Saving at the Grocery Store

*This is a partial repost of a note I put on my facebook page back in September. ~ Judi

People often ask how do we live on a grocery budget of $250 a week, including diapers and toiletries, for 10 people?  It takes a bit of planning, but we get ‘er done.

1. We scour the flyers every week.  We will generally plan our meals around specials at the grocery store. 

2. Shop with a list…stick to the list and don’t pick up convenience or spur of the moment buys.

3. Watch for specials on meat…often the stores mark things down the day before the new flyer comes out or at night before the store opens in the morning. You can get some great deals if you’re looking for them.  Shane will often peruse the meat section on the evenings he goes out to get us milk and will often come home with a deal or two.

4. Stay OUT of the aisles…try and do most of your shopping on the perimeter of the store. If you notice, the meat, produce, dairy and bakery are all the around the perimeter of the store. We maybe go down only 3 or 4 aisles of the store on an average trip and they are usually for something specific.  The aisles are where they get you most often with crap that you don’t need!

5. If you do go down the aisles, always look at the bottoms and tops of the shelves, they put the highest price items right at eye level. The less expensive alternatives are on the lower shelves.

6. Don’t buy brand name!! Most of the time your taste buds can’t tell the difference. Store brands are great value and MOST of the time are just as good. Of course there are a few things that we still buy brand of…some things are just not the same…just budget for them!  One thing that we’re not compromising on lately is ketchup…we like Heinz much more than the store brand and will look for it on sale.

7.  Eat less meat.  The reason we get away with a lot of things is that we don’t eat a ton of meat.  We do have it at every meal, but it’s small portions for everyone…it cuts down on cost.  We fill up on vegetables and potatoes, pasta and rice.

8.  Shop for vegetables that are in season!  We eat a ton of root veggies in the winter because they are the cheapest.  That’s good because soups and stews are great when the weather is cold.

9.  Finally, we shop at discount stores, very rarely do we shop at Metro or Loblaws.  Our favourite store is Food Basics.  We find, for our menus, that they generally have everything we need.  We will also shop at No Frills and Price Chopper, but we find those 2 stores are slightly more expensive that FB and try to only go there when they have really good specials.

Anyway, that’s how we are able to cut costs and I am sure I have forgotten some things.  How do you cut costs at the grocery store?


15 responses to “Saving at the Grocery Store

  1. we have a large freezer and we stock up on bulk cuts of meat when they’re on sale and plan our menus based on what we have in the house already then shop sales to prepare for the weeks to come. We also cook nearly everything from scratch and look for gleaner information as well as letting people know that anyone who has extra garden produce that we’re interested, then we preserve that for the winter as well. We make our own bread, bagels, and hamburger buns, each batch costing about 30c including energy.

  2. I buy food when it’s on sale. I don’t cook much and I’m vegetarian so I tend to shop at Loblaws and No Frills more because PC has a lot of veggie foods. The biggest difference for me is avoiding Tim Horton’s in the morning. If I don’t have time for breakfast at home and I’m near a McDonalds, I get coffee and a muffin there. It’s $1.46 including tax for both which is great, and their small is the same size as Tim’s medium. The other thing I’ve done is buy a 925 gram tin of Maxwell House, which is NOT good coffee but it always comes on sale for under $5 a can. When I make it I add a dash of cinnamon and it tastes much better without tasting cinnamony! I also keep waffles, porridge, bread etc. handy so I can have that for breakfast instead of being tempted to go out for breakfast at the local diner.

    • Lee, I do the same thing at work…I have a stash of oatmeal (which I need to replenish) at my desk for the mornings I have not had my breaky at home. I resist the urge to buy the better coffee downstairs and usually get the crap coffee they have at work, with a little cream and sugar it’s pallatable (sp?)

  3. I reduce my grocery bill by raising my own beef, goat, and egg-laying chickens. The beef and the goat are hard to do yourself, but the chickens are pretty easy. Chickens are inexpensive, efficient composters of food waste which produce eggs much healthier than the corn-fed caged things you get in the store. Some breeds are even quite friendly and make good pets.

  4. Some good reminders, of tips that I have heard before. I know that I should stay out of the aisles, but feel the need to go up and down every single one, just in case I missed putting anything on my list. As a result, I always come out with extra stuff I don’t need. Thanks for reminding me – I will try to do this during this week’s shopping!

    • I used to be an aisle shopper too…now we only venture into the aisles where we know we need something. I took a course in university called “Economics of Food Usage” and this is where I learned a lot about how a grocery store is laid out. Like, putting the milk in the very far back corner of the store, diagonal from the doors, so that you have to go through the entire store to get it, and spend more money on impulse buying, lol!

  5. $250 month!? Wow!! I’m impressed! We’re a family of 6 & I budget $200/week… can’t imagine only $50 more for the entire month! Going to have to catch up on your blog & see if you’ve posted recipes! 🙂

  6. Interesting info here! I never really noticed that about the aisles, the top and bottom are cheaper than the eye level items!

  7. Hey, just checking in, we haven’t heard from you in a while! Hope all is well, and look forward to catching up when you return. 🙂

    • Hi Heather…I have been pretty sick with a sinus infection for the last 6 days…still having trouble being upright for any period of time…lol. thank you for thinking of me! Amy can’t write either, cause she’s busy picking up all the slack, lol.

  8. All great tips! There are a heap of marketing ploys implemented by retailers (particularly grocery stores) designed to keep you in the store for as long as possible and get you to purchase things you didn’t intend to buy when you went to the store! They have it down to a science! Even by the music that’s pumped into the store depending upon the time of day that you’re shopping. It’s pretty sinister when you think about it.

    For one thing, brand names are typically at eye level – whereas store brands or generic brands are in harder to reach/harder to find areas. The essentials are always located either on the perimeter or at the back of the store (such as meat and milk) thereby making customers walk through the entire store, hoping other things find their way into your cart along the way!

    Good for you guys sticking to your budget! I think that’s fantastic!


  9. Great article! We budget $100/week for groceries for our family of 5 and follow every one of your rules, including shopping at Food Basics! The biggest thing (for us) is to buy ingredients instead of meals. The only frozen foods I buy are some vegetables and tortellini (when on a good sale).

    I love your goal tickers on the side-bar!

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