Nine surefire ways to save on your grocery bill (and still eat well)

Food costs are out of control due to inflation. So, let’s cut to the chase and deal up nine ways you can save money and still eat well.

Generic brands for all your staples

The ingredients are basically the same, but the prices can be up to 30 per cent less. Pasta, canned goods, flour, sugar, cereal, nuts and more — these staples are often packaged under the private name brand for the store you’re shopping at. Fun fact: many of the items are produced at the same facilities as brand-name goods.

Shop in stores with concrete floors

Fancy shops, specialty grocery stores and higher-end markets can cost you upwards of 40 per cent more on your total bill. Instead, shop where the deals (and inventory) are plentiful. These retailers might not have the nicest carts or most convenient parking lots, but you will save — if even just a little. I’d also recommend local farmers’ markets. The produce is fresh and prices for in-season foods can rival the lowest-cost grocers.

Get better at online browsing and buying

Online shopping allows you to browse for the best prices from different vendors, rather than being stuck in one store having to buy what you need at whatever the price (I’m looking at you, busy parents). When buying produce, you’ll want to choose a retailer that delivers within 24 hours so your produce isn’t rotten by the time it arrives.

Online grocery shopping has other added benefits, like keeping you better organized. You can keep a list and plan exactly what you need and buy just those items. List-makers save an average of 20 per cent on their bill because they go into the shopping process with a menu plan.

Online shopping also helps with impulse control. If you’re not in the store, you’re not tempted by things you don’t need.

Use technology to help with deal hunting

I love coupons and I use couponing apps like Flipp, Reebee and Checkout 51. These savings apps aggregate the best coupons, flyers and prices for all retailers. I also scan for deals online using a Google search. Doing a deal scan is extra important if you have special dietary restrictions. You can almost always find coupons for pricier gluten free, organic or “green” products.

Use loyalty programs geared toward groceries

It comes as no surprise that Canadians are flocking to switch their credit cards to grocery and cashback rewards cards right now. Personally, I like the credit card comparison site Ratehub.ca to determine which cards offer the best value. But, even beyond credit card rewards, many grocery stores have loyalty programs that you can participate in. I cash in at least $200 worth of points toward groceries per year — minimum!

Save with in-season shopping

You will pay up to four times as much for out-of-season foods — so steer clear of these. You’ll learn what’s in season by checking out what’s on display (the end caps on the rows of isles), and many times these bins are full of what’s plentiful and fresh. For example, corn in the summer costs a fraction of the price you’ll pay in winter. I also suggest trying new in-season foods you’ve never cooked with before.

Be open to going to a few stores

I get it — time is precious, but so is the money you can save by shopping around. Sometimes you’ll need to go to another location to capitalize on what’s on sale. My pro tip here is to try to shop where there is price matching. Literally all you need to do is flash a copy of the competition’s flyer (paper or digital), and they will match the price — easy!

Eliminate food waste

Research shows that Canadians are tossing out up to $120 worth of food a month. If this is you, you need to start meal planning and only going to the grocery store once per week rather than daily or every few days. Meal planning is a conscious act of mapping out your meals for the week. I actually love doing this because I find I get creative and inspired to try new recipes in the process.

Shift toward more plant-based meals

Meat and fish are very costly right now. If you haven’t yet tried to incorporate a few vegetarian meals into your diet each week, now is your opportunity to explore. You can still derive the same nutritional value from beans, lentils, legumes, vegetables and more.

Not everyone is doing OK with surging food prices. Some families and individuals are having to skip meals right now. If you have excess cash flow, you may want to contribute to your local food bank or help fund a nearby school lunch program.

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