In part 1 of our grocery shopping series, top hacks for how to make grocery shopping easier, we dove in to how to make grocery shopping easier.
Now that we’ve gone through how to make grocery shopping feel like less of a chore, we’re breaking down 9 little tips for big grocery savings. These are small changes you can make to save more on your weekly shopping trip.
1. Shop frozen
Frozen food is one of my favourite healthy eating on a budget hacks. I think frozen food gets a bad rap because of our preconceived notions about what frozen food is, which is fresh food that’s…well…not fresh anymore.
While we seem to be okay with some frozen food (ice cream anyone?), the idea of eating nothing but frozen vegetables is not appealing to most.
Well, it’s time to challenge your beliefs about frozen food because it’s actually just as, and sometimes more, nutritious than it’s fresh counterparts.
Plus, it’s almost always less expensive.
I can get a 2 kg (about 4 lbs) bag of frozen berries in the winter for $11.99. Compared to 900 g (2 lbs) of strawberries for $10 and not nearly as delicious (remember out of season fruit often doesn’t taste that great).
Buying frozen food also helps ensure less food goes to waste, which can also be a big money drainer. The average family throws away $1,500 in food every single year. You don’t think about that when you throw a few rotting apples in to the compost, but the cost can really add up.
Try frozen produce, meat, and fish for big savings, and reduce the stress of having to use everything in a specific amount of time. Just be sure to avoid the frozen ready-made-meals which are not only more expensive, but almost always a less than healthy choice.
2. Choose generic brands
I’ll be honest, I’m super brand loyal. I guess I’m just a sucker for nice packaging and familiar company names. Sure it may be $2 more, but that means it must be better, right?
For some products, generic brands are practically identical to their name brand counterparts. They’re manufactured in the same facility and produced in the same way. This especially holds true for staple food items and dry goods like flour, sugar, and spices.
That may be why chefs are more likely to buy generic brand food, especially things like flour, sugar, tea, spreads, and dips. I don’t know about you, but I trust chefs’ opinions of quality food ingredients.
Here are some of my favourite generic brands to buy:
- Kirkland: There is nothing about Costco I don’t love, including their Kirkland products. Word on the street is Kirkland vodka is produced in the same facility as Grey Goose. I’ll take that with a squeeze of lemon please.
- 365: Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand is a great option if you’re looking for organic food at a fraction of the cost. My favourite buy is their organic German mustard for $1.99. Free of weird ingredients and utterly delicious, you really can’t beat it.
- Compliments: Sobeys Compliments line includes organic, gluten free, and green care items. It’s a great affordable option that fits any kind of diet or lifestyle. Plus the products are fantastic.
Step outside your comfort zone and explore some generic brand products for big grocery savings. You may be surprised at just how good they can be.
3. Avoid pre-packaged food
Pre-packaged food is a dream come true after a busy day of work. It’s hard to muster up the energy to go home and make lasagna when there’s a ready to go lasagna in the cooler at Whole Foods staring you in the face.
While it may be easy to choose convenience in the short-term, you’re definitely going to pay for it. Pre-packaged food can cost two to three times as much as if you were to go home and make it yourself.
If you’re relying on ready-made sandwiches and salads for your lunches every day, that really adds up. One solution? Meal prepping and leftovers.
Take the time on Sunday to plan out all your meals for the week and shop for them accordingly. Make sure you have everything you need to feed yourself and prep as much as you can ahead of time. I like to batch cook things like lentils and quinoa to keep in the fridge, as well as cut up veggies ready to go.
Once you have those big meals cooked, take leftovers for lunch. With a little practice and a few good recipes you’ll soon find your leftovers are better than a lot of people’s “firstovers”.
With plenty of options at hand there’s no excuse not to eat at home or pack your lunch.
4. Know the difference between the “sell by”, “best by”, and “use by” dates
Here’s another confession – I’m very wary of food expiration dates. I’m that person that throws away a tub of yogurt the day after it’s expiry date, as if all of a sudden at midnight it transformed from an edible delicacy to a cesspool of disease.
A little irrational, I know.
The first step to avoiding unnecessary food waste, and saving some money in the process, is to understand what all those different dates on your food mean. Doing so can keep you from throwing your money and your yogurt down the drain.
These are the dates most commonly found on food and exactly what they mean:
- Sell by: This date is for retailers, not the consumer. It’s the date by which the product should be taken off the shelf or sold by. This is more a matter of quality and less about whether or not the food is safe to eat. In fact, food still has up to a third of its shelf life left after the sell-by date. The exception to this rule is if you’re buying meat discounted for quick sale because it’s close to its sell by date. Make sure you cook those right away.
- Best by: This is the date by which you should eat food to make sure it still tastes as best as it could. Food isn’t necessarily unsafe to eat after the best by date, it just make not taste as good.
- Use by: This is the closest thing to an expiry date, but even this one is mostly based around quality. Do your best to eat food before the use by date and be mindful that I may become unsafe to eat quickly thereafter.
Understanding exactly what these dates mean can help you in your money saving journey by limiting the amount of food you throw away. I once ate hummus that was a month after its use by date and was fine. But of course, I would not recommend that.
5. Check out the clearance section
The first thing I do when I walk into a clothing store is go to the clearance rack. In fact, I almost exclusively shop on the clearance rack and I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s the best way for fast savings.
If you haven’t checked out the clearance rack at your local grocery store, or if you didn’t even know you had one, it’s time to give it a look. You can find some great deals on day-old bread and bakery items (hello homemade croutons, bread pudding, and bread crumbs), food that’s about to expire (or is it?), and miscellaneous home products.
It’s a good way to explore some new products and perhaps find a great discount on something you were already going to buy.
My mom’s grocery savings hack? She always bought her bread from the clearance section of the grocery store. It was yesterday’s bread that they baked in house, and it was always just as delicious. Then she would bring it home, cut it up, and stick it in the freezer to maintain its freshness.
I never even know it was “old” bread until she told me her secret.
Freshness tip: store bread at room temperature on the counter or in the freezer. Bread in the fridge goes stale super fast.
6. Sign up for rewards programs
Have you ever seen an item marked on sale at the grocery store, only to find out that price only applies to rewards members?
Lucky for you, many grocery stores have rewards programs that are free to sign up for and come with cool perks. These are some of the biggest advantages of signing up for a rewards program:
- Collect points on purchases: With a lot of rewards programs, you’ll collect points every time you make a purchase. You can then redeem these points for discounts, free groceries, and even gift cards and travel.
- Exclusive access to sale prices: Sometimes sale prices will be offered only to rewards members. Considering it’s free to sign up, there’s no reason not to take advantage of these exclusive offers.
- Chances to win bigger prizes: Rewards members will often be automatically entered for a chance to win bigger prizes like vacations or large sums of money. Someone has to win those things, right?
Next time you’re at the store, see if they have a rewards program you can sign up for. You’re going to shop there anyways, why not get something back for it when you do?
7. Avoid the impulse buy
I like making grocery lists. It’s kind of my thing. I went pretty deep into detail on the art of making and organizing a grocery shopping list already, so I won’t bore you with the details.
What I will say is that having a list and sticking to it is going to really help your savings in the long run. Without a list, you’re far more likely to throw things in your cart without really thinking about it.
Make a commitment to yourself to only buy what’s on your list for one month – no impulse buys, just things that you absolutely need.
I’m sure you’ll find it’s a lot easier than you think.
Another tip to avoid the impulse buy is to use meal kits and food delivery services. This way you won’t be tempted by the fudge-dipped double stuff Oreos at the end of the aisle. If you’re new to meal kits, it’s easy.
- Simply choose from a weekly menu of recipes
- Fresh produce and ingredients get delivered to your door
- You cook tasty and healthy meals at home
Right now through Moola, you can save 5% on food delivery and meal kits services like Spud, HelloFresh, Chefs Plate, and more.
8. Use gift cards
Did you know that gift cards are not just for gifting? With Moola, for instance, you can buy gift cards to brands like Safeway, Sobeys, Longo’s, IGA, Thrifty Foods, and more save on your grocery bill.
Self-purchasing gift cards to the grocery store is an easy way to get big savings on the things you buy.
Go ahead and download Moola now to stretch that grocery budget a bit further. Maybe now you can splurge on that dairy-free Ben and Jerry’s half-baked ice cream.
9. Stick to the perimeter of the store
Imagine the layout of a grocery store. On the outside you have your produce, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy. In the middle you have… everything else.
I try my best to venture into the aisles of grocery stores as little as possible.
Sticking to the perimeter of the store as much as possible will help you to avoid getting trapped in impulsive, processed food purchases. It’s also a good rule to live by if you’re trying to eat a bit healthier, as cocoa puffs and strawberry jam aren’t necessarily part of a healthy diet.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule (like cans of beans and bags of rice), but do your best to shop outside the aisles if you’re trying to keep to a strict budget.
What about the stuff at the ends of the aisles? Those endcaps are there to tempt you to buy things you might not need. Sometimes they are a good deal… but can sometimes be a trap into buying fudge-dipped double stuff Oreos.
Time to score some serious grocery savings
Buying groceries isn’t going away anytime soon, but with a few tips and tricks, you can save more on the that thing you can’t avoid.