I have been on the path to reducing our family’s monthly expenses for the past 2-3 months, and I have been soaking up every Youtube channel, blog, podcast, book, and Instagram account on the topic. I found myself getting increasingly frustrated that the majority of information out there was a) written in the US and did not apply to us here in the Great White North, and b) groceries cost an arm and a leg here! So here it is, a money saving article about what worked for this Northern Canadian girl.
How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half without coupons:
- Have a budget and stick to it
- Scroll your fliers weekly to see whats on sale
- Build a meal plan around sale items
- Start limiting your shop to once per week
- Take advantage of price matching
- Use cash-back apps and store rewards cards
- Shop with a calculator – keep a running total while you shop
- Shop without distractions
- Go shopping with a list and stick to it
- Make discount stores your “home” store
- Start trying No-Name and store brand items
- Pay attention to your price points
- Stock up when pantry items and freezer items go on sale
- Do a pantry challenge
Before starting this little grocery savings adventure, my husband I were spending between $1000-1200/month on groceries, I based dinner on “whatever we felt like” that night, and were grocery shopping between 3-4 times a week. I have to be honest here, and I know I am not alone… grocery shopping is like slowly inserting bamboo shoots under my fingernails. I hate it with the passion of a thousand burning suns. *shudder*
Lets dive into how this all started, and let me give you even more juicy tips below.
Jordan Page recommends a budget of $100/person/month (insert jaw drop here), that was not a realistic amount (for a plethora of reasons, number 1 being that I live in Northern Canada and pricey groceries is the norm), I added $50 and settled on a budget of $150/person/month toiletries included (if you have meat access that doesn’t include the Deli isle, or you don’t eat meat, you might be able to get away with closer to $100-125). Now that I had my dollar amount, I actually had to find some way to pull it off, because that took my current grocery bill and chopped it in half. GAH!
First, I got on my local mom groups, and searched out anything and everything to do with grocery budgets where we live, and the majority of those who responded had budgets that were between $800-$1500 feeding a family of 4. BUT, there were a few people posting budgets that were significantly less, feeding more people, and I just HAD to know how they did it, so I could replicate it. So I asked, and a few really amazing women offered up their time to help me, and were my cheering squad for me when I pulled it off (Thank you JoJo and Jen for proving to me I could do this).
I have now been doing this successfully for the past 2 months and here are the juicy bits you’ve been waiting on…
Challenge accepted… Here’s what worked.
1. Have a budget and stick to it.
Decide on your monthly budget, then divide that number into weeks in the month. I pull out the cash I need for that week, and I simply do not allow myself to pull out my debit card if I go over what I budgeted for that week. If I am over what I anticipated I will pull it out of my very small restaurant allowance, or take it from my fuel budget for that week.
To find your monthly budget, use the number of people in your family and multiply it by $150 (for our family of 4 that equals $600 for the month). Once you have that number divide it by weeks in that month ($600 divided by 4 equals $150) and now you have your weekly grocery budget allowance.
Just a quick side note, we get paid biweekly so I have chosen to stick with $150/week on the odd months that have 5 weeks in them, but you can choose what works best for your family.
2. Scroll your fliers weekly to see what’s on sale
I use an app called Flipp which compiles all my local fliers, so I can create a grocery list and find out where to get those items cheapest. This app allows me to price match at the tills if one of my items is cheaper somewhere else.
3. Build a meal plan that’s based around sale items
This has made a MASSIVE difference to us. I use meats that are on sale, and start that as starting point to build up my plan around. This meal plan (more on that here) is pretty loose, and I use it to make sure I have what I need for those seven meals each week – if we change our mind, then I refuse to go back to the grocery store for anything. Nope. Not happening.
4. Limit grocery shopping to once per week
Yep. You read that right. I cannot tell you how much money this has saved us. Think about it, every time you run into the store for “just that one thing,” do you not come out with at least a bag full and spent at least $40? No? I’m alone in this?! I didn’t think so. Also, less time in the grocery store… Yes please.
5. Take advantage of price matching
Now I have to be honest here, this one has been hard for me. It can be a bit awkward, and I hate that people in line behind me have to wait because not all clerks are well trained in this area. I remind myself that these stores advertise these services, and that if their clerks are not well trained in it, I can help them along patiently, or ask to have a more experienced staff help them. It helps to apologize to the patrons behind me for taking up their time as we wait for them to figure it out – and if I can warn them or allow them to go ahead of me I do.
I price-match between 2-5 items per shopping trip on average – and that has amounted to between $50 – $80 in savings this month, not to mention the fact that I now only have to shop one store instead of 2-3. The less time spent shopping, is more time spent with my husband and kids.
I price match at Save-On-Foods, Walmart, and No Frills – just check your local stores for their policies as not all locations offer this service.
6. Use cash-back apps and store rewards cards
These are the cards I use every single week:
Checkout 51 (click here to get an account)- think of this app as like a digital coupon, so instead of printing paper coupons you can match offers for the week, load your receipt and request a check when you hit $20 of rewards. I have an account for me, and one for my husband, and the offers on each will be slightly different.
I do two separate transactions if I plan on using my husband’s account because I heard that they will delete your account and your rewards for loading identical receipts on two accounts. My first check came 2 months after starting with them for $22. It might not seem like much, but its money I wouldn’t have otherwise. Worth it!
Caddle (click here for an account)- similar to Checkout 51, only they offer money back for surveys you can take as well. I find that they are more limited in the quantities they offer, however, their dollar amounts per item is often higher. I am one shop away from cashing out that account as well for another $20. Hello slush fund. And by “slush” I obviously mean coffee, because what mother doesn’t need caffeine?!
PC points card – this rewards card is changing to the PC Optimum card in the new year, but for now it has paid me back $110 in free groceries, which is AMAZING, and the year isn’t up yet! Cha-Ching!
Check your favorite stores to see if they have a points/rewards card.
7. Shop with a calculator and keep a running tally while you shop
I start with $150 and start subtracting as I shop, I want no surprises when I hit the till… unlike that one time that I cleared my calculator by mistake, and ended up nearly having a heart attack at the till when I was $36 over my budget… which leads me into my next piece of advice…
8. Shop without distractions
Guys, I believe in shopping alone, it is one thing that makes grocery shopping a little easier on me, and it saves me money (need evidence? See the over-budget disaster above).
I need my full brain to pull this off, and simply cannot do that gracefully, or with my sanity intact, when my kids are trying to pull treats into my cart while I am not looking or distracting me with tales of their incredible adventures. I keep waiting on my pre-baby brain to show up, but it must have been sent Canada Post because it is simply not arriving on time.
This is not always possible, even for me, but I really do try. It helps to have a wonderful supportive crew around who will take my kids for the hour and a bit it takes me to get my shop done – topping that list is my husband. If you have a support around you to help, take advantage of it, even if it means trading babysitting with a friend.
9. Shop shopping with a list and stick to it
I think this one is pretty self explanatory, however I do have a tip for the flipp app here:
Add items into your grocery list that are good for the freezer or non-perishable. I can glance at those items each week, and stock up when they hit a great price, you can see if they are sale by simply clicking on the item to see all of the fliers that have that item listed.
Things I do this with are baking supplies, frozen veggies/fruit, pasta/rice/beans, and lastly canned goods such as soups and pasta sauce. I think I could actually get my budget a bit lower than $150/week if I didn’t do this – but it saves us money in the long run. By the time I have grabbed my most essential items I am usually left with about $10-15 to use for stock-up staple items.
10. Make discount stores your “home” store
I used to shop primarily at Save-On-Foods, but let’s be honest, they are tied for the most expensive groceries in my town. I started shopping No Frills, this switch alone has saved me roughly $75 a week, that’s $300 a month! This does mean that from time to time I have to go get my coffee and my chicken somewhere else, but 90% of the time I can get what I want, at the quality I like if I am picky about what I grab.
If there is a store that offers less expensive groceries as a whole in your area, you need to be shopping there.
11. Start trying no-name & store brands
I have been testing the no name brand over some of my name brand items, and have found that they are perfectly acceptable replacements at a fraction of the cost. As an added benefit I have found that there are less additives in the store brands, over brand name items. This has been especially helpful as we are trying to limit our sugar intake, as well as processed foods.
12. Pay attention to your price points
What I mean by this, is that it is important to know how much your typical staple items cost. For example, our family loves grapes, but they are often $3-4 per pound! I am not paying that much for them, so when they dip below $2 a pound, I will grab a bag or two, and that will be the fruit that we enjoy for the week.
13. Stock up on non-perishables when they go on sale
This tip piggy backs off tip #12. If you can easily recognize a good deal, you know when you need to stock up on that particular thing. If it can be kept in the pantry, or frozen, you can save a ton by stocking up while they are at rock bottom prices.
I dedicate $25-50 of our budget solely for this purpose. When I find meat on sale I buy it in bulk, then separate it into meal size portions, and vaccum pack it using our food saver. If I find things like canned soup or pasta sauce on for a good price, I will grab 5-10 of them to hold us off until the next great sale.
14. Do a pantry challenge
Pantry challenges are a really popular way that people in the #debtfreecommunity over on Instagram save money. Basically, you eat what you have and see how long you can go without grocery shopping.
I find for us, when I have been really good about stocking up when things are on sale, I get to a place where we have too much food to need a “real” grocery shop. This tends to happen once every 4 or so months, and we have done 3 in the past year where we were able to completely skip a big shop for at least a week, sometimes longer.
When we do a pantry challenge, we will often just do a $50 stock up on milk and and a few fresh fruit and veggies for the week. This is an amazing way to save up $100 quickly, and it will force you to try some new things with your cooking.
A couple final thoughts:
This budget has kept us fed all week long. We eat dinner at home every single night, and 95% of lunches here too. It was incredibly hard to give up the convenience of subway on nights that I just simply didn’t want to cook. I would much rather give up take out, if it means I get to spend more time with my kids and less time working.
Oh and you want to know something else? Grocery shopping has turned into a game, and I don’t hate it anymore, in fact I kind of enjoy the challenge.
What are your favorite tips for saving money on groceries?