12 expert-approved tips to save money on groceries in Canada amid inflation
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
You know the feeling. After scanning and bagging your grocery cart at the check-out, you're hit with the shock of yet another expensive bill.
According to Statistics Canada, food prices rose by 9.7 per cent in May, matching the gain in April. Almost everything rose in price from fresh fruit and meats to pantry staples like spices and oils — which increased by a whopping 30 per cent.
Because of this, Food Banks Canada have reported that nearly one in four Canadians are "eating less than they believe they should" due to inflation.
So, what can you do to combat the rising cost of food? With the help of Toronto-based dietitian and food blogger Abbey Sharp, we've rounded up twelve ways to save money during your next trip to the supermarket.
Tip #1: Meal plan
When you dictate a couple hours to plan your weekly meals, it helps you to be organized and efficient when it comes time to shop.
"Meal planning takes the guess work out of dinner on hectic evenings, making you more likely to eat what you actually have on hand, rather than making an impulse decision to order in," Sharp tells Yahoo Canada. "When we don’t have a specific plan for the ingredients we pick up at the store, they’re much more likely to sit in the fridge and rot before being used."
Tip #2: Shop online
Not only is shopping online convenient, it can eliminate the temptation to purchase novel and expensive items you don't really need when wandering the supermarket.
"It may be worth paying the small fee for delivery or pick up to shop online, as you aren't as likely to pick up extra items you don't need," explains Sharp. "When you shop online, you have to manually search for the ingredients you need, helping you create your shopping list as you run out of things you need in real time...it becomes easy to duplicate previous orders of your essentials, and nothing that just “catches your eye” in a store.
"This hack has saved me hundreds of dollars in unnecessary snack foods every month," she adds.
Tip #3: Snack before you shop
Thinking about skipping breakfast so you can hit the aisles before the weekend rush? Think again. Going shopping while hungry can lead to overspending on food you may not typically buy because it looks appetizing in the moment.
"Before going to the grocery store, always have a snack. If you go hungry, you’re more likely to buy things on impulse just because they look fun or are new, without any plan for what to do with them," Sharp reveals.
Tip #4: Make a list
"Before shopping make a list of the items you need, and stick to your list when at the store so you don't buy things on impulse," Sharp explains. "Buy only what you need, but be willing to make substitutions if something is more expensive than expected. For example, if you wanted peaches, but strawberries are on sale, make the swap."
Before making your list, Sharp suggests setting yourself a budget. Research food prices per brand online, so you already have an idea about which items and brands to pick up once you arrive at the store.
Tip #5: Choose plant-based proteins
It's no secret that the plant-based movement is gaining momentum. But did you know that it can also slash your grocery bill?
Sharp recommends to "chose plant-based proteins more often than meat and poultry," because they require less grain, water and energy to produce than beef or chicken, for example — which is why they cost less than animal proteins.
Stock up on a bag of lentils and choose from one of these 32 easy lentil recipes for your next "Meatless Monday."
Tip #6: Buy frozen
Frozen food, including vegetables and fruit, can be much cheaper than their fresh counterparts — and can even be healthier.
"When in doubt, opt for more inexpensive frozen produce to save money. Frozen produce is flash frozen at the peak of ripeness, so it's often more nutritious than fresh," Sharp explains.
Moreover, the options for frozen food are endless. You can now find cauliflower rice, chopped butternut squash, smoothie cubes and spiralled zucchini in the freezer aisle for a fraction of the price.
Tip #7: Batch cook
Batch cooking is a foolproof way to save money during inflation. The concept is simple — you cook larger portions to freeze and reheat during the week. This removes the need to grab a takeout burger on the way home from work because you've already got a tasty meal ready to go.
Moreover, you can also save on your electricity bill because you've already done the bulk of your cooking.
"Meal plan a few key meals for the week, and some batch-prepped essentials that can do double or triple duty in multiple dishes. Think a big pot of rice, or cooked chickpeas," suggests Sharp.
Tip #8: Buy in bulk
Generally speaking, buying at a bulk store is cheaper than the supermarket because you aren't paying for excess packaging or brand names.
Sharp explains that buying items like oats, nuts, seeds and grains in bulk can reduce the cost per unit, and you have the freedom to buy just how much or little you need.
Tip #9: Shop in season
"I always recommend to eat what's in season and more readily available," says Sharp. She also recommends visiting your local farmer's market to find further deals, as they don't take shipping costs into account.
Pro tip: as in-season produce is cheaper, you may want to purchase seasonal food in larger quantities and freeze for later use.
Tip #10: Purchase lesser-known brands
Some of the time, generic or lesser-known brands are "just as good as the popular name brand for a much lower cost," says Sharp.
The reason is because most generic or store brands spend less money on marketing, advertising, research and development than national brands, so they can afford to lower their prices.
Tip #11: Embrace canned goods
Similar to frozen food, Sharp explains that canned foods can be very nutritious and convenient for the price — and can even last way longer than fresh alternatives.
For example, canned beans are extremely affordable and take much less work than uncanned beans. Sharp also says that canned seafood like salmon and tuna can be cheaper than fresh fish, but double-check the nutrition label for sneaky additions of sodium or other preservatives you're trying to avoid.
Tip #12: Plan your route
Similar to meal planning and making a list, Sharp recommends going as far as planning your route at the supermarket or bulk food store. This way, you don't run into anything you can't resist or don't need.
For example, if chips are your weakness, steer clear of the junk food aisle! Every impulse purchase that doesn't make it into your cupboard is money saved for items you really need.
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