. This saves grocers in transportation. Some of these savings are passed onto you the consumer.
Summer is a great time to stalk up on fruits likes berries (strawberries, raspberries), plums, apricots and peaches. If you’ve ever tried to buy these fruits in the winter, you will notice how much more expensive they are than in the summer.
TIP – Buy produce on sale in the summer and then freeze it for future use.
In the winter months look for heartier produce such as potatoes, carrots, apples and oranges. Again, depending on where you live some produce may not be able to be grown locally and will always have to be shipped in. These produce options can be good choices for those winter months.
9. Buy Frozen
So what do you do in the winter months when produce goes up in price?
Check the freezer aisle.
Often times your local grocery store will have a freezer section dedicated to frozen fruit and vegetables. Frozen produce is a great option for smoothies and stir fries.
If you’re concerned about frozen produce, don’t be. Frozen produce is loaded with antioxidants and nutrients. The freezing process helps to lock all the goodness in.
If you planned ahead and froze the produce you bought on sale in the summer months then even better.
In an absolute pinch you can also check the canned foods section for canned produce. Although it may be more cost effective than fresh produce, it is often filled with more salt so be careful.
10. Buy Generic Store Brands
Generic store brand nonperishables can be a great option for cost savings at the grocery store.
I will admit, sometimes I can be a bit of a food snob and don’t like the generic brand. But this is only for select items (and yes I can tell the difference). On the majority of items, I cannot tell the difference so opt for the generic brand.
Some stores’ generic brand is just a repackaged well known brand.
My husband and I follow a gluten free diet. If you’ve ever had gluten free bread you will know that the quality and texture can range from sawdust to actual bread-like. One of the best gluten free breads I’ve found is the store brand of one of our local grocery stores.
With the rise in popularity of organic food, a lot of generic store brands also have an organics line. This really is the best of both worlds if you are looking to eat organic. You can get organic food for a fraction of the cost.
11. Credit Card Optimization
Let me begin by saying that you if you are using a credit card to accumulate any form of points or cash back then paying off your credit card in full every month is a must. If you are carrying a balance on your credit card, then any points or cash back you accumulate is negated by the interest you are paying on your purchases.
Different credit cards offer different features and rewards.
If you are truly looking to optimize your grocery shopping, then look for a credit card that offers some form of bonus on the food/grocery category. This bonus might be more points in the category – so instead of 1 point per dollar spent, maybe you accumulate 2 points.
Or the bonus might be a greater percentage of cash back. Instead of earning 1% cash back on your grocery purchases maybe your credit card offers 3%.
Personally, my credit card of choice does not offer any bonus reward for spending on groceries. However, I do accumulate 1 point per dollar spent so I make sure to put all my grocery spending on my credit card.
And pay it off in full every month.
If nothing else I’m still earning some form of reward for my regular monthly spending. I often use these rewards for future travel.
It’s nice to know that my groceries are in some part funding my future vacation.
12. Store Loyalty Points
Does your local grocery store offer a form of loyalty points program? If so, and you are not a member you are missing out.
Usually these programs enable you to accumulate points on your regular purchases.
These points can be cashed in for rewards or free groceries.
The best was to use store loyalty points is to sign up for the store’s loyalty program and accumulate points on things you were already planning on purchasing. It is counterintuitive to buy things you don’t need just to get points.
I’m diligent about signing up for store loyalty points whenever I can – especially if there is no cost involved. I used to redeem my points for rewards and have gotten a free waffle iron and pair of snowshoes with points before.
Now with a growing family I use my points towards free groceries. Sometimes I cash them in on my regular purchase to get a free item here or there. Depending on the store’s program I also just stock pile them in order to eventually get a whole month’s worth of free groceries.
BAAM! Money saved.
Realize that not all store loyalty points are the same, some redemptions are better deals than others. If you’re just happy with any redemption that’s great.
This can also be a rabbit hole you go down and could become an optimal optimizer.
13. Compare Unit Pricing
When shopping for the best price on something a good practice is to compare the unit price of two, or multiple, items.
The unit price is how much one unit of that particular thing costs. One unit might be one item, such as when comparing the price of avocados. Or one unit may be a weight, such as when comparing the price of bulk items such as rolled oats.
Without knowing the unit price of something it is difficult to know if something is a good deal. Let’s look at an example with avocados. Your local grocery store has avocados for sale for $2.49 each or they have a bag of 4 avocados for $6.99.
Which is the better deal? The bag of 4 avocados turns out to be $1.75 per avocado and therefore the better deal.
Sometimes comparing the unit prices is easy. Some stores list the unit price on the actual price tag – I love these stores for that. Boxes of cereal have a unit price broken down per 100g making it easy to compare prices between brands.
If your local grocery store doesn’t list the unit price, then you can do the mental math in your head, carry around a calculator or just use the calculator feature on your smart phone.
The 10 seconds it takes you to calculate the unit price could save you a dollar or two. That’s a pretty good return on the investment of your time if you ask me.
14. Monitor the Scanner & Check Your Receipt
It is important to be aware of the price of items as you are purchasing them. If you can, watch the scanner as the cashier scans in the items. For whatever reason, if you are unable to to watch the scanner as the items are being scanned make sure to take a few moments to review your receipt.
In Canada there is something called the Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code. This Code ensures that the list price for an item is the same as the scanned price at checkout.
If there is an error, bring it to the attention of either the cashier or customer service.
When the item is less than $10 you may be entitled to the item for free.
If buying multiples of the same item, the first one would be free and the subsequent items would be at the accurate sticker price.
When the item is more than $10 you may be entitled to a $10 rebate on the item. The same rule as above would apply for subsequent items.
For the most part, the listed price is the same as the scanned price. When I have been able to take advantage of the Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code was when a sale tag had not been removed.
In the bottom right hand corner of a price sale tag, there is often a date listing when the sale is good until. Usually stores update their scanners automatically but the sale tags have to be removed manually.
The most recent time I caught a mistake was on gluten free bread. When I went into the store I had no intention of buying the item but noticed that it was on sale. This is one of my grocery staple items (see #1), so I knew that the sale price was in fact a really good price.
I picked up a couple of loaves knowing they would last longer in the freezer. When the cashier scanned them in, the sale price did not come up. I mentioned it to the cashier and offered to go and take a picture of the sale tag.
When I did, I noticed that the sale had ended the day before but nobody had removed the tag. I brought the picture to the cashier and BAAM! Money saved. I got the first loaf for free and the subsequent ones at the sale price.
This greatly reduced the average per unit price of all 3 loaves. Making the sale, that much greater.
15. Bring Your Own Bags
Bringing you own bags to the grocery store will not make you a millionaire.
Of all the techniques lists, this one may save you the least amount of money. But as more and more stores are starting to charge for bags (both paper and plastic) bringing your own will save you some money.
The real benefit of bringing your own bags is the effect it has on the environment.
One of the reasons I like to bring my own bags is that I know they are sturdier than paper and plastic. When I’m trying to lug all my groceries into the house in one trip I don’t have to worry about a bag breaking on the way.
How to Save Money on Groceries RECAP
- Grocery Deep Dive
- Price Match
- Shop Sales
- Shop Monthly Discount Days
- Meal Plan – Shop with a List
- Buy in Season
- Buy Frozen
- Buy Generic Store Brands
- Credit Card Optimization
- Store Loyalty Points
- Compare Unit Pricing
- Monitor the Scanner & Check Your Receipt
- Bring Your Own Bags
But Wait, There’s More!
The majority of these tips on how to save money on groceries can be stacked on top of each other to further increase your savings.
Let’s look at an example with tomato soup.
In order to get the best price for that tomato soup, I would price match using my reebee app (#2), then I would want to make sure I bought the tomato soup on sale (#3), with a coupon (#6), on a monthly discount day (#4). Of course I would make the purchase on my credit card (#11), and collect loyalty points with my purchase (#12). I would bring my own bag (#15) and when I got home I would scan my receipt into Checkout51 (#7) to claim my offer.
That’s 8 of the 15 practical ways on how to save money on groceries in Canada stacked into 1 purchase – BAAM! Money saved.
Maybe you’re thinking that’s too much work for a can of tomato soup. If so, maybe you’re right.
Just applying 1 or 2 of these tips for how to save money on groceries can substantially save your money on your grocery bill every month.
There you have it, 15 practical ways on how to save money on groceries in Canada.
What are some of the ways you save money on groceries?