Groceries are one of the primary expenses of every household, just as unavoidable as utility bills, insurance payments, and taxes.
Canadians, on average, visit grocery stores more than five times a month and spend about 32 minutes grocery shopping per visit.
But unlike other mandatory expenses, there is a lot of leeway with grocery shopping and several ways to bring the cost down.
As a foodie, I was always very generous with my grocery expenditure. But once I prepared a proper budget, I understood how much I could save on groceries.
So I’ve prepared this article for those who want to learn how to save money on groceries in Canada.
How Much Do Canadians Spend on Groceries?
An average Canadian family spent $10,311 a year on food (in 2019), according to Stats Canada. That includes both grocery expenditures ($7,536) and eating out at restaurants ($2,775)
If we look at the pattern from previous years, eating out at restaurants makes up about 25% – 30% of Canadian households’ average food expenditure, and groceries are between 70% – 75%.
This, of course, varies significantly from area to area. In 2019, households in Alberta spent almost $2,000 more on food than an average household in New Brunswick.
For the sake of simple calculations in this article and the addition of inflation, let’s assume the average grocery spending of a Canadian household is around $10,000/year in 2023.
Tips on How to Save Money on Groceries Canada
There are numerous ways to save money on groceries, all the way from using coupons to preparing your own broth and stock.
Not all tips may work for all of you, but even incorporating a few in your routine grocery shopping and cooking habits can save you a fair bit of money.
1. Collect/Request Coupons
Coupons have been part of the grocery game for a long time. They used to be part of the flyers, or grocery stores offered physical coupons to their customers. Now digital coupons are the norm.
Many of the old ways of getting and redeeming coupons are still viable, but a better idea is to subscribe to the newsletter of the grocers/marts you frequently visit. They often send coupons to people who subscribe to them.
You can also find coupons on some websites and promo codes if you prefer to shop online. The only problem is that the coupons sometimes aren’t accepted when there is a sale.
Related Reading: Best coupon sites in Canada
2. Price Matching (Apps or Competitor Flyers)
It’s easy to save about 10% of your grocery expenses by price-matching and looking for retail stores that are selling the same items at a lesser price.
You can produce a flyer of the competitor’s prices or use an app that offers price comparisons for different retailers in your area. Either way, you have a chance to get the lowest price in your favourite store.
Be sure to check the inventory of the store/competitor you are using for a price match. If a store’s competitor doesn’t have that exact something in stock, the store you are trying to price-match at will not entertain you.
Related Reading: Best coupon apps in Canada
3. Grocery List
- Potential Annual Savings: 23% or $2,330
- Helpful Link: Out of Milk (grocery list app)
When people don’t make a grocery list (or make one but don’t stick to it!), they tend to over-shop. That’s something we all know. But a study revealed just how much you could overspend if you don’t prepare a grocery list: 23%.
That’s almost one-fourth of your total expense, and it’s something you can easily take care of just by being more organized and preparing a grocery list.
It won’t only help you save a lot of money but also a lot of time. If you know what you need to buy, you won’t be tempted to browse and will probably finish your grocery run in half the usual time.
4. Leave Kids At Home
- Potential Annual Savings: 25% (between 10% and 40%) or $2,500
A study suggests that when you are out grocery shopping with kids, you can spend anywhere from 10% to 40% extra. That’s mostly because kids have a hard time exercising self-control at markets and ask for a lot of unnecessary stuff like special cereal or candies, which parents are obliged to buy.
Just like the Christmas presents that they play with for two weeks before forgetting about them, the groceries they so badly wanted are often forgotten as well, resulting in food waste.
Supermarkets and stores are aware of the fact that kids can help them bump their sales numbers up, which is why they employ a number of tactics to entice kids. It includes arranging kid’s cereals and candies at eye level for children and putting attractive things at the checkout counter.
Related Reading: Frugal Living Tips in Canada
5. Shop on A Full Stomach
- Potential Annual Savings: Varies from Individual to individual
- Helpful Link: A Study
This has been a practice of homemakers for decades now; you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Later on, studies were conducted to prove this hypothesis, and there is a correlation that if you are hungry, you are likely to spend more on groceries. However, the effect can be mitigated by staying within your budget or sticking with your grocery list.
A good idea is simply to get a quick (but satisfying) snack before grocery shopping. If you are a morning person, you may want to plan your trip right after breakfast on off days.
6. Use Cash For Grocery Shopping
- Potential Annual Savings: 12% to 18% | $1,200 to $1,800
- Helpful Link: Mint (Budgeting app)
If you are buying groceries using your credit card, and you are not in the habit of paying off your credit before it incurs a debt, you might be spending a lot of additional money on interest pile-up. The situation might even be worse if you are in the minimum payment trap.
If you can set aside a pre-determined amount of money for groceries from every paycheck, you won’t have any problem going grocery shopping with cash or simply your debit card. Cash also helps you keep better track of your ongoing expenses.
7. Hunt Down the Cheapest Grocery Store
- Potential Annual Savings: 10% or $1,000
- Helpful Link: Food Basics
Discount grocery stores can help you save up to 10% (or more) on your grocery purchases.
Although many standard items will be the same as any other grocery store, you can often save a significant amount on produce, deli, and meat items. You’re also more likely to find buy-one-get-one-free deals and other promotions.
These stores typically don’t offer the same variety of high-end specialty foods and “luxury” items, but they have all of the basics that you need to fill your fridge and make some good food. If you really need a specialty item, you can always grab that one item from another store or order it online for cheaper.
One disadvantage is that the cheapest grocery stores might not have everything you need. Because their prices are lower, they’re more likely to sell out of certain items before the end of the day.
Another downside is that some local discount stores don’t price-match because their price is already lower for most items.
8. Buy Local
- Potential Annual Savings: 6% to 10% | $600 or $1,000
- Helpful Link: Farmers Canada, Eat Local (for Vancouver)
Buying local produce and visiting farmers’ markets whenever you have the chance can be good for your health, as well as your wallet. You will get access to cheap organic food, and you can enjoy some old-fashioned haggling. Since you will be buying primarily using cash, you won’t be spending anything extra on interest and fees.
If you don’t have a farmers’ market near you, try a local grocery store. Often, local grocery stores partner with nearby farms to offer low-cost organic produce.
There are other perks of farmers’ markets as well. You get to taste the produce, and there are a lot of free food samples. You can also find good quality meat and poultry products at a much lower price, and you might be introduced to some new products (homemade sauces, etc.).
9. Avoid Pre-Packaged Food
- Potential Annual Savings: Potentially, $500 to $800
- Helpful Link: Walmart
A lot of people prefer pre-packaged food because it’s in a familiar denomination or it’s processed and ready to use. But if you instead choose raw vegetables that you will have to wash and cut on your own or a full block of cheddar cheese that you can shred yourself, it will cost you significantly less.
It depends on how much pre-packaged foodstuff you buy. Opting instead for raw or unprocessed food items, you can save up to 25% to 40% of the cost. So if you spend $2,000 a year on pre-packaged groceries, you could save about $500 to $800.
The time it takes to cook at home is often the main reason why people prefer to eat out or purchase microwave meals. However, there are several ways to speed up the time it takes to prepare food, including:
- Create a “menu” of three or four main meals that you’ll eat throughout the week
- Stick to simple, easy-to-cook recipes without a lot of added ingredients
- Baking your food in the oven or a crockpot (as opposed to grilling or pan-searing) allows you to accomplish other tasks while your food cooks
- Cook large meals in bulk that will last you for several days (i.e., lasagna, pasta, soup, or casserole)
10. Choose Generic Brands
- Potential Annual Savings: 8% to 9% | $800 to $900
- Helpful Link: No Name
It’s effortless to just go out to a market and simply choose the brands that everyone talks about. That’s what a lot of these brands capitalize upon and charge a premium for recognition. But if you are willing to do some research, you will be able to find a lot of local and generic brands that are just as good in quality as the named brands (if not more), and you don’t have to pay top-dollar for them.
You can research these products online if there is any data, or you can buy a small number of generic brand products along with your usual groceries and try them out yourselves.
Related Reading: Tips to Save Money in Canada
11. Add more (Seasonal) Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet
- Potential Annual Savings: 10% or $1,000
- Helpful Link: Seasonal Produce guide
Whether you buy from a farmer’s market or visit a store, seasonal fruits and vegetables are likely to cost you significantly less. Also, they will likely taste better than out-of-season, shelved produce.
Adding more fresh veggies and fruits to your diet is also good for your health and will help you get your vitamins from the most natural source.
You can also use this opportunity to learn some new dishes. If you find some seasonal vegetables unusually cheap, you can look up recipes that have them as the main ingredient. If they seem doable, you can try using at as the staple food for a while.
12. Stock Up On Sales
- Potential Annual Savings: 10% to 20% | $1,000 to $2,000
- Helpful Link: Sales Whale
When there is a sale going on, it’s the best time to stock up on your groceries, especially on perishables. You can stock up on some of the most needed items at a lower price and save on later grocery runs as well.
It’s also an excellent time to look into frozen and canned food items. If they have an extended expiration date, you can buy a large quantity of frozen meat or vegetables, provided that you have enough refrigeration space.
13. Avoid Impulse Purchases
- Potential Annual Savings: $1,080
- Helpful Link: OurGroceries (Grocery list App)
One of the easiest ways to reduce your grocery bills is to avoid making impulsive purchases. In other words, make your shopping list and stick to it.
Many grocery stores (I would say most) are designed to encourage impulsive buying. This is why you’ll see large colourful endcaps displaying the latest brands of cereal, chips, or soda flavours on the end of each aisle.
This also aligns with tip #5 – don’t shop on an empty stomach. The more full you are before you shop, the less likely you are to make impulsive purchases.
According to a study, US citizens cough up about $5,400 in impulse purchases in a year. Assuming that Canada’s situation is relatively similar, and about 20% of these purchases happen when you are out grocery shopping, you can save about $1,000 by not giving in to your shopaholic impulses.
A great way to do so is to make a grocery list. Another right way is to take limited cash with you, and every time you are thinking of buying something useless, tell yourself that you will have to do it at the cost of groceries.
14. Large Packaging Is Usually Cheaper
- Potential Annual Savings: $100 to $200 (depending on how many such food products you consume)
When you are buying something that comes in both small and large packages (like Kraft Dinner Macaroni and Cheese), or bundles, the larger packaging is usually cheaper.
If it has an extended expiration date, buying small, separate packages solely for convenience doesn’t make financial sense. Choose large packages, and learn how to store them properly.
15. Run Your Numbers
- Potential Annual Savings: Depends upon how much discount is offered per product
- Helpful Link: Discount Calculator
Discounts come in various shapes and sizes, and people often get confused, especially with discounts like $X for three pieces or 2 for 1. And while they are discounts, sometimes opting for larger packages, bundles, or simply buying in bulk saves you more money in the long run.
So whenever you are in a sale, make sure you understand what kind of discount you are getting. For example, if 100g of A (original price $5) has a 50% discount.
And a larger package of the same product, which gets you 500g of A (original price $20), has a 40% discount, you will save $0.5 more on the latter, even though the former has a more substantial discount tag.
16. Buy in Bulk
- Potential Annual Savings: 25% or $2,250
- Helpful Link: Bulk Barn
Buying in bulk, even if there isn’t a sale going on, can help you save a lot of money in the long run. For one, it will cut down your grocery runs, saving you time and fuel. Secondly, buying in bulk is usually more cost-effective. It has the compounded effect of buying items in large packages.
Even if you can’t store fresh fruits and vegetables, there are many non-perishables that you can buy in bulk and store.
Related reading: Costco is an excellent choice to save money by buying in bulk which is available in most regions in Canada. Learn about Costcos membership benefits here.
17. Avoid Soft Drinks
- Potential Annual Savings: $12 to $180 per person
- Helpful Link: Benefits of Fresh Juices
Over half the Canadians spend anywhere between $1 and $15 a month on soft drinks. Ideally, you can cut that out entirely and increase your water intake, which is the best fluid for your body, after all.
A relatively costly alternative would be fresh juices (you can cut costs by sourcing cheap/local produce). Cutting soft drinks is also a healthier option.
18. Earn Cash and Scan Groceries
- Potential Annual Savings: $120 to $180 (depending upon offers and what you need to buy)
- Helpful Link: Check out 51, Caddle
Cashback apps offer a great way to earn back money while buying stuff that you need anyway. You are effectively getting a discount on your grocery item that you get as cashback.
Now, most cash-back apps have certain deals, and you can only earn cashback on specific products. You usually have to upload the receipts to prove the purchase. Having multiple cashback apps can be handy since you can upload the same receipts on all the apps to compound the cashback.
19. Expiration Date
- Helpful Link: Foods you can consume past expiration date
When you are buying in bulk or during a sale, be sure to check for the expiration date. Buying discounted food, only to throw it away because you couldn’t consume it within the expiration date, is actually more expensive.
Ensure that the food you are buying can either be stored in a way that increases its shelf life or it will be consumed within the expiration date.
Also, remember that the freezer is your friend.
I’ll often get deals when I purchase meat in bulk. However, there’s no way that I can cook and eat all of it by the time they all expire. So, I’ll leave a few cartons of meat out that I know I’ll cook and eat in the next few days and then freeze the rest for later.
20. Batch Cooking
- Potential Annual Savings: Around $1,200
- Helpful Link: Six batch cooking meals
Batch cooking usually goes hand in hand with bulk buying. And if done right, it can save you a lot of money and a lot of time.
It’s perfect for working homemakers, but it might require you to buy some new containers and also free up space in your refrigerator. It doesn’t just save money on ingredients but also on gas/electricity usage in the kitchen.
One word of advice here – be careful about your portions. It can be all too easy to overcook and waste food. Calculate the number of portions you’re cooking, and be sure to account for how many days the food will remain fresh in the refrigerator.
21. Homemade Broth and Stock
- Helpful Link: Homemade stock recipe
That’s for very careful cooks. If you are in the habit of throwing away chopped vegetable bits, start refrigerating them instead. Do the same with leftover meat and bones.
You can even save some of this stuff in zip-lock bags. Once you have a sufficient amount, you can use it to make a hearty stock or broth that you can either consume directly or complement with something else. It doesn’t exactly save you money, but it does allow you to get the most out of your groceries.
22. Start Building a Pantry
- Helpful Link: Pantry for COVID-19
This is helpful for those who don’t already have a fully stocked pantry at home. Building a pantry, or reserving space for one, will allow you to accumulate non-perishables, spices, and some staples.
This comes in handy because you don’t have to run to the store every time, and you have a place to store leftover ingredients so they can be used in the future.
23. Raise Chickens For Eggs
- Helpful Link: University of Minnesota guide to chicken farming
Eggs are undoubtedly one of the most popular breakfast foods in the world and are consumed in almost every country. Eggs are packed full of protein, healthy fats, essential vitamins, and minerals that our bodies need to survive and thrive.
Buying eggs at the grocery store can become costly, though, especially if you’re looking at organic or free-range eggs.
If you’re an egg-lover, one of the best ways to save money on groceries is to raise your own chickens. All you need is a little bit of space for a chicken coop in your backyard.
Hens and roosters are relatively inexpensive, and you can build a backyard chicken coop with less than $200 worth of materials. Using recycled materials can cut these costs in half. Chickens aren’t expensive to feed either, and you can feed them with food scraps, seeds, and inexpensive farm animal feed.
A healthy female hen can easily lay up to 250 eggs a year. All of your eggs will be 100% organic and farm-raised too, which means they’ll not only be cheaper, but they’ll taste better than cheap store-bought eggs!
If you have any leftover extras, you can always sell them to your neighbours or at a local farmers market, which can put extra cash in your pocket for other essentials.
- Helpful Link: Miracle Gro’s edible gardening guide
In a similar vein to raising your own chickens for eggs, you can also start your own vegetable and herb garden in your backyard. Carrots, potatoes, leafy greens, peppers, and tomatoes all grow well in Canada’s warm spring and summer seasons.
All you need is a small garden space, some topsoil, and some seeds, all of which are inexpensive and easy to purchase at your local gardening store. If you want to save money on soil, you can even make your own compost at home by combining regular dirt with leftover food scraps.
Growing your own herbs and vegetables does require some time and has a bit of a learning curve. Once you get your garden up and running, though, I guarantee you’ll find it to be a rewarding, fun, money-saving hobby.
If you have leftovers that you can’t consume in time, you can always pickle them in jars and use them later on in the year.
You don’t have to limit your home farming to the spring and summer either. If you’re dedicated, you can create your own indoor hydroponic herb garden that will produce fresh produce year-round.
- Helpful Link: NielsenIQ Homescan
One of the simplest ways to save on groceries is to get paid to shop. NielsenIQ is a large market research firm in Canada that keeps track of consumer grocery shopping trends and sells the data to international grocery stores.
All of their data comes from their members who get paid to scan grocery receipts when they shop.
To get started, you’ll need to download the NielsenIQ Homescan application on your smartphone. Once you’re registered with the program, all you have to do is upload a photocopy of your grocery receipt to the app every time you shop.
In return, you’ll be compensated up to $50 per year. Additionally, using the app will unlock exclusive rewards and coupons that you can apply to future purchases, allowing you to save even more money.
The only drawback of this app is that it limits the number of members they have in each province. If they already have enough users in a given province, then you may be placed on a waiting list for eligibility. Signing up is very easy, though, so it’s still worth a try.
26. Buy Your Groceries Online
- How much you can save: 30 minutes to an hour of time (how much is your hour worth?)
Although online ordering came around before the pandemic, it became a lot more popular during and after the pandemic as more customers were social distancing.
If you’ve never used online shopping to buy groceries before, it may seem like a bit of an odd concept. However, it can help you in two major areas:
- It saves you time
- It cuts out impulse buys
Most people grocery shop for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how long their list and the lines are at the store. In reality, though, you could make your list in five minutes using the grocery store’s website, place your order online, and pick it up at the store’s entrance.
Some grocery stores offer this service for free, while others charge a small service fee. Either way, the small amount extra you’ll pay is worth it when compared to the time you save walking down the aisles.
Saving money on groceries and pantry items is a great way to put some extra money in your pocket that you can put toward your savings. Here are some other great ways to save money on everyday essentials and unexpected costs, such as:
27. Avoid The Car Dealership
- Helpful Link: Basic auto repair guide
If you take your car to the dealership every time that you have an issue with it, the costs can quickly add up. Unless your vehicle is under a factory warranty, car dealerships are generally far more expensive than your local mechanic. Local mechanics usually offer the same quality of work for a lower price.
If you’re a do-it-yourself type of individual, then I also recommend teaching yourself some basic car maintenance skills. You don’t have to learn how to rebuild an engine or transmission, but it’s a good idea to know how to perform simple maintenance like:
- Changing your oil
- Changing your brakes and brake pads
- Flushing your coolant system
- Replacing your car battery
- Replacing differential fluid
- Changing your cabin air filter
- Swapping out brake lights, headlights, and turn signal bulbs
Obviously, I recommend leaving advanced work to the professionals. However, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to complete these simple repairs with a basic toolkit and a YouTube tutorial.
28. Get Free Baby Diapers & Wipes
- Helpful Link: Free diapers & wipes from Huggies
As a new parent, you’ll quickly learn just how expensive diapers and wipes can be. Thankfully, there are several programs that allow new parents to receive free diapers and memberships that give you a chance to earn coupons and rewards so you can save on future purchases.
Huggies is one of the most popular brands of baby diapers and wipes, and you can find their products in most supermarkets. They have a charity program called “No Baby Unhugged” that gives a free pack of diapers and baby wipes to all new parents. This can easily save new parents up to $30.
Another program that I recommend to parents is the Pampers Reward Club. As a member, you’ll earn coupons, cashback rebates, and rewards every time you purchase a Pampers product, such as their diapers or wipes. Cashing in on your rewards is a great way to save on everyday baby supplies.
29. Use A Cashback Rewards Card
- Helpful Link: KOHO Cashback Rewards Card
A great way to save on all of your purchases is to use a credit card that offers cashback rewards on purchases. Most decent credit cards offer anywhere from 1% to 3% cashback on eligible purchases, and some even offer up to 5% back when you shop with their preferred retailers and affiliated stores.
If you aren’t ready to apply for a credit card yet, you can also sign up for a debit card that offers cashback rewards. KOHO is one of the top-rated cashback rewards programs in Canada and gives members a prepaid debit Mastercard.
All you need to do is load your KOHO card with money from your bank account and use it for eligible purchases.
KOHO offers 1% unlimited instant cashback on groceries, billing, and services. It offers even more cashback when you shop with its affiliated brands. Since it’s a prepaid card, you don’t need to have credit history or a good credit score, the card is instantly approved and ready to be used.
30. Take Advantage of Back-To-School Deals
- Helpful Link: Back-to-School Deals At Wal-Mart Canada
School supplies can become expensive, especially if you have multiple kids. While schools often supply some of the basics your children need, parents are often left to cover the costs of everyday essentials like pencils, notebooks, binders, and laptops.
If you wait until the middle of the school year, then you’ll likely pay the full cost for school supplies. The best way to save on school supplies is to stock up during the summer when retailers run their back-to-school sales.
You can often save up to 30% or more during summer sales before prices go back to normal after the school year starts.
Instead of buying what your kids need for their first month, go ahead and purchase everything that they’ll need for the entire school year and store it at home. This way, you won’t have to worry about paying full price for school supplies later in the year.
31. Shop At Thrift Stores
- Helpful Link: Best thrift stores in Canada
Thrifting is an excellent way to save money on home goods, clothing, furniture, and tools. Personally, I’ve found some excellent used furniture, dishes, and even winter jackets at local thrift stores.
You’d be surprised how many people throw away items that are in excellent condition just because they want to make space for something new or run out of space in their home.
If you know what you’re looking for and have an eye for detail, you can find amazing deals and get name-brand items for a fraction of the price that they’re worth.
32. Get Free Stuff From FreeCycle
- Helpful Link: Sign up for FreeCycle here
FreeCycle is a non-profit organization with millions of members throughout the US and Canada. The app focuses on local communities, allowing members to network with each other and get rid of lightly used items.
FreeCycle is a great place to find used bicycles, baby cribs, furniture, TVs, computers, instruments, school supplies, and more. Once you sign up and select your region, you’ll be able to browse local listings, schedule a pick-up date, and meet with donors.
It’s also a great way to get rid of some of your own junk that you may have lying around the house!
Learning how to save money on groceries in Canada isn’t very difficult. Most tips here are easy to incorporate into your grocery routine if you already exercise financial freedom.
On top of that, you will have to do a little bit of research. With a few changes in your grocery planning and your cooking and eating habits, you can easily save between $1,500 and $2,000 in a year.
Groceries aren’t the only way to save money. Check out my list of ways to be frugal in Canada without sacrificing the quality of life.