We all do it. You get to the grocery store and that list that you so meticulously made, divided into columns of grocery sections, only stays official once you enter the doors. Upon entering, that list might as well have been junk mail for all of the good it is going to do you now. You grab a cart (your first mistake) and begin filling it with awful food items that you will never eat; pushing them to the back of the freezer only to find them years later with a mysterious green fuzz. This list is meant to encourage you with ways to save money at the grocery store. It will be updated (probably with every shop I do, or with any tip I receive). Feel free to comment with you own tips to save money when purchasing food, and lets start saving money NOW!


1) DON`T get a grocery cart unless you absolutely need it. I find that whenever I grab a grocery cart, I feel this compulsive need to fill it, even when I only need a few products. Instead, I have started using those carrying baskets, which require more effort on my part, and can only be filled to a certain point. Truth be told, I usually fill them until I get this lovely red rings on my arms, but I always manage to buy less.

2) ALWAYS plan ahead. If you have any time throughout the day (prior to a grocery run), other than making a quick list (and stick to it) of possible meals you would like to make, take a quick peek at the food you have available in your cupboards. I am bad for buying doubles, when if I had just taken a few seconds to check, I would have seen that I already had the items needed to make a certain meal. One thought is to catalog what is in each cupboard, perhaps taping it to the inside door. Then whenever you run out of something, you can just tick it off.

3) DON`T enter a grocery store when you, or someone you are with is hungry. No matter what, if you are hungry you will buy more. Everything (even stuff that would normally gross you out) looks weirdly delicious when you are hungry. My vegan sentimentality is always put to the test when I enter the grocery store on an empty stomach. Eat before you leave people!

4) DO buy fruits and vegetables with the seasons. If you buy out of season, not only will it not be local, but it will be more expensive due to the cost of shipping. A few great websites to find out what is in season are as follows:

Canadian and American: "Eat the Seasons"
Canadian (Ontario): "Harvest Ontario" or "Foodland"

Canadian (British Columbia):  "Act Now"

American:  "Sustainable Table"

5) You might feel a bit 'dorky', but you can carry a calculator with you anytime you place an item in your shopping bag/ cart (or at least a mental note). That way you are made aware of how much you are spending, and it may encourage you to go without that extra bag of chocolate chips.

6) DO use the scales. They are there to weigh, and therefore price your food. You would be surprised at the difference of price for two pieces of vegetables/ fruits that look to be the same size. Consider also how much you need of a certain item to feed your family. I am always swooned by the 'larger' pieces of fruits and vegetables, only to find out that I use or eat less than half. So, weigh it, save it.

7) Avoid packaged foods if you can help it. I always do two store trips per grocery shop. 1 is the grocery store, whereas the other is a a local Bulk store (Bulk Barn for those who live in Ontario). A lot of grocery stores have great bulk sections to browse. I buy all of my nuts, beans, and baking ingredients in Bulk, and my fruit and vegetables at the grocery store. Even though it takes more time, I save tons of money by doing this.

8) DO use coupons, and DO shop around. Those flyers that you get in the mail and normally throw out are full of savings. Also, why stick to only 1 grocery store? If there are coupons for a few products that are on your list at another grocery store, and it is close enough to get there, why not? I recognize that time is not always on our side, but EVERY grocery store offers some sort of coupon or savings on any given day, so keep an eye out for them, or ask, when in doubt. Most grocery stores have their savings posted on their websites, so use the internet as a resource to save money.

9) DON'T grocery shop when you are tired, or hungover. This will just convince you to buy sweets or carbohydrates that your body does not need.

10) DO buy lots of sale products that are freezable. Recently my husband and I stumbled on some 50% off bread (expired that day), bought several loaves, and are reaping the benefits to this day! This goes for all other baked goods, or even vegetables and fruits (which can be chopped and placed in a reusable container, to freeze for later use)

11) Have a goal in mind for the week. My husband recently dared me to spend only 35 bucks on groceries per week/ per month, and I certainly wouldn't want to lose to him! Consider your typical weekly grocery cost, and make a goal to spend 10 dollars or more, less.

12) DO think of the ways that grocery stores trick their customers. The highest markup items on the shelves are at about chest level. Reach up or kneel down to select the cheaper house or generic brands.

13) Furthermore, DON'T be fooled by 'name brands'. Many people think that because it is more expensive, that means that it is better. WRONG. One simple look at an ingredients list will tell you that there is nothing different between two products, with two labels. Furthermore, many companies (expensive and cheap) share the same manufacturer. While you might look 'posh' by buying the higher priced brand, us cheapies are laughing at you, all the way to the bank!

14) When comparing similar items among brands and sizes, look at more than just the price. To find the true cost, check the price per unit (per 100 grams or 100 mL), which is usually in tiny print below the main price on the label affixed to the shelf; a bigger package, or another brand may end up being cheaper

15) For meat eaters, DO swap meats for other proteins such as beans, nuts or tofu. Adding more vegetarian/ vegan meals to your routine will save you tons of money (trust me, I know).

16) DO your own food prep. I know it is tempting to buy the pre-prepared items, but that little bit of extra effort will save you some big moola! Get yours kids, or your husband to help you in the kitchen, thinking ahead about what you will need done for the week. 

17) Try not to bring your kids (or in my case, my husband) when shopping. I know that this is easier said then done, but extra hands mean extra food. 

18) DON'T be swayed by checkout stand impulse buys. You don't need that extra pack of gum, or those batteries, or that magazine. They are there for a reason, to make you spend more. 

19) Consider buying at your local farmers markets. Not only will you usually get locally grown/ organic produce, but it is often at a fraction of the cost of inferior grocery store products. I frequent the Guelph (Ontario) Farmer's market every Saturday, which also inspires me for potential meals. 

20) Consider what you are ingesting. I think it is safe to say that if you lead with your eyes (or stomach), more-often than not you will choose food items that will not provide you with nutritious, filling ingredients. Consider hearty grains, legumes, nuts, and lentils during meal time, and you will be surprised not only about how smaller your portion sizes can be, but also how much money you save (when done on a regular basis).
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