12 Ways to Save Big on Groceries and Shop on a Budget
We all know that one of the best ways to save big on groceries is to shop on a budget. If you buy your groceries using a few proven strategies, you can save a lot of money. But what are these proven strategies, and what specific tips and tricks should you be following to make sure you're really saving big? We've compiled a list of top ways below. Whether you follow all of these or just a few, they'll help you save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on food every year.
Here’s how much you can save . . .
25% Buy Generic Brands instead of Name Brands
You can save 25% on your groceries if you buy generic brand groceries instead of name brands. Sometimes generic brands don’t taste as good as brand names, but you can work around this. For example, real Cheerios taste better than generic brands of Cheerios, but if you’re buying for a toddler, they probably won’t care. When it comes to staples like sugar, salt, flour, bleach and many other items, for most people there is no discernible difference in quality—only in the price. You might not want to completely ignore brand name groceries—they do go on sale—however, if you can substitute generic or no name brands for brand names, you can begin to experience some real savings.
Potential Annual Savings: $880*
23% Make a Grocery List and Stick to it
According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, people who can avoid impulse spending can save up to 23% on their grocery bills. Making a grocery list and sticking to it is the best way to shop.
Potential Annual Savings: $2,360*
25% Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
You can shrink your grocery budget by up to 25% and trim your waistline at the same time by adding more fruits and vegetables to your snacks and meals. Research from the American Dietetic Association shows that every member of your family can benefit from this and lose weight. Your budget can also breathe easier as you introduce more fresh produce into your family’s diet.
Potential Annual Savings: $880*
10% Shop at Discount Grocery Stores
In our comparison shops, we have found that you can save at least 10% on your groceries if shop at a discount grocery store like the Real Canadian SuperStore compared to the next best alternatives. These savings are based on comparing name brand items that every store carries.
Potential Annual Savings: $1,000*
32% Shop at a Discount Produce Store
You can save up to thirty-two percent on your fruit and vegetables by shopping at a discount produce store or at a farmer’s market. Not all farmer markets will save you a lot of money, but some will. Stores like Safeway sell premium quality produce. Discount stores usually sell lower quality produce at significantly lower prices. If premium or organic produce is important to you, then you will have to pay more for it, but if your produce doesn’t always have to be perfect, then you might be able to save a lot by shopping at a discount produce store. Compare prices at produce stores, farmer’s markets and grocery stores in your area and see if you can find some great savings.
Potential Annual Savings: $620*
Buy Fewer Pre-Packaged Foods
|What you can buy||Try instead||What you will save|
|Minute Maid Orange Juice, $3.57 (1.89 L)||Minute Maid OJ frozen can = $1.57 (1.42 L)||41%|
|Mini Oreo Cookies in Snack packs (8) = $3.49||Oreo Cookies in family pack (48) = $6.49||69%|
|Bag of cut, prewashed romaine lettuce = $3.99 (255 g)||1 head of romaine lettuce = $2.99 (255 g)||25%|
|Bag of cut, prewashed broccoli = $5.94 (340 g)||Broccoli crowns = $1.99 (454 g)||75%|
|Bag of grated medium cheddar cheese = $7.99 (340 g)||Medium cheddar cheese = $11.99 (700 g)||27%|
You can save a lot by purchasing less food that is pre-packaged.
10% Request Coupons from Manufacturers
You can save around ten percent on your groceries by requesting coupons from all of the manufacturers you normally buy products from. Email them and ask them to send you any coupons that they might have. Some people do this once every month or two—whenever they know they will need more coupons—and they are able to get coupons for almost everything they buy.
Potential Annual Savings: $1,000*
10% Price Match
You can save at least ten percent by shopping at a grocery store that price matches competitor’s flyers. Make sure you bring your flyers with you when you shop to cash in on this. This sort of a tip doesn’t appeal to everyone, but if you want to save about ten percent on the annual cost of your groceries, this is a great tip to follow. For a family of four, this tip can save $1,000 per year. Wal-Mart stores that sell groceries are great places to do this, and apparently the Real Canadian SuperStore will also price match. However, the SuperStore does not advertise this. Some other grocery stores may also match competitor’s prices. Speak with a manager at your favorite grocery store to see if they will price match competitor’s advertised prices.
Potential Annual Savings: $1,000*
10% - 20% Stock Up on Sales
You can save ten percent, twenty percent or more by stocking up on grocery items that are on sale. Stock up on groceries that are non-perishable or can be frozen like bread and meat. You are only saving money if you stock up on things that you normally use. Compound your savings by stock up when groceries are on sale plus use a coupon and then possibly buy on a customer appreciation day (if your grocery store has one of these. Safeway is one store that has customer appreciation days once each month).
Potential Annual Savings: $1,000 - $2,050*
25% Stockpile and Skip a Grocery Shop
Save almost twenty five percent on the annual cost of your groceries by stockpiling groceries when they are on sale and then skip a grocery shop once every month. When you skip a grocery shop, you live off of what you stockpiled. If you can’t do this monthly, then try for once every three months. It will still save you a lot of money. You can stockpile all kinds of non-perishable food, and you can freeze bread and meat when you find them on sale.
Potential Annual Savings: $2,560*
12% - 18% Shop with Cash
You can save 12% to 18% if you leave your credit cards at home and shop with cash. According to a study by Dunn & Bradstreet, people who shop with a credit card pay twelve to eighteen percent more than those who shop with cash. McDonalds has also found that when people buy their food with a credit card instead of cash the average transaction jumps from $4.50 to $7. If you only shop with cash or your debit card, then you can only spend what you have. Shopping with $50 in your pocket can be much different than shopping with a $10,000 credit limit in your pocket.
Try using cash for all your shopping—like for clothes, shoes, electronics and restaurants—and see how much you can save. If you really want to use your credit card to collect points, then make sure you stick to your grocery or shopping list and you still may come out ahead.
Potential Annual Savings: $1,230 - $1,850*
48% Put Your Grocery Budget on a Diet
Statistics Canada numbers show that the average Canadian household spends about $217 per person on food each month. This does not include eating out. If you're single or live in certain parts of the country, the average will be higher. As a general rule, the Credit Counselling Society recommends that consumers allocate $200 to $250 per person for grocery money every month, or even a little more if you buy toilet paper, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies at the grocery store.
However, in her book Zero Debt, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox suggests that a family of four can aim to spend only $125 per week on groceries. That means aiming to spend $125 per person on food each month rather than the Canadian average of $217. This is an ambitious goal, but if you implement many of the tips outlined above, it is possible.
Potential Annual Savings: $2,560*
Combine Money Saving Strategies
Combine as many of these money saving ideas as possible and you can drastically reduce your grocery budget. Create a grocery list, and then only buy what is on your list. Next, start by shopping at a produce store. These stores allow you to eat healthy and save money. Watch your prices, but usually you will want to buy most of your produce at these kinds of stores. The exception would be when other stores have really good sales, or if you are willing to pay more for a couple of fruits and vegetables that are better quality at another store.
Continue your savings by doing your big shop at a discount grocery store and buy as many generic brand name goods as your taste buds can handle. For the brand names you love, ask the manufacturers for some coupons and then watch for a sale. When your favorite brands go on sale, stock up and use your coupons. If the sale is at Safeway, hopefully you can time your visit so that you shop on their customer appreciation day. Buying with coupons when there is a sale on a customer appreciation day—and then stocking up—can save you some serious money. Remember to shop with cash or your debit card and stick to your list.
If you can find a grocery store in your community that will price match, take advantage of that. Wal-Mart is starting to open grocery supercentres in Canada. They offer the same low prices that the SuperStore does plus they price match all competitor’s ads. If one of these stores opens near you, you can save gas by doing almost all of your grocery shopping in one place. Hopefully this increased competition will cause other grocery stores to become more competitive and allow more Canadians the opportunity to save big.
What does this mean for you?
Some of these saving tips may be a little hard core, but we know that some people are more motivated to save than others. That is why we are trying to lay out as many creative and insightful options for you as possible. You can decide how motivated you are to save. Some people find saving money fun, and some find it to be a necessity. If you can only apply a couple of tips from this page and save 20% a year, that could save you $2,050 if you feed a family of four. Is $2,050 worth the effort? That could pay for your next holiday.
* Savings are based on numbers from Statistics Canada. The savings we show are how much a family of four could potentially save from implementing each strategy.
More Saving Tips - Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill Without Coupons
Look for Price Break Downs on Shelf Labels
Many stores are now breaking down the price of groceries on shelf price labels. For example, when you are looking at a huge wall of toilet paper, how do you figure out which one is the best price? Some packages have 24 rolls and others have 36 rolls while others are double rolls—and each package is a different price! If you forgot your calculator, you would just have to guess. Not any more, many stores now tell you in fine print on each shelf price label how much each little piece of toilet paper costs. The same thing goes for cereal and almost every other type of product. They will often tell you the cost of a product per 100 grams. This allows you to leave your calculator at home and quickly find the best deal. This is a smart way to shop. Or if they don’t show what you need on the shelf label, use the calculator function on your cell phone to figure it out quickly.
Make Meals from Scratch
Making your own meals from scratch is one of the biggest ways that you can save money. Like the table above illustrates, the more prepared the food is, the more it usually costs. The nice thing is that home made food is usually better for you too. So making your own meals from scratch can save your wallet and your health.
Always Cook Too Much
Always try to cook more food than you need and then freeze the leftovers or take them to work for lunch the next day (if you can avoid buying a lunch at work you can save $1,800 per year). Freezing meals can help you save a lot of time and can make cooking meals from scratch more realistic for busy people since this can save a lot of time.
Don’t Buy Water
Check with your city or town to see how the quality of your water compares to bottled water. Many cities now offer water from the tap that is just as clean or cleaner than bottled water. Why break your back caring bottles of water when the stuff that comes out of the tap is the same or better?
Don’t Shop Hungry
You will buy more food if you shop hungry, and you will buy food that appeals to your appetite at that time rather than what works for your weekly grocery budget.
Try to Shop Alone
Shopping with kids can add to your grocery bill and retailers know this. All grocery items that are geared toward kids are placed at their eye level. Shopping with your spouse can also add to your grocery bill if your spouse tends to go for impulse buys and other things that aren’t on your grocery list.
Salvage Grocery Stores
These stores buy damaged or defective goods from major grocery chains and food manufacturers that are still safe to eat—the packaging just got damaged in shipping or it has the wrong expiry date printed on it. At these stores, you can sometimes save 50% or more.
Try to Waste Less Food
Some people estimate that the average Canadian household wastes as much as $1,600 worth of food per year. If this is true, the average household could add over $100 to their monthly food budget if they managed to cut their food waste by 75%.