May 6, 2010

Save Money On Groceries

"The price of food relative to average income is heading for levels that have not been seen since the early 19th century, and it will not come down again in our lifetimes." - Gwynne Dyer
Food prices are rising faster than they have in decades, marking the end of fifty years of Cheap Food. The Associated Press reported in April that, "Wholesale prices rose more than expected last month as food prices  surged by the most in 26 years." Produce prices went up a whopping 49% in March. With prices increasing at such an alarming rate more and more people are wondering how to save money on groceries.

Here are a few of the ways we use to save money on our grocery budget.

  1. Take advantage of discounted food. Food is constantly marked down in all areas of grocery stores. Some items, like cereal boxes cut open during stocking, or goods approaching their best before date, are barely different than the items surrounding them. Discounts can be as high as 50% off regular price or more. I have bargained with staff to get a discount on the discount. Often they are happy to get these products out the door. Choose carefully, though, and have a rough plan for what you might do with certain products. For example, discounted peanut butter could be used to make cookies to throw in the freezer and share with friends. A big bag of tomatoes can be used to make a tomato soup much more savory than any salt-heavy canned variety. Be prepared to eat, or process, discounted items as soon as possible.
  2. Make a list and go shopping on a full stomach. Do not go foraging for food with a growling stomach, or wander the aisles - you will be prone to expensive impulse purchases. Know what you are there for and don't be distracted. We start our Master List with the ongoing one that we keep on the fridge. Using our local store flyer online we identifying sales and coupons. Shopping is a large purchase and we plan ahead: what do we want, what do we need, are expensive things on sale? We will wait until the price is right, then stock up. Planning ahead reduces your grocery bill, and minimizes having to run out for things at unexpected times.
  3. Know the price/100gms of your purchases. When you know the cost per hundred grams of your food you can start to compare items. Comparing brand names vs. generics, varieties of protein sources, and costs of processed foods vs. whole foods makes you think about things like the nutritional value of products, where your food comes from, and why items cost what they do.
  4. Use the bulk foods section selectively. Armed with your understanding of cost per hundred grams you can use the bulk foods section when it makes sense to do so. Often we believe bulk foods are always cheaper. This is not the case. Using cost/100g, the last time I went shopping I discovered that walnuts and sultana raisins in the baking section were cheaper than the bulk food section.
  5. Use your food efficiently to maximize freshness and minimize waste. Minimize the waste that occurs once you have the food at home. Decide what to make depending on what needs to be eaten so that all foods move through your kitchen at peak freshness. Use your freezer to preserve foods for quick meals later. Many fresh foods can be frozen whole such as tomatoes, mushrooms, bananas and berries. Even the freezer in your fridge, when organized well, can hold a great amount of food.
  6. Avoid the middle aisles of the grocery store. The perimeter of the store is where you will find fresh whole foods. Middle aisles feature processed, expensive, and nutritionally questionable foods.
  7. Process your own food. With wholesome ingredients you can make many of the flaccid foods manufacturers try to sell you at jacked up prices. Things like ketchup, jams, salsa, baked and refried beans, bakery products, and yogurt are all examples of foods that you can process yourself. The foods you process will have fewer artificial ingredients, and will be fresher and tastier. You may enjoy creating your own special brands just the way you like them. Never mind the savings - it is fun.
  8. Check your receipt. I give my receipt the once-over before I leave the store, or after I put my groceries away at home. If I find any mistakes I take the receipt to Customer Service for a refund. Mistakes happen (sometimes often) and are always fixed by courteous staff. The grocery trade is highly competitive - you are a valued customer that they want to keep.
  9. Grow your own food. The ultimate way to save on your food bill - plant a garden.
  10. Consider going on a CR diet, or at least cutting your calories to suit your requirements. How would you like to save 10-25% on your food bill? It seems almost too simple, but just eat less. CR diets (not just for weight loss) restrict calorie intake rather than eating without consumption limits. Do not eat for entertainment, and only eat what you need to maintain health.
Once food is in our home I minimize wastage as much as possible. It is estimated that 50% of food is never eaten. Edible food is wasted every day in the food industry, including grocery stores. There are ways to save money and do your part to keep good food from going to the dumpster. I am not going to the back of the store for grub yet, but many do. You will find edible food there, and at a discount that is hard to beat. Photo: Edible food 'rescued' from a grocery store dumpster by People Helping People, a group that takes the food to local food banks.


  1. Anonymous9/09/2013

    I take my list, put on my blinders, stuff my ears with cotton, and get what I need.

    1. Anon, This is an excellent plan any time a purchase is required. Good for ignoring the mind parasites of advertising.


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