Clipping coupons and making grocery lists is a good place to start if you want to save money and avoid unnecessary food expenses. Here are a few more expert tips to help you shrink your grocery bill.
“Use your phone to take a photo of the inside of your fridge.”
Once you’re at the store, this will help keep you focused on getting only what you came for. If you find yourself wondering whether you’re running low on mayonnaise or yogurt, for example, you’ll have the answer at your fingertips. No more buying things you don’t actually need.
Co-host of Cuisine futée, parents pressés
“Pay attention to all of the information on shelf labels.”
Don’t just look at the overall price. You’ll often find a product’s price by weight—usually per 100 g or 100 ml—written in fine print on the shelf label. For products that come in different sizes, it’s the best way to compare prices and save money.
Author of the blog Banlieusardises
“Beware of red labels.”
Check the original price under discount labels to see whether you’re actually getting a deal or just saving a few cents (or nothing at all). Colourful labels often serve no other purpose than to grab your attention. You should also be careful with promotions along the lines of “2 for $5.” These sound like bargains but are really just a scheme to get you to buy more. You’ll very often find that the price per unit is simply half the bundled total ($2.50 in the previous example).
Co-host of L’Épicerie
“Stay away from foods that have already been sliced, peeled, or grated for you.”
Instead of grabbing ready-to-eat baby carrots or pre-sliced fruit, buy your fruits and vegetables whole and prepare them yourself. You can also buy blocks of cheese and grate it at home. It’s easy to do and you’ll save money—prepared foods are more expensive and often of lower quality.
Nutritionist, author, and commentator
“Stretch your proteins.”
Proteins (meat and fish in particular) tend to put the biggest dent in our grocery bills. Who can afford cooking up a hearty beef dish for four every week? You can! The trick is to “stretch” your proteins by combining them with other ingredients. One steak, for example, isn’t enough to feed an entire family, but it is when you serve it in a vegetable filled Asian noodle soup. You could also turn a pound of fish into a lasagna with layers of vegetables and béchamel sauce.
Chef, TV host, and cookbook author
“Remember that waste is the biggest drain on your budget.”
Some households throw away hundreds of dollars in food every year. Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale—you haven’t saved a penny if it winds up in the trash! Aim to buy vegetables that you can incorporate into more than one dish. Learning to eyeball exactly how much you need is the ultimate secret to reducing waste.
Author of the blog Le nutritionniste urbain
“Take only as much as you need.”
In the produce section, for example, you can split up a large bag of grapes or a bunch of bananas to take only as much as you need. It can also be cheaper to bag your own beans or potatoes instead of buying them in packaged form. At the meat counter, if the available cuts are too large, ask one of the staff to prepare a smaller portion for you.
Co-host of L’Épicerie
“Bring cash and leave your cards at home.”
Using store flyers when making your grocery list, writing down the name and price of each item, and calculating the total is the best way to stay on budget. Bring only the amount you need to the store will help you avoid overspending.
Budget advisor at ACEF de l’Est de Montréal
“Don’t rule out having eggs for lunch and dinner.”
Eggs are as versatile as they come and perfect for last-minute meal ideas. Omelettes, frittatas, quiches, burritos—countless simple and inexpensive dishes feature eggs. They also happen to be a great source of protein.
Bob le Chef
Chef, commentator, and cookbook author
“Choose milk containers wisely and don’t buy bottled water.”
Buy regular milk in regular containers to take advantage of regulated prices. Milk that has been microfiltered, flavoured, or packaged in a twist-cap container is more expensive. Bottled water is another unnecessary expense. Unless a public issue has been identified, tap water is safe to drink. Moreover, bottled water is often nothing but bottled tap water. You end up paying more in addition to polluting the planet.
Josée di Tomasso
Project manager at the Centre d’entraide Racine-Lavoie in Saint-Eustache
“Create a personal list of lowest prices.”
Make a list of the products you buy often and how much they cost when they’re on sale. The next time there’s a discount on a product you want, you’ll be able to tell at a glance whether or not it’s a good deal.
Actor and spokesperson for the Fondation OLO
“Give store brands a chance.”
Store-brand products are less expensive than brand-name equivalents, because you aren’t paying for marketing. They’re often of equal quality and are sometimes even a step up in terms of nutritional content. Chefs use them too!
Editor-in-chief of the website Économies et cie
Adapt your recipes to incorporate ingredients that are more affordable. For example, you could swap out chicken breasts for drumsticks, take home the cheaper option when trying to decide between trout and salmon, or opt for broccoli instead of snow peas. Your final dish will be just as delicious! Remember to also buy what’s in season. Lastly, before heading to the checkout counter, look over the items in your cart. Ask yourself if you really need everything and if fresh ingredients outnumber any processed products. Put back or replace any items as you see fit. It doesn’t take long and could end up saving you a few bucks.
Nutritionist and co host of Cuisine futée, parents pressés
“Save on meat.”
Think like a butcher! It’s cheaper to buy bone in chicken thighs and remove the bones at home, or to carve your own beef cubes from a cut of chuck roast. Another great way to save money on meat? Buy less! Cook up your meat with lentils, black beans, or chickpeas—or simply opt for meatless dishes.
Director of Naître et Grandir
“Ask for a raincheck.”
Stores are required to have a sufficient stock of any item that is on sale. If you arrive and are met with an empty shelf, ask for a raincheck at the checkout counter. This coupon will grant you the same discount on the item at your next visit, even if the promotion has already ended.
Nutritionist at the Dispensaire diététique de Montréal
Source: Naître et grandir magazine, September 2017
Research and writing: Stéphanie Côté, nutritionist
Photos: Maude Chauvin, Radio-Canada, Jocelyn Michel, Radio-Canada, L'Anarchie culinaire, Georges Dutil, Maude Chauvin