21 Practical Ways To Save Money on Food and Grocery Shopping

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by Enoch Omololu

Updated

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Food is expensive and prices keep going up! Since groceries are one of the average family’s main expenses, it is important to find ways to save money when next you are at the grocery store so you can cut your food bill.

The average Canadian household (a family of four) was expected to spend a total of $11,948 in 2018, while in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), an average household spent $7,203 on food in 2016.

Here are some practical money-saving tips to help you save hundreds to thousands of dollars on groceries and your other shopping this year.

*Note: The $$ symbol below refers to potential savings of hundreds of dollars per year and $$$ refers to potential savings of thousands of dollars per year.

How To Save Money on Groceries

1. Prepare a Grocery list

A grocery list helps you stay focused when you go shopping. Instead of walking along the aisle and picking whatever catches your fancy, a list gives you something to focus on and helps you stick with your budget.

A list prepared in advance also means that you are less likely to forget what you need and can save you several repeat trips (and gas) to the grocery store.

Check out the $5 Meal Plan to help you save even more!

Potential savings: $$/year

2. Earn Cashback on Groceries

There are several apps that allow you to earn cash back on your grocery purchases. The general idea behind them is:

  • They have different offers that qualify for cash back every week
  • You can purchase items from any store of your choosing
  • Scan your receipt and upload using the app
  • Earn cash-back
  • Redeem your cash-back once you reach a threshold amount, such as $20.

Popular grocery cash-back apps include:

Canada: Drop, KOHO ($20 bonus), Caddle, Ampli, Paymi, Checkout 51, and Rakuten

United States: Checkout 51, Drop, TopCashBack, SavingStar, Mr. Rebates, and Ibotta

Depending on the item’s price and offer, I have seen cash-back offers as high as 40%. In addition, Checkout 51 and Caddle also have cash offers to watch short videos or answer short survey questionnaires relating to certain products.

Potential savings: $$ per year depending on what you buy and the offers available.

3. Buy in Bulk

When your routine grocery items and household supplies come on sale, buy in bulk and preserve/keep for another day. We bulk up on laundry soap and other cleaning supplies, rice, meat, frozen fruits, and more when on sale and often save as much as 50%.

Get a chest freezer if you do not have one. Meat and most other foods last for up to 6 months or more when frozen.

Potential savings: $$$/year

4. Reconsider Buying Organic

Don’t get me wrong – there’s much good to be had from buying food items that are not pumped full of dangerous chemicals and other residues. However, be smart when you pay “premium” prices on items simply because they are labelled organic.

During the time I worked in regulatory food inspection, I have come upon “organic” farmers-market-type businesses re-packaging store eggs as “free-range” and “organic” and reselling them at a premium to unsuspecting customers.

5. Buy Produce in Season

Cut your grocery bill by purchasing what’s in season. When fruits are plentiful, fresh, and cheap, buy, cut them up, and freeze, especially if you love to make smoothies.

Make jams, can what you can, and you won’t have to buy them as much when their season has passed and they become more expensive.

produce

6. Buy Generic

Try buying the “no-name” brands at the store and compare them to their branded alternatives. More often than not, you will not find any significant differences, except in price, of course! Stop paying a premium for labels.

Potential savings: You can save as much as 50% or even more by buying generic items.

7. Use a Calculator

Retailers have mastered the art of making you spend money by bombarding you with all kinds of promotions:

  • “10% off”
  • “10 for $10”
  • “Buy Now and Pay Later”
  • “Buy One, Get One 50% Off”

Don’t get fooled! Use your phone’s calculator to see if a discount makes sense or not. How much are you actually paying? See if that 10% discount on the branded item truly makes for a better purchase than the generic one you usually buy.

Potential savings: $$/year

8. Check Your Receipt

Examine your grocery receipt before exiting the store especially when you are buying a trolley full of items and have a long receipt.

I have detected scanner errors multiple times that either meant a product was scanned more than once by error, or the sale price on an item was not reflected.

In most cases, it is just a few dollars extra, however, I have had instances where bigger errors were made. If you find that there are errors on your receipt, proceed to customer service to get it rectified.

In one case while shopping at the Real Canadian Superstore, a sale discount (and savings of approx $18) was not reflected on my receipt. When I got to customer service, they not only corrected the error, but I also received an additional $10 gift card – I guess it was their way of saying sorry.

9. Bring Your Own Bags (BYOB)

When you go to the grocery store, remember to bring your own reusable bags so you do not have to pay 5 to 10 cents per bag sold at the store.

It’s not a lot of money, but the savings become significant when you add it up over the course of a year.

10. Avoid Grocery Shopping on an Empty Stomach

Seriously! I generally do the grocery shopping for our family, and it is on those days when my tummy is making odd noises from missing a meal, that I tend to buy a snack to munch over, or buy items outside of the shopping list and go over budget.

When you are hungry, food becomes more appealing, and the likelihood of you over-spending skyrockets.

Potential savings: $$/year

11. Scan Your Groceries and Earn Rewards

There are many companies that pay you for scanning your grocery receipts.

Nielsen Homescan (Canada) and National Consumer Panel (U.S.) reward you for scanning the barcodes on your grocery purchases and transmitting the data to them.

The reward is generally in the form of gift points. You earn additional points for being dedicated to transmitting on a weekly basis and answering surveys.

You can use your accumulated points to redeem various gift cards and other items including jewellery, small kitchen appliances, etc.

To scan your groceries, they provide you with a free scanner. They often offer other rewards including real money. When my wife signed up, she was going to receive a $15 Visa Prepaid Card every month for one year – that’s $180 in real money.

Potential savings: $$ per year

12. Cook in Bulk

Save dollars by cooking in bulk and then portion out and freeze or refrigerate. You will save on time, use less energy, and eat out less often because you can simply warm up food on those days you can’t be bothered to cook.

Depending on our schedule, we sometimes cook as many as two 2-3 weeks’ worth of meals in one go.

Potential savings: $$/year

cook

Related Posts:

How To Save Money on Your Shopping in General

13. Earn Cash-Back

There are companies that pay you cash when you use their online portal to access your favourite online store.

The most popular of these online cashback portals is Rakuten (formerly Ebates) and they provide opportunities to earn cash rebates when you shop at stores including Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Kohls, Home Depot, Hudson Bay, Expedia, Sephora, and over 1,800 other stores.

Cashback offers as high as 40% are available on Rakuten and you get a welcome cash bonus of $30 when you sign up and make your first purchase of $30 or more.

Other great cash-back sites for your general purchases include KOHO ($20 bonus), Swagbucks, TopCashBack, MyPoints (U.S.), SavingStar, and Mr.Rebates.

In addition to offering cash-back on your online shopping, Ebates also offers cash rewards for referring friends and family, like this offer below:

ebates

Potential savings: $$/year

14. Comparison-Shop Before Making Purchases

In addition to cash-back and rebates apps, you can easily save some money when shopping by comparing prices for products across stores online and looking for the best offer.

Comparing prices has never been easier with price-comparison websites doing the work for you all in one place.

Examples of these websites include:

Canada: Shopbot.ca, Nextag.ca, PriceGrabber.ca, and PriceFinder.ca

US: Pricegrabber.com, Bizrate.com, Shopzilla.com, and Nextag.com

15. Cut Coupons

Coupons can save you lots of money annually, but don’t go to the extreme and waste valuable time. While cash-back apps like Checkout 51, Caddle, and Fetch Rewards (the U.S. only), are like the new kids on the block, couponing has been around forever.

Find coupons online here:

Canada: Save.ca, Redflagdeals.com, and Smartcanucks.ca

US: Coupons.com, Redplum.com, Krazycouponlady.com, DontPayFull, and Retailmenot.com

You can also combine coupons with other rebate apps to maximize your savings.

Potential savings: $$/year

16. Buy Quality Items

Well-researched high-quality items can mean paying a bit more initially, but since they last longer and present fewer hassles, they can save you money in the long run.

When it comes to tools (such as a lawnmower) that I plan to use often and kitchen appliances, I prefer to buy quality and skip on annoying breakdowns, time wastage, and repair/replacement costs.

You should still do your research, comparison-shop, and look at the accompanying warranties to ensure the price you are paying is truly indicative of top-notch quality.

17. Shun Extended Warranties

The consensus is that extended warranties are generally not worth it. If you do your research and buy the right item, you will find that products are generally made to last longer than the warranty being offered, and when they fail afterward, you will have wasted cold, hard cash!

Oftentimes, the extended warranty does not cover everything you think it does, and you may be surprised by what’s in the small print when you want to file a claim.

Check your credit card’s information booklet as it may already offer to extend the manufacturer’s warranty by up to one additional year.

Instead of purchasing an extended warranty, save the money and watch it grow. When next the salesperson asks if you want to purchase additional warranties, just say “No!”

Potential savings: $$ per year

18. Shop Clothes/Shoes on Sale

You can pretty much wear any brand of clothes you want (at a discount) if you know where/when to shop for them.

The first rule is to shop out of season – when retailers want to get rid of the old stock. For example, buy your winter gear in Spring.

Another trick is to find your preferred style at discount clothing stores like TJ Maxx, Winners, Marshalls, Ross, and others.

Don’t chase the trend and buy expensive. Once a fad passes, prices crash! To increase your savings on clothes/shoes, learn to take good care of them so they last a long time.

Potential savings: $$/year

clothes

19. Do Holiday Shopping After the Holidays

The holidays may be over, but this is usually a great time to get the best deals possible on items you have on your wish list.

For example, after Christmas, you get steep discounts on consumer electronics, cars, gift sets, toys, decorations, winter wear, Christmas lights and trees, chocolates, greeting cards, and so on. After Halloween, candy goes on sale…you get the idea!

You can buy these items and save money during the next holiday season. I don’t think that Christmas decorations go out of fashion!

Potential savings: $$ per year

20. Avoid Impulse Purchases

I remember once buying a super-nice trench coat on the fly while at a conference abroad. It was nice, fit me perfectly, and was expensive (roughly $400).

Suffice it to say that I have come to regret this purchase – it is unused, ill-fitted to my day-to-day work reality, and remains an eyesore where it hangs in my closet unused. I guess I can refer to it as my $400 souvenir!

When you feel the sudden urge to make a pricey purchase, ask yourself:

  • Do I really need this?
  • Any cheaper alternatives?
  • Where can I compare prices?
  • Can it wait?

Buy yourself some time to mull it over. Wait a few days and see if you can still justify buying the item. You will be surprised at how much you can save this way.

21. Don’t Window Shop

How many times have you gone “window-shopping” and ended up buying something you did not budget for?

To save money, avoid window shopping especially if you are prone to making impulse purchases. If you must wander around the malls while on vacation, consider leaving your wallet behind.

You may also be interested in:

Save Money on Groceries and Shopping
21 Ways To Save Money When Shopping. Do you want to lower your monthly household expenses and start saving money on groceries and all your other shopping? Check out these great tips to start saving money every month even on the same income. #groceries #mealplanning #savemoney #tips #budget #family #nocoupons

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Author

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Enoch Omololu

Enoch Omololu is a personal finance expert and a veterinarian. He has a master’s degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Aberdeen Business School (Scotland) and has completed several courses and certificates in finance, including the Canadian Securities Course. He also has an MSc. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Manitoba and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan. Enoch has a passion for helping others win with their personal finances and has been writing about money matters for over a decade. He has been featured or quoted in The Globe and Mail, Winnipeg Free Press, Wealthsimple, Financial Post, Toronto Star, CTV News, Canadian Securities Exchange, Credit Canada, National Post, CIBC, and many other personal finance publications.

His top investment tools include Wealthsimple and Questrade. He earns cash back on purchases using KOHO, monitors his credit score for free using Borrowell, and earns interest on savings through EQ Bank.

3 thoughts on “21 Practical Ways To Save Money on Food and Grocery Shopping”

  1. All great tips Enoch!
    For groceries, I would also recommend to limit the number of trips to the grocery store. It has helped us a lot. Cheers

    • Great point, Caroline! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Has anyone tried Sobey’s rewards? If you spend $100, you get a $10 card to be used on the next purchase.

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