Anyone living in Canada is well aware that the cost of groceries has soared over the past few years. According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2023, which was compiled by authors and advisors from four top Canadian universities, grocery prices increased by an average of 10.2% in 2022. While price hikes have slowed in 2023, thanks in part to slowing inflation, food costs have still increased by 5-7% over the past year.
The average annual food cost for a Canadian family of four in 2023 was $15,595.40. Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 predicts this will rise to $16,297.20 over the next year.
In other words, groceries will continue to become more costly. Since wage hikes typically lag behind increases in the cost of living, many Canadians may be looking for ways to save money on groceries to ensure they stay within their monthly budget.
Here are some helpful tips for keeping your grocery bill down amidst rising food prices.
Strategies for Cutting Grocery Costs
1. Comparison shopping
Grocery stores typically release weekly flyers highlighting their promotions. Use these to find the best deals on food items at grocery stores near you. Make your weekly meal plan based on the best flyer savings. If you find great deals on items that don’t fit within this week’s meal plan, take advantage of the lower prices and freeze or store discounted items for next week's meal prep.
If you find a really good deal on household essentials that you will always need extra stock of, such as bottled water, peanut butter, or paper towel, stock up while the unit price is the lowest if you can afford to do so that week. Some grocery stores may even offer you price matching if you bring a competitor's flyers in - so don't be afraid to ask!
2. Meal planning
Meal planning is the best way to avoid making impulse purchases and reduce potential food waste. Take inventory of your fridge and pantry, and then refer to your grocery store sales flyers to inform your weekly meal plan. Using what you have is a great way to reduce your grocery expenses and use up leftovers from the prior week's stock-up before they go bad.
Pro tip: invest in a slow cooker (you can get one for as low as $40) to take your recipes to the next level. A slow cooker is a great way to make large portions of delicious and healthy meals with your stocked up and previously frozen food items.
3. Make a shopping list
Make a detailed grocery list based on your kitchen inventory and local grocery chain promotions. A detailed list will reduce your urge to impulse buy and ensure you come home with only necessities.
If you’re cooking from recipes, pull the recipe up as you create your shopping list so you don’t overlook any essential ingredients.
4. Stick to the plan
Once you head to your planned grocery stores, stick to your shopping list. Instead of browsing every store aisle, stick to the ones you must visit and avoid the rest.
Keep an eye out for discount stickers as you shop. You may find great deals on items you can freeze or store for next week’s meal prep. Be thoughtful about this, though. If an item you often purchase is on a great sale, take advantage. But don’t let low prices on specialty items seduce you into purchasing things you don’t need.
If you’re a habitual impulse shopper, consider opting for grocery delivery. Paying the small delivery fee may save you from overspending on items you don’t really need. Plus, having groceries delivered to your doorstep will save you time.
5. Choose store brands
Store brands and private label brands (such as President’s Choice, No Name, or Great Value) are often cheaper and highly comparable in quality to the major brands you’re aware of. According to CTV News Edmonton, switching to grocery store brands may save you between 20-30% on the items you purchase.
Grocery aisles are strategically designed to get you to spend more - often putting the more expensive brands at eye level. Be sure to look down at the bottom of the bread rack to find the store brand product.
6. Collect rewards points
It may feel tedious, but collecting rewards credit points can lead to significant savings on grocery items. Look into the loyalty programs at the grocery stores you typically frequent and consider joining them. Membership is typically free with no annual fee, and there are often special promotional pricing structures for members, which will surely save you money throughout the year.
Redeem your points as you go, or save them to put toward a large grocery bill, such as when you’re hosting a holiday meal.
Need an advance after payday to help with your grocery shopping? With Bree, you can access up to a $250 cash advance to prevent overdraft. No interest, no fees, and no credit checks.
Benefits of Cutting Grocery Costs
Sticking to a specific grocery budget may be challenging, but it does have some wonderful benefits.
The money you save by reducing your grocery bill (instead of giving in to rising food prices) can be put toward other areas of your budget, such as debt repayment or savings. Instead of letting your food expenses increase, stick to a reasonable budget, and you’ll see that your money can go further than you anticipated.
Healthier eating habits
What you’ll likely find as you work to keep food costs down is that eating on a budget is cheaper when you prioritize buying healthy foods. Items like fruits, vegetables, and pantry staples are typically less costly than premade foods. Reducing the quantity of meat and dairy you buy will do a lot to lower your grocery bills, and may, in turn, force you to look for alternative protein sources in the form of grains and legumes, adding more fibre and reducing fat into your diet.
The bottom line:
While you can’t escape rising food prices, adjusting how you shop for groceries will make it easier to keep your food costs down. Making meal plans, creating shopping lists, and taking advantage of promotions and rewards programs can greatly reduce your monthly grocery expenses.
Shopping within a strict food budget requires more preparation and planning, but once you develop a system, you may reap some side benefits, such as a healthier diet and more money in your pocket each month to put toward other expenses or savings goals.