Saving Money on Groceries
Do you ever look at your grocery receipt and cringe a little? Let’s face it: food prices are going up, but that doesn’t mean we’re completely helpless. Get smart and show your grocery bill who’s boss with these practical tips.
1. Set your budget.
Figuring out how to save money on your groceries can be a real challenge. As a guideline, try to set your food budget to be about 10 - 15% of your total take-home pay. For the average household, this gives enough wiggle room to have enough variety to keep your family from falling into a food rut.
2. Know where to find the savings.
Grocery savings are hiding around every corner, but you have to know where to look.
While planning your list, keep the following in mind:
- Think seasonally. Fruits and vegetables are cheaper when they’re in season. If it’s winter, consider buying frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Foods can be more nutritious when they’re frozen at their peak.
- Find budget-friendly recipes that use affordable ingredients, or are forgiving enough let you make some sneaky substitutions.
- Plan to buy whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible. You’ll save money breaking things down or prepping them yourself.
- Look at getting inexpensive cuts of meat. These gems will make a delicious meal for your family if you treat them right. And, you get more bang for your buck.
- Beef – Chuck/shoulder, shank, round & stew
- Pork – Shoulder & pork chops
- Chicken – Whole chicken, legs, thighs & drumsticks
- Look into using a pressure cooker or slow cooker, or giving these cuts time to marinate or braise.
- Check out our information on using affordable cuts here.
- Find out if it’s cheaper to get large numbers of some food items or to buy it in bulk. Some items, like canned goods or meat, can be cheaper when you buy in bunches or in family packs. But, buy lots only when it makes sense. It’s not logical to buy a big pack if it’ll go bad before you’re done. Do this only as needed.
- Make your baked snacks from scratch. Buying cookies or muffins is expensive, so plan to make them yourself and store them in the freezer. We’ve got some winning recipes on our website.
- Start cooking meatless at least once a week. Beans, lentils, grains and seeds are highly nutritious and cheaper than meat. Eating at least one vegetarian meal a week can cut down on food costs.
3. Make a menu plan and map out your meals and snacks.
Yep, this step takes a bit of work, but taking even a little time to plan meals saves you time, money and frustration.
- Allows you to shop for exactly what you need
- Encourages planning according to sales.
- Ensures you cook at home more.
- Makes meals healthier and with more variety.
- Avoids last-minute trips to the grocery store and splurging on items you don’t need.
- Stops food waste by inspiring you to buy only what you need.
As a first step, download our menu planner sheet here.
Don't feel like planning? Use one of our prepared Weekly Plans here.
4. Consider where you shop.
Scout out budget-friendly stores that have lower food prices or shop on discount days. Some grocery stores have 10% off your grocery bill on the first Tuesday of every month.
Find stores with good generic or store brands. Some stores brands are the exact same quality as the brand names, without the added cost.
5. Get organized before you go.
Take twenty minutes and make a grocery list. Better yet, teach your kids to do it.
Use your shiny new menu plan and check:
- Flyers, online or in print.
- Grocery, coupon and discount apps.
- Foods you already have at home.
6. At the store.
- Shop by yourself, if you can. Kids are easily swayed and have a lot of say in what goes into your shopping cart.
- Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Eat before you go on your grocery store adventure or pack a snack.
- Stick to your list and resist the urge to impulse buy. You’ll end up eating healthier, too!
- Bring a calculator. Use your phone’s calculator to check your totals before you hit the checkout line. You’re not likely to reject an item when the pressure is on.
- Don’t snub the store brands. If they’re cheaper, they might be worth a buy.
- Be flexible. If there’s a great in-store sale on something, can you substitute? Can you substitute the boneless thighs that are on sale for the chicken breasts called for in your recipe?
- Bring your own grocery bags. Most grocery stores charge extra for plastic bags nowadays.
7. Get organized when you come back.
- Put groceries away in amounts you know you’ll use. Break meat into meal-size amounts and refrigerate or freeze. Labelling packages properly (item, date, amount) will save you a headache down the road.
- Wash and trim vegetables (if necessary) before refrigerating. Do enough for several days.
- Put “purchased on” dates on items without best-before dates. Label any items once you open them too. They don’t always last to their best-before date. Organize and rotate canned goods in your pantry according to best-before dates, so that the oldest cans get used up first.
- Keep a well-stocked pantry with staple items. For ideas on how to stock a proper pantry, check out our Emergency Pantry page.
Here are some of our favourite, cost-effective recipes that can help you get started on your money-saving journey: