As costs of living continue to rise, so too does the cost of nourishing ourselves. Recent articles have predicted the price of groceries is expected to rise in 2019, particularly fruits and vegetables (https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-food-price-report-2019-1.4930130). So, in a city like Toronto where a penny saved is truly a penny earned, how does one save money food shopping?
Before we delve into specifics, there are a few general, tried and true methods we would recommend to familiarize yourself with:
Make loyalty programs work for you.
Get to know your grocery store’s loyalty program and its perks – be it Air Miles, PC Points, or whatever else.
This tip is purposely left ambiguous because it is very specific and personal to the grocery store you shop at. I happen to frequent Loblaw’s chain stores such as No Frills and Real Canadian Superstore, so naturally PC points are my friend. Their mobile app features which products to buy for bonus points and every 10,000 points (easier to achieve than it sounds) is redeemable for $10 off. Point collection is now even easier with Esso and Shopper’s Drug Mart being places you can earn, too.
Price matching is your best shopping friend.
If your store price matches (such as Walmart, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore), use it to your advantage.
Generally speaking stores that price match will limit you to matching shops in the area and more well-known chains (i.e., not the mom and pop store down the street), but you can still find amazing deals this way.
Scout the local flyers using apps like Reebee or Flipp for promotions. For example, No Frills might have 1 pound containers of strawberries for $5.98 this week but Food Basics down the street has them on sale for $2.98 – while Food Basics might be pricing them this way to get rid of less than ideal stock, No Frills might have better strawberries and you’ll still get them for the lower price.
Keep in mind, if you’re doing this you bet your bottom dollar other people are too. If you can avoid the rush hour shopping times (usually 5-7pm weekdays and daytime during weekends), and get to the store early in the week when the flyers are just released (typically Wednesday or Thursday), you will reduce the chances of being disappointed by low or no availability of what you came for.
Shop on a full stomach (and stick to your list).
It goes without saying that if you plan ahead and only buy what you planned to, you’ll avoid making impulse purchases that will run your bill up.
Why a full stomach, you ask? Next time you shop, be mindful of your satiety level. If you’re hungry, you might just notice yourself reaching for a few more things than you intended to.
Now, let’s get macro specific with your groceries.
Try new protein sources. Plant-based proteins were never just for vegans or vegetarians, though the rise in alternative eating patterns has brought to light what a great alternative to meat they can be. Lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, and edamame beans are all relatively inexpensive and many of these can be purchased in bulk.
Special tip: when looking for canned legumes and beans, lesser known brands like Arz are cheaper per can than your usual Unico; but nothing is as cheap as buying them dry and cooking in batches!
When it comes to meat, be unconventional. Purchase lesser-known cuts of meat (particularly of beef, pork, or lamb – this article from Bon Appetit is a great guide: https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/best-cheap-meat-butcher-cuts). Oftentimes they are just as flavourful and yet far cheaper. For something like poultry, choose bone-in and skin-in; put in another five minutes cleaning it up when you get home (or eat it as-is – still tasty!) and save a ton of money. Buying a whole chicken instead of parts will help you save too – roast it whole, or cut up and freeze.
Stay in season. Look for seasonal fruits and vegetables. Some produce like bananas are in season all year round (and they are a great quick and tasty snack).
Buy dry. Dried goods such as oatmeal, rice, quinoa, and pastas have long shelf lives and can often be found packaged in bulk quantities. An upfront expense for a large quantity can save you a fortune in the long run.
Look to plants. Plant fats like avocado, or in the form of oil like olive or sunflower can be cheaper than butter or cheese which, while tasty, can be expensive. Peanut butter is another way to get good fats into your diet without breaking the bank.
Swap your choice. Opt for flax seeds instead of chia if you’re budget-strapped, they have similar nutrient profiles but flax seeds are a much lower price point.
Try canned. Canned tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel are tasty and low-cost sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats (in addition to protein!). Buy a bunch when on sale, and keep them to add to your salads and sandwiches for a quick, healthy lunch.
Try lesser-known sources of healthy fats. Did you know you can find thick, unflavoured yogurt at a fraction of the cost of fancy Greek yogurt and Skyr? It’s called Balkan yogurt!
Moral of the story: try new things in the grocery store.
And, for all of the above…
Buy in bulk and freeze. When there’s a particularly good special going on, the freezer is your best friend. You can freeze practically anything – just make sure to properly label and store whatever it is you’re freezing.
As with anything, there is no perfect solution to ever increasing grocery bills. Don’t stress yourself too much on applying each and every one of these tips to your shopping. Food is a great pleasure in life; these tips are meant to help you, not stress you out even more!
Now it’s your turn – happy shopping!
Blog written by: Diana Skakavac, FF6S Nutrition Student
Linkedin profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/diana-skakavac/
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