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If it feels like you’re spending more than ever at the grocery store, you’re probably right. The average Canadian spends $12,667.00 per year on groceries (or just over $1055.00 per month) and that number is swiftly climbing. Recent research on food prices in Canada by Dalhousie University indicated that the cost of groceries in Canada will increase by 2-4% in 2020.
This is in addition to an 3.5% estimated increase in 2019 and a 1-3% estimated increase in 2018. These growing prices result in the average Canadian spending hundreds of dollars more each year and unfortunately, there are no signs of this trend slowing down. In fact, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is contributing to even higher grocery bills in Canada, and an increase of 4% or more is probable in 2021.
Every family deserves to eat well, but grocery spending between households can be extremely variable. While some families are able to pay extra for premium items or organic produce, others need to reduce food costs as much as possible in order to stay on budget. When this is the case, it’s important to pay attention to what goes in your shopping cart (and subsequently, what comes out of your wallet). Here are some tips for keeping your grocery bill as low as possible.
Meal planning involves making a schedule that maps out dinners for the entire week (or month) and shopping for groceries accordingly. There are several benefits to meal planning, from improved organization to less food waste and the ability to save money.
By scheduling meals on a family calendar, you’ll be able to look at the week ahead, see what you need at the grocery store and shop specifically for those items. This can help avoid buying too much food or having those “what should I cook for dinner?!” moments on busy weeknights. You can also plan your meals around sale items, which creates a little extra cash flow.
Try planning recipes that use overlapping ingredients to save money (for example, by roasting a chicken and vegetables one night and using the leftover meat for soup or chicken alfredo the next day). Plus, you can cook just about any meal in larger batches to create leftovers for lunch. Yum!
Some people approach meal planning using a simple paper calendar method, but others prefer a digital calendar or meal planning app. Do whatever works for you and stick with it— it’s a great way to streamline your budget and your to do list.
There are times it makes sense to buy food in bulk but other times, not so much. Consider purchasing frequently used pantry items in larger quantities, particularly if the items are nonperishable or have a long shelf life. This may include flour, canned tomatoes, soups and sauces, pasta, rice or other popular grocery items. It’s sometimes beneficial to buy meat in bulk if the price is good and you have space to store a large quantity of steaks, chicken breasts and ground beef.
However, be more cautious when buying produce. That bulk bag of broccoli may be a great deal, but it doesn’t save you money if half of it ends up in the garbage because you didn’t eat it in time. Not only does this create food waste, it’s a waste of money. Instead, buy smaller portions of perishable items — or, freeze the extras into convenient meal-sized portions while they’re still fresh!
Impulse buying is one of the fastest ways to rack up your grocery bill in a matter of minutes. These purchases often happen in the form of junk food, non-food items like magazines, or depending on your province, a bottle of wine or a six pack of beer. Another common culprit? Conveniently packaged prepared foods like frozen dinners. Unless they’re on sale, they’ll usually increase your bill in a big way. It’s okay to plan for a few treats, but don’t go overboard. By making a list and sticking to it, you’ll avoid that instant wave of regret you feel when your grocery bill is $50 more than you planned for.
Price matching can be a great way to save money every week. Unlike couponing, which can require going to multiple stores to get the best deals, price matching involves using competitor flyers to get your preferred grocer to lower the price of an item.
Essentially, if you show a lower advertised price on a given product at the register, the retailer may match or beat that price. Many major grocery retailers allow price matching— it’s worth looking into which stores in your neighbourhood offer this great savings option. You can also download an app to help you find deals in your region!
Depending on where you live and what your family’s eating habits are like, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership may be beneficial. You’ll be supporting local business while enjoying farm fresh fruit and vegetables at a great price.
A CSA membership usually entails picking up a weekly (or bi-weekly) box of fresh produce or having it delivered for a fee. You don’t get to select exactly what’s in the box, and it’s typically based on what’s in season. You can often add on things like extra fruit, farm fresh eggs or even baked goods like fresh bread. There are plenty of CSA options, and it’s worth checking out those in your neighbourhood!