5 Tips for Saving Money on Groceries

Written by Trevor Kouritzin B.E. (chemical)


Being a university student, and cheap (although I like to use the word frugal), I have developed a few tips and strategies for saving money on groceries over the years.

  1. All stores are not created equal

    Where you shop makes a huge difference. Wholesale clubs like Costco and no-frills grocery stores like Super Store are your best options. Remember that the price you pay for groceries goes into everything associated with the shopping experience. You will pay more for groceries to have a nicer atmosphere, customer service and faster check out service. Especially for non-perishable products like rice, oatmeal, frozen berries, condiments etc. it makes sense to buy in bulk. I will use steel cut oatmeal as an example. Costco sells a 3.17Kg bag of steel cut oatmeal (organic to boot) for $6.99. Save On Foods sells a 680g bag of steel cut oatmeal for $3.99. For less than double the price, you are getting over five times more oatmeal. Check the bulk section and bulk stores such as Bulk Barn as well. You can often get a really good deal on nuts there.

  2. Watch for sales

    Each week I go through the flyers of the major grocery retailers and see what’s on special. It’s part of my Saturday morning ritual. If something I regularly eat goes on sale, like wild salmon, I will purchase as much as my freezer will hold. Just be prepared to be questioned by the cashier about which restaurant you manage or how large your family is. The look on the cashiers face when you tell them you live alone is always worth the trip in itself.

    Stores like Superstore often have freebies when you spend a certain amount. About once a month Superstore will put out an offer where if you spend over $250 you get a $25 gift card. I wait until this coupon comes out and then stock up on non-perishable items like apple cider vinegar, tooth paste etc. to reach the $250 quota and get the gift card. All other weeks my grocery bills are much smaller and mainly based on perishable items.

    Similarly, Safeway, Save On Foods and Sobeys have a customer appreciation sale the first Tuesday of every month where everything is 10-15% off with a minimum purchase. This is another great day to make a big trip and stock up. Your freezer is your wallets best friend.

  3. Keep an eye out for clearance merchandise

    Especially in the meat and produce department, grocery stores will put products on sale for 30-50% off their original price if they are a few days away from their best before date. Take this tip with caution as you should always look and see how close the product is to expiry. If your peach looks more like a potato, it’s not worth the 30% off. However, you can often get bananas that need to be eaten in the next few days, or chicken then needs to be cooked that night for a significant discount.

  4. Stick to the basics

    This is probably the most important tip of them all. If money is tight, stick to your ‘bread and butter’ items. Potatoes, frozen vegetables, rice, tuna, bananas, oatmeal, frozen fish and chicken, and eggs are the items that have the most nutrition bang for your buck.  Pre-packaged cold and hot cereals, granola bars, and other packaged foods are great options but you are paying a significant price for the convenience associated with them.

    I’ll use cereal as an example. A jumbo one pound box of cereal is around five dollars. Cereal is primarily oatmeal, wheat or rice. A pound of rice costs in the neighborhood of fifty cents. You are paying a 1000% mark up for having the grain popped or toasted, and usually a large amount of sugar and artificial flavors added. Pre-packed foods may seem cheap but if you really break down how many servings you receive per package and what the product really consists of, you will find how significant of a markup they contain.

  5. Shop seasonal

    Buying fresh raspberries in January makes no sense. Frozen fruits and vegetables are great options. The produce is flash frozen directly on the farm, usually within hours of being picked. If picked at the peak of harvest, fresh fruits and vegetables is always the best choice. But when it comes to picking between frozen or produce that has been shipped under ripe haft way across the continent, my vote goes for frozen.

    • The following is a list of seasonal fruits and vegetables by month: [1]
    • January: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, lemons and papayas
    • February: broccoli, cauliflower, oranges, grapefruits, lemons and papayas
    • March: broccoli, lettuce, pineapple, mangoes
    • April: zucchini, rhubarb, asparagus, spring peas, broccoli, lettuce, pineapple, mangoes
    • May: zucchini, asparagus, springs peas, broccoli, lettuce, cherries, pineapple, apricots
    • June: corn, lettuce, watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, cherries, blueberries, peaches, apricots
    • July: cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, green beans, lettuce, watermelon, strawberries, plums, raspberries
    • August: cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, watermelon, strawberries, peaches, plums, raspberries
    • September: eggplants, pumpkins, spinach, lettuce, grapes, pomegranate
    • October: pumpkin, winter squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cranberries, apples
    • November: pumpkin, winter squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, spinach, cranberries, pears
    • December: broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet potato, pears, oranges, grapefruit, papaya



[1] Bram, T. July. 8, 2014. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, By The Month. Obtained from: http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month

[Image source] http://freemanav-ca.com/in-the-news/2014/07/saving-money-on-your-next-event/

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