How to save on groceries in Canada? Is it even possible with crazy inflation and the high prices we pay for milk, dairy, eggs, and produce? Prices in 2022 have gone even higher, and the average Canadian family according to Canada’s Food Price Report is expected to pay almost an extra $966.08 a year for food, or $14,767.36 for a family of four.
You would have to be living under a rock (or living on a homestead) not to feel the sting of grocery inflation in 2022.
Everything costs more, including milk (it’s up about 6% here in British Columbia), fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy, and meat (bacon used to be $2.99 per 375g package if you could get it for sale, now it’s about $4.99 if you can get it for sale).
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How to Save on Groceries in Canada
How to save on groceries in Canada? I would say so but it takes a bit of finessing and know-how.
It’s possible. You see some people spending $150 per person on food.
Maybe in the US where food isn’t as expensive and there are stores like Aldi to shop from (I have yet to step foot in an Aldi, but I am fascinated already). I think $150 a month is possible as well if you are a vegetarian or vegan and don’t eat meat or dairy.
Heck, we had lentil soup the other day with fresh homemade crusty bread, AND had leftovers for another day.
I estimated that it cost about $4 to feed four of us for two meals (making it about $0.50/per person per meal). Definitely makes “Meatless Monday” and reducing meat consumption worth it (better for your health and wallet).
Lunchtime haiku— Genymoney.ca (@genymoneyca) May 24, 2022
S&P is down
Inflation is also up
Lentil soup it is pic.twitter.com/rr4Yzm2cMx
Average grocery bill for family of four canada
What is the average grocery bill for family of four in Canada?
An average family of four assumes a teenage boy and a preteen or teenage girl, and this is $14,767.36 for 2022, or about $1230.61 per family of four per month (source: Todo Canada).
On Numbeo, you can see the typical cost of certain foods in Vancouver, Canada, such as 1L of milk, or 1kg of apples.
According to Statistics Canada, the average expenditure in 2019 per household is $10,311 annually, or $859.25 per household.
This includes restaurant meals though.
Here’s how to save on groceries in Canada and ultimately how to lower your food costs.
DON’T GO GROCERY SHOPPING WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY (Or With Your Kids)
When you’re thinking about money tips in Canada, with the ultimate goal of saving on groceries, don’t forget rule number 1.
Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. You’re very much more likely to grab stuff that is unhealthy and expensive and put it in your grocery cart.
Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) is released when you’re hungry and you’re more likely to overpay for food than when you are not hungry according to Psychology Today.
Don’t blame yourself, blame your body’s neurobiology.
I know this from experience. I tend to buy things that I would not normally buy when I’m hungry (or tired).
Like New York Cheddar Kettle Chips (I haven’t bought these in a while since they aren’t $2 a bag anymore though, thanks inflation!).
I would also add don’t go grocery shopping with your young children because toddlers tend to have a very limited tolerance for grocery shopping and I tend to rush to get out of there as soon as possible, and can’t make decisions in a rational manner when evaluating what I want to buy (when having to listen to whining from kids in the shopping cart).
SHOP THE PERIMETER Of the Grocery Store
You’ve probably heard about this before, but shop the perimeter and ignore the middle part of the grocery store.
This is one way on how to save on groceries in Canada. The middle area is where all the higher priced stuff is housed anyway (not to mention groceries that aren’t really “food” aka packaged and highly processed foods).
Meat, dairy, eggs, bakery, the deli are all on the perimeter of the grocery store, real food. Better for your waistline and your wallet according to Readers Digest.
You’ll get in and out of there faster, too if you just circle the grocery store instead of meandering down each aisle.
Buy Produce At Your Local Small Business Grocer
Buying produce at your local small business grocery store is another way to save on groceries in Canada.
I tend to buy produce (fruit and vegetables) at our local mom and pop small business grocery store.
Prices are cheaper usually and for a week of fresh produce it is usually under $15 (a bunch of bananas, about 10 apples, mangoes, two broccoli, one English cucumber, and 2 lbs of cherry tomatoes, 2 lbs of carrots, 5 lbs of potatoes).
Also you are supporting a local small business.
Just like having lentils or vegetarian meals more often, this is a win-win.
Use THE FLIPP APP
This is probably the main way to save on groceries in Canada. Buy what’s on sale.
I am so grateful for the creators of the Flipp App. Without it I would still be waiting for the flyers to come in the mail or I would still be trying to zoom in and then zoom in too close or not close enough with online flyers (that’s so annoying, is it just me who doesn’t know how to use the online flyer zoom button).
Here’s my grocery buying algorithm.
I always include a Flipp search if I’m searching for something targeted. I can see easily if red bull is on sale by searching for it in the Flipp app, then I clip the item or circle the item within the app for when I go shopping.
Sometimes if I have time I do a search on Flipp to read the latest flyers for No Frills or Superstore, but most of the time, I do a targeted search for items that we are needing to stock up on.
MAKE A Shopping LIST
When I’m saving on food, to avoid impulse (and regular price) purchases, I make a list when I go shopping.
This is especially the case when I am trying to get the $50 minimum spend to reach 20,000 bonus PC Optimum points (I clocked in at $51.00 subtotal at a Shoppers Drug Mart excursion, whilst shopping with my young children, I was pretty impressed with myself).
I usually circle items that I want through the Flipp app and then go through my shopping list when I’m at the store and track down the items that I circled.
It’s easier than typing things out for me.
A targeted shopping list also helped me get in and out of Costco within 20 minutes.
Is a Costco Membership Worth It? (In Canada) https://t.co/6Q5FiVmaIj— Genymoney.ca (@genymoneyca) May 28, 2022
Just picking up a “few things”
Managed to get in and out within 20 minutes with a toddler— a record time!! pic.twitter.com/JSVuva4sJH
It’s definitely easy to impulse buy at Costco and a shopping list helps curb that a little bit.
KNOW YOUR PRICES
Similar to buying businesses on the stock market, knowing your ‘target price’ is helpful when you are trying to save on groceries in Canada.
Basically, to know your prices, you need to know the best price per unit of measurement as sometimes packaging can be deceiving. For example, Palmolive dish soap is $2.29 for 828mL, but at Costco ($0.0027/mL), you can get 5L of Palmolive for $7.99 ($0.0016/mL).
This is how Dollarama makes money they have smaller quantities and packages and also seemingly lower prices.
Sometimes when you see grocery items on sale it doesn’t mean that it’s the best price though. For example, frozen blueberries may seem cheaper when you see that they are on sale in a flyer, but if you do the math, you’ll see that the huge 2kg bag of frozen blueberries at Costco (Kirkland brand) are the cheapest and best quality.
This is one of the reasons why a Costco membership is worth it for us.
Our kids eat frozen blueberries at least few times a week and we ran out of our summer blueberry picking stash long ago so this is a ‘must’ in our freezer.
MEAL PLAN WITH WHAT’S ON SALE
A lot of the time, meal planning in our family means me Googling what I can make with what we have (and usually adding an “Instant Pot” or “Air Fryer” at the end of that query).
Most people, according to an article in the Globe and Mail on how to reduce your grocery bill, tend to “hard and fast” meal plan without consideration of what’s on sale.
I often buy things that are on sale especially meats and seafood and stash them in the freezer.
If cilantro is on sale I’ll buy two bunches (it’s 2 bunches for $1.00 if I can see a good price)… grab some chicken thighs from the freezer and some rice noodles from the pantry and make Instant Pot chicken pho ga.
I think meal planning with what is on sale that week is the most common way to save on groceries in Canada.
Cook Enough for Leftovers
This is one strategy that has not only helped reduce our grocery bill, but it has helped my sanity and help combat the motherhood penalty.
I usually cook a bigger portion, enough that we can have our meal and full leftovers for dinner.
For example, on a Monday I will make lemongrass air fryer pork, and Tuesday I will make chicken pho.
On Wednesday we will have leftover lemongrass pork and Thursday we will have leftover chicken pho.
It’s less mental worry or mental burden about “what to make for dinner” and meal plan.
FREEZE WHAT YOU CAN
I’m a huge fan of using my freezer and freezing what we can.
I buy meat in bulk and when it’s on sale and I portion it up and put them in smaller family size servings (actually, enough for two meals, see “Cook Enough for Leftovers” above) and freeze them.
I also freeze bagels, dinner rolls, sandwich bread, english muffins etc. I slice the bagels and english muffins first so that they aren’t annoying to break apart when they are frozen to put in the toaster.
I even started freezing the Costco croissants (you know the huge box that goes bad within 1 day) and air frying them at 370 degrees for 3 minutes. They are better than fancy coffee shop croissants, and I feel like I am transported to a boulangerie in Paris when I am eating them.
If in doubt (whether something can be frozen or not) I google whether I can freeze something. I bought fresh dill recently and froze leftover dill after making a salmon and dill bake. Then used that dill to make tartar sauce for fish and chips.
I also usually have a bag of $7.99 Costco rotisserie chicken bones in the freezer, just waiting for me to make chicken bone broth with it when I run out of frozen, cubed, chicken broth.
According to that Globe and Mail article, you can even freeze milk.
ASK FOR “SCOP” (SCANNING CODE OF PRACTICE)
I’ve used the SCOP (Scanning Code of Practice) regularly, probably at least a few times a year.
In fact, I got some free hand soap from Shoppers Drug Mart recently because I mentioned SCOP.
Basically for SCOP, If a cashier rings up something that is not correct (e.g. the hand soap was labelled $2.99 but it was rung up at $4.79) and you mention it to the cashier, the cashier is supposed to give you that item for free (up to a $10 value).
I got a free box of strawberries at No Frills as well a few years ago by pointing out the SCOP. No Frills pretty commonly has scanning errors, I find. I want to mention that I point it out very nicely to the cashier or management and I try not to be a Karen.
I haven’t been doing much SCOP during the pandemic because I just want to get out of there and not hold up the line.
The SCOP is not valid at every retailer, but there’s a large list of retailers in Canada that participate.
USE CHECKOUT 51 or Caddle
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If you’re not much into couponing and are embarrassed to give the cashier your coupon, you can be a closet couponer. How do you become a closet couponer? It’s pretty easy actually, all you need to do is download an app.
The app is called Checkout 51 and it is a couponing app. I personally think it’s one of the best personal finance apps in Canada. You have to have a smart phone to use it though. Offers are uploaded weekly and basically if you see an offer for example, $1.00 off Quaker granola bars then you check it off and upload your receipt. You upload your receipt by taking a picture of your receipt with your phone’s camera.
Checkout 51 takes about 1 day turnaround time to evaluate your receipt and to see whether it qualifies. Once you are qualified you are approved and you get $1.00 in your Checkout 51 account. Once you hit $20 you can cash out and they mail you a cheque within days after you click ‘cash out’.
Here’s my Checkout 51 review. I don’t tend to use it as much anymore, I use Caddle more.
Click here for more cash back coupon apps and websites in Canada.
I also check Caddle to see if there are any receipts that I can upload. Oftentimes they reward you with $0.10 to upload your receipt. For Costco receipts, Caddle gives you $0.50 to upload your receipt to Caddle. It is also $20 to be able to cash out via cheque.
Caddle is one of the apps that pay you to scan receipts in Canada.
USE THE FLASHFOOD APP
Another way to save on groceries in Canada is to use something called Flashfood.
Saving on food cost can help you also reduce food waste. Flashfood is a relatively new food waste app in Canada that allows you to buy food that is either surplus or will be going ‘bad’ soon to help reduce food waste and helps you save money.
The food is at least a 50% discount and in Superstore locations, is kept near the entrance or customer service area. I’ve had a great experience picking up my Flashfood items and it’s been very straight forward and easy.
I find that Flashfood is great especially for breads, yogurt, and meats (you can just pop the meat in the freezer or portion them out and pop in the freezer).
Each Flashfood location has different ‘offerings’ and the ‘good stuff’ tends to get snapped up more quickly. It’s best to check out what Flashfood has earlier in the day.
Sometimes I have seen similar pricing within the Superstore location (and not in the Flashfood area) so it’s a good idea to check out the store before you head over to the Flashfood area.
Here’s my Flashfood App review and how you can save money on surplus groceries at Superstore.
You can also get $5 free for trying the Flashfood app.
REDEEM PC OPTIMUM POINTS
Saving on groceries in Canada is easy with the PC Optimum program and it is one of Canada’s favourite loyalty program.
I love the PC Optimum Program and am a loyal collector.
We have the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard to collect PC Optimum points and it has treated us well. When we are wanting to buy a special item that is not on sale (well, not necessarily a grocery item, but for example, some new pillows) then we use the PC Optimum Points to redeem.
Sometimes I do redeem the PC Optimum points for groceries. You can redeem in $10 increments, or 10,000 PC Optimum points. It’s a great feeling when you have a bill of $104.23 at Superstore, and you just redeem $100 worth of PC Optimum points (100,000 points) and you just pay $4.23.
Here are 6 ways to maximize your PC Optimum points.
Use a Cash Back Credit Card
Another favourite way to save money grocery shopping in Canada is to use cash back credit cards. There are a few cash back credit cards that help you save money on groceries.
If you shop at Loblaws stores, the President’s Choice Mastercard is an excellent choice that gives you back 3% on your purchases at places like No Frills and Superstore, and 4.5% return at Shoppers Drug Mart.
If you are shopping at a non-Loblaws stores a few of the cash back credit cards give you 4% cash back.
For example, the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite gives you 4% cash back. Right now they have a promotion for 10% cash back on your first $2000 spend (basically $200 cash back).
The one caveat is that the cash back is paid out once a year in November (the 10% cash back is paid out earlier though).
Here’s my review of the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite card.
During the earlier part of the pandemic, instead of travel hacking I was cash back card hacking.
Here are some other 10% cash back credit cards in Canada.
Save on Groceries Summary
Hopefully this post helped you figure out how to save on groceries in Canada.
We can’t change inflation and we can’t change the environment we are in, just what is within our control.
In addition, you could celebrate infrequently with birthday freebies to treat yourself for avoiding those New York Cheddar kettle chips.
Great Canadian Rebates is also another way to save money while shopping online, or signing up for credit card bonuses.
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How do you save money grocery shopping in Canada?
GYM is a 30 something millennial interested in achieving financial freedom through disciplined saving, dividend and ETF investing, and living a minimalist lifestyle. Before you go, check out my recommendations page of financial tools I use to save and invest money. Don’t forget to subscribe for blog updates, a free dividend yield spreadsheet, and the free Young Money Bootcamp eCourse.