Canadians are paying more to put food on our tables these days, and the COVID-19 pandemic is a big reason why. According to The Canadian Press, recent price increases mean the average family will spend $695 more on groceries in 2021 than in 2020, boosting their annual bill to almost $14,000.
The pandemic has disrupted supply chains and raised costs for producers. Other factors are at play, too, whether it’s wildfires in California, or the impact of climate change, heatwaves, and droughts in different regions. Whatever the cause, the end result is the same: higher prices for customers.
If you want to keep your grocery bill from eating into your budget, here are a few tips to follow.
Make a list and stick to it
Advance planning is key to controlling grocery store spending. In a place packed floor to ceiling with product, temptation can be tough to control. Wandering the aisles without a plan or randomly clicking around your grocery app is an easy way to end up with too much while going way over budget.
Start by planning meals for the period you’re shopping for, whether it’s a few days or a full week. Check to see what you already have in the fridge and pantry to avoid buying unnecessary items. Then figure out exactly what you need and write it all down. If something you use regularly is on sale and too good to turn down, or you’re treating yourself to an extra item or two, that’s fine – the main thing is staying as true to the list as you can and controlling the urge to overspend.
One great way to make sure you stick to your list, while also doing your part for the pandemic, is by staying out of the store and ordering groceries online. It’s the ideal way to avoid ending up with impulse buys.
Don’t let food go to waste
Once you buy food, make sure to use it! Opening the vegetable drawer and discovering a rotten mess inside isn’t just disgusting, it’s a waste of money and food. Meal planning and disciplined shopping will make sure items don’t get forgotten and spoiled.
Learn to read the price displays at your grocery store
It takes a little bit of detective work to become a big-time bargain hunter at most grocery stores, but the clues are right there if you know where to look. Most store price displays feature a unit price (or a price by quantity, typically per 100g) that helps shoppers compare relative costs between brands, or sizes of particular items. Once you see how much more some premium products cost compared to their generic equivalents, you’ll be one step closer to solving the mystery of grocery store overspending.
Stay out of the middle of the store
Most grocery stores have a similar floor plan: fruit and vegetables at one side, coolers at the back packed with meat and dairy products, and a bunch of aisles in the middle. Most of those aisles are filled with pricey processed foods – everything from potato chips to pesto – that you’re better off avoiding entirely or making yourself use products found around the store perimeter. Not everything in the middle of the store is bad news, of course – for instance, cans of beans are cheap and healthy. As a rule, however, the more you buy from the edges of the store, the better.
Go vegetarian more often
Here’s a cost-conscious idea that also offers potential health benefits and is good for the planet: eat more plant-based meals. Meat isn’t cheap, especially when you’re feeding a whole family. Cutting down on meat and replacing it with vegetables and legumes can be good for the body, even if it’s just one dinner a week. Pick a veggie day or make Meatless Monday part of your regular meal planning and discover how delicious and healthy vegetarian dinner options can be.
Trim your bill with apps or reward cards
Recover some of your grocery store spending by using one of several cash-back apps available to Canadian shoppers. These apps give a percentage of the cost of certain items back to shoppers who share receipts proving they purchased from a rotating list of products that changes every week. You don’t have to shop at a particular store to qualify. Earning cash back is as easy as scanning receipts with your smartphone and uploading them to the app.
Alternatively, find a rewards credit card that gives you free groceries, and let the rest of your monthly spending help reduce your grocery bill.