How to Save Money on Groceries

**This post may contain affiliate links. I may be compensated if you use them.

Have you ever wondered how to save money on groceries? If you’re like me, you’ve likely noticed that the cost of groceries has gone up over the years. While small increases due to inflation are expected, quite a few products have increased in price. The cost of beef and pork has gone up significantly and even things such as pop don’t seem to go on sale as much.

There’s no denying that groceries are one of the biggest expenses for every family’s budget. Cutting your expenses can be tricky since you still need to feed everyone. That said, by focusing on making smarter purchases and using tools available, you can reduce your grocery bill by quite a bit. Here’s how to save money on groceries.

How to save money on groceries

Check the local flyers

Every grocery store has weekly sales that are clearly advertised in their flyers. These flyers are typically delivered right to your door, and they’re also available online through apps such as Reebee. To simply put it, you can save big by focusing your purchases on any items that are on sale. If you have the fridge space, you might as well load up.

For example, whenever raw chicken goes on sale, I typically buy 2-3 packs as that will usually last me until the next time chicken is on sale again. In other words, I haven’t paid regular price for chicken in years. Other items I typically try to buy on sale are things such as dried goods or canned foods. Anything that has a long shelf life is worth stocking up. Once I start to get low, I’ll restock when there’s another sale.

Since every flyer is available online through apps such as Reebee, I can quickly price compare. In the past, I went to whichever grocery store had the best deals. There were times where I would go to multiple stores just to take advantage of the sales. It may sound like a lot of hassle, but the money saved was worth it.

Price match

These days, there may not be a need to go to multiple grocery stores when you can just price match. Admittedly, there aren’t many grocery stores that price match in Canada anymore, but the ones that do will usually make it worth your while. I personally shop at No Frills in Ontario and they already have some of the cheapest prices compared to all the other stores. By price matching, I can save even more without going anywhere else.

The process of price matching is quite simple. You just show the cashier a competitor’s flyer with the lower price when you check out, and they’ll adjust the price to match it. This can be a physical flyer or a digital one. Since Reebee allows you to save the items that are on sale, you can quickly show the cashier what you’re price matching when you check out.

Keep in mind that there are still rules in place when price matching. Most stores will only price match competitors that are nearby. They may also only match certain retailers. Almost every grocery store does not allow price matching in express lanes, so use the regular ones if you’re going to request any adjustments. 

Buy in bulk

When I was trying to figure out how to save money on groceries, I started to think about bulk purchases. The obvious place to start was Costco. Even though you need to pay for a Costco membership, the money you save can be worth it. Things such as toilet paper, cheese, and even gift cards are significantly cheaper at Costco compared to anywhere else. Even solo shoppers can end up saving big with Costco.

If Costco isn’t an option for you, consider shopping in bulk within grocery stores. There are many items such as cereal, tea, beans, rice, and drinks that come in bulk sizes. If it’s cheaper to buy the larger sizes, then load up. Keep in mind that the bulk prices aren’t always cheaper. You need to calculate the per item, or per weight cost to find out which size gives you the best price.

It’s worth mentioning that sale items are usually cheaper than buying in bulk. Quite often I’ll buy extra of something on sale at No Frills instead of getting it at Costco since it’ll cost me less money.

Buy reduced items

Have you noticed that grocery stores often have 50% discounts on items that are about to reach their best before date? This usually applies to items baked in-store or meats. Many people avoid these items thinking they’re about to go bad, but there’s actually a difference between best before dates and expiry dates

Best before dates are more of a guideline. The items are still safe to eat, you may just want to do it right away. I personally am more than happy to buy a cake that’s 50% off. It may take me a few days to finish it, but it tastes the same to me. I’ve also bought steaks that are on their best before date because of the discount. What I’ll usually do is freeze them right away and then use them in the future.

Menu plan

According to the City of Toronto, the average Canadian household wastes over $1,100 in consumable food per year. For many people, this number will seem insanely high, but I noticed it myself with my groceries. Quite often I would buy too much and things would go bad before I finished it. There were other times where I had leftovers, but I didn’t want to eat them, so I tossed it and got takeout. This was a huge problem that was costing me a small fortune so I decided to start menu planning.

Every Thursday I plan my meals for the following week. I’ll write out every meal my family plans to have and then I’ll make a list of groceries that I need. By doing this, I’m only buying what I need which results in less edible food thrown out. Why Thursday you ask? That’s the day flyers come out. I actually plan my menus around what’s on sale for the week. It’s saved me an incredible amount of money over the years.

Keep in mind that avoiding food waste and menu planning also takes a bit of mental training. I’ve had to say no to invites to dinner because I had food in my fridge that needed to be cooked. I still eat at restaurants and order takeout, but I build that into my menu planning for the week. I also count eating out as part of my entertainment budget. By doing this, I keep my spending in check.

Consider a food delivery service

Okay, menu planning is great for families, but admittedly, it can be hard to finish groceries if you live alone or with just one other person. You need to get creative with your meals or you need to buy fewer groceries which is not always easy. One way around this is to consider getting meals delivered to you via companies such as Chefs Plate

With Chefs Plate and other similar companies, the ingredients you get are individually portioned. This ensures that you’re only getting what you’ll eat, so there’s no food waste. Included with the meal is a recipe card since you’ll be cooking everything yourself. This promotes healthy eating and in my own experience, I find the portions to be generous. There have been multiple times where I’ve stretched two meals into three.

Admittedly, if you were to buy the ingredients yourself, it would be cheaper. But again, getting individual portions is the tricky part. Since you’re not throwing any food out, you may actually save in the end. Plus, some people may find the convenience factor worth it. There’s no time spent at the grocery store so you can use your time doing other things you enjoy.

Join a store loyalty program

All the major grocery store chains either have their own loyalty program or are partnered with a loyalty program. These loyalty programs can be incredibly lucrative since you can earn points on some of the purchases you were going to make anyways. Once you earn enough points, you can redeem them for free food or merchandise. While signing up for a loyalty program is a smart thing to do, not all of them are alike. Some programs are better than others.

As mentioned, I shop at No Frills. They’re owned by Loblaws so the loyalty program is PC Optimum. I personally find PC Optimum to be the best grocery loyalty program since they seem to have the most promotions on in-store products and individual offers. Since I have a PC Financial World Elite Mastercard, I actually earn points on every purchase. I’ve claimed thousands of dollars worth of free stuff over the years thanks to PC Optimum and PC Optimum Insiders

Unfortunately, not all loyalty programs are as generous. While you can earn Air Miles at Metro owned stores, it’s not easy to accumulate a lot of points unless you have a co-branded credit card. The Longo’s Thank You Rewards is a nice touch, but it takes forever to earn enough points for free stuff.

Pay with a credit card

If you’re still looking for ways for how to save money on groceries, then consider paying with a credit card. I don’t mean any credit card, I’m talking about a credit card that gives you an increased earn rate at grocery stores. For example, my PC Financial World Elite Mastercard earns me 30 PC Optimum points for every dollar spent at Loblaws owned grocery stores. That’s a guaranteed return of 3%.

Depending on where you shop, you’ll want to use a card that best suits you. For example, the American Express Cobalt Card gives you 5 points for every dollar spent at grocery stores. That’s an incredible rate of return, but those points are best used for travel. Although you’re not saving on groceries, you’re saving somewhere else which is worth it. 

If you want to specifically save on groceries, then consider the Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card. Since you get to choose up to three categories where you’ll earn 2% in cash back, just select groceries. The cash back earned every month goes right into your Tangerine account. Always pay with the credit card that earns you the most points or cash back at grocery stores to maximize your return. 

Use a cash back app

One final tip for how to save money on groceries is to use a cash back app. The most popular grocery cash back apps are Checkout 51 and Caddle. Both of them have weekly items where you can earn cash back. All you do is buy them, then you upload a picture of your receipt. 

Checkout 51 typically has more items, so it’s the better app if you’re looking to earn more cash back. Some of the cash back you can earn is pretty decent. With Caddle, not only do you earn cash back from purchasing certain items, you can also earn money answering short surveys, writing product reviews, and uploading pictures of your receipt.

Final thoughts

It’s easy to save money on groceries and you don’t even need to use coupons. To keep your costs down, be smart about how you shop by browsing flyers, joining loyalty programs, and paying with a credit card. These small steps don’t require you to change your shopping habits, but you’ll save big. If you can introduce meal planning, price matching, and buying in bulk, then you can see even bigger savings.

How to Save Money on Groceries

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

10 Comments

  1. Blogger on January 12, 2015 at 1:22 PM

    Great post! We like to meal plan as it helps us reduce food waste and it keeps us wanting to eat at home if we have delicious meals planned for ourselves.

    • Barry Choi on January 12, 2015 at 1:23 PM

      Food waste is huge problem for families of all sizes. Meal planning is vital to reducing waste, as is checking your fridge / pantry.

  2. Gary Weiner on January 13, 2015 at 5:21 PM

    Good advice. In addition to buying marked down items, if you notice an item near its expiration you can ask for a discount. They might say no, but if you don’t try asking, you’ll never receive. Also, it’s a good idea to keep track of prices (in your head, on an app, or on paper) so you can tell whether a sale price is a good deal, or if the same item might cost even less next week.

    • Barry Choi on January 13, 2015 at 7:23 PM

      Gary,

      Ha for a while I used a spreadsheet for general prices until I knew them all in my head. You’re right some “sale” prices aren’t really deals.

  3. The Phroogal Jason on January 14, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    Shopping on an empty stomach was my problem. I’d definitely buy more than I need simply because I was hungry.

    • Barry Choi on January 14, 2015 at 9:58 AM

      Jason,

      Yeah seriously, I walk by a 24 hour grocery store when I get off work, I’m always tempted to walk in and just buy random snacks.

  4. Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet on January 14, 2015 at 2:47 PM

    Another tip: use the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite card to get 4% cash back on all grocery purchases

    • Barry Choi on January 14, 2015 at 3:40 PM

      Oh that’s a pertty sweet return. I use my PC financial mastercard whenever I shop at any Loblaws owned grocery store.

  5. […] are 15 ways to save money on groceries.  What we do is create a list, look for a few deals on the list, stick to the list when shopping […]

  6. Tawcan on January 22, 2015 at 8:30 PM

    Great tips, there are definitely some of these we can utilize for our grocery shopping.

Leave a Comment





Get a FREE copy of The Cost of Travel

Subscribe now to get your FREE eBook and learn how to see the world without spending a fortune