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10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries Without Coupons





Canadians want to save money on their groceries but many do not want to use canadian coupons to reduce their grocery bill.  I wanted to share ten ways to save money on groceries without using coupons:

1. Avoid Food Waste

On average, we waste 14% of our food purchases per year, and the average family in the United States throws out over $600 of fruit per year. Most of the food we waste is due to spoilage. People are buying too much and using too little of it.

Instead of watching food go to waste, try to make some small changes:

  1. Check for such foods in your refrigerator daily, your freezer weekly, and your cupboards monthly for expiration dates and spoilage.
  2. Ensure your produce is stored safely in the fridge and turn older bread into breadcrumbs.
  3. Use leftovers to create different soups, stews, salads, and casseroles.
  4. Freeze leftover vegetables to make soup or a vegetable stock.
  5. Freeze ripe fruits to use in baking.

2. Meal Planning 101

This is where many families go over budget. If you do not have anything prepared, then most people would order a pizza or takeout.

Meal planning sounds like a lot of work but if you have a schedule the house will run more smoothly.

Each Sunday, we plan the meals for the week based on the sales items from the flyers. We plan our lunches, dinners, and snacks. This makes us more organized because we are not spending extra time ordering food or worrying what is in the fridge to eat.

3. Shop in the Right Season

My wife loves strawberries and blackberries. Fortunately, we can stock up on these seasonal fruits when they are in season locally at incredible savings.

This means that we don’t eat cherries, mangoes, or watermelon in the winter, however, it saves money and allows us to enjoy what’s fresh and seasonal during each season.

If a fruit or vegetable is on sale that can be frozen or will stay fresh for longer than a week, I try to buy extra to freeze or to enjoy the following week.

4. Clean Out the Pantry

Some families have enough food in their pantries to make meals. It makes sense to clean out your pantry because as a cook you can get creative and start concocting new recipe ideas.

When I do this in our house, I often find we have a lot more food on hand than I thought!

5. Use Cash

There is so much temptation at the grocery store to spend money.

For this reason, my family recently went to a cash-only envelope budgeting system. We take our entire budget ($250) for the month in envelopes and when it is gone, we can’t spend anymore money on groceries.

Using cash forces you to spend less money at the grocery store. If you don’t believe me try it for a week, and see if you bought less and were more careful where your budget went. Using cash makes you realistically stick to your budget.

6. Alternative Meat Cuts

Many Canadians love meat and eat it on a regular basis. An alternative to eliminating meat from your budget is buying a cheaper cut of meat like a hanger steak or flank steak or even a Chuck Tail Flat.

You can turn a Chuck Tail Flat into into strips for fajitas or noodle bowls or a steak sandwich.

A flank steak or “skirt steak” is significantly tougher than the other beef cuts; but if you use a moist cooking methods like braising or sauteeing it will taste delicious. It is an underrated cut of beef but it has great flavour, and is extremely tender when cut and prepared properly.

You can tenderize tough cuts of meat using a hand tenderizer or wrap up a heavy object in plastic and use as a replacement.

7. Find Alternative Stores

Have you ever heard of McGavin’s Bread Baskets store?

The McGavin’s Bread Baskets are discount bakery outlet stores for Canada Bread Company Limited. They carry a large variety of bread, bagels, buns, English muffins, and tortillas. They carry brands such as McGavin’s, Dempster’s, Smart, and Villaggio.

They sell discounted bread (bread with only a couple of days of shelf life), surplus bread from over productions, and fresh bread. You can buy in singles or in multiples to save.

The Discount Bread area offers you up to 70% off our regular prices for all the popular brands.

Have you considered shopping in your local Chinatown or ethnic supermarkets (even small cities in Canada have these)? These stores rarely advertise so they pass their savings onto you with some great bargains on produce or more specialty items.

8. Avoid Certain Items at the Grocery Stores

Some items are best not to purchase at the grocery store.

I love to cook curries but did you know that I buy bulk spices from natural food stores or ethinic stores at cheaper prices than the supermarket. Some spices like cumin, bay leaves and cracked pepper are even available at your local dollar stores.

Convenience products like batteries are pricier at the grocery store.

Unless you can find a sale, the best deals for products like shampoo or toothpaste are at drug stores like Shoppers Drug Mart or Rexall.

9. Best Bulk Buys

Grocery stores are starting to stock their bulk section with a better selection of products. This is important when you need a small quantity for a recipe and do not want to purchase a larger container.

I have found that certain items like grains (rice, barley, bulgur, quinoa), pasta and dried fruits bought in bulk are much less expensive than their prepackaged counterparts.

Always compare price per unit and if the size makes sense go for the best price per unit.

10. Use Your Freezer

Our family saves hundreds of dollars annually using our freezer. Our local grocery stores often have clearance prices on meat, cheese, fruit, and even milk.

We often take advantage of our freezer by batch cooking. An example is cooking a large quantity of chicken breasts (that we purchased on sale and clearance) and chop and freeze them in freezer bags. These are used in casseroles or stir-frys.  We use the milk for pancakes or a cream substitute.

Frozen fruit is perfect for french toast, baking, or even smoothies.

By stocking up on items when they are at great prices and then freezing them, it gives me more variety to work with when planning our menus and saves us money, too.

About the Author: This is a guest post by Steven Zussino, President of GroceryAlerts.ca, Canada’s Source for Grocery Deals, canadian coupons, and printable coupons. They match coupons with the latest grocery flyer specials.





34 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. #2 is the big one to me. No plan = huge costs eating out

    I’ve found that stocking up on Sundays with four or five different dishes for the week is the key. You always have something to throw on after work, and you can control what goes into the meal. Healthy and cost effective.

  2. 2. Jungle

    I am a big grocery saver and it’s all about how you shop. Planning meals and food is part of it.

    Pricematching, coupons and loss leaders really help.

  3. I agree with you about planning meals. Stick to the loss leaders each week is important.

  4. 4. nobleea

    Plant a rasberry and/or blueberry bush in the backyard, along with rhubarb. Once properly established they’re bloody weeds, requiring no care whatsoever.

  5. 5. Walter

    Get an MBNA Mastercard and save another 3% on your groceries. Just be sure to pay it off on time

  6. 6. Craig

    $250 a month for a family? Really? I don’t like KD and cow tongue all that much.

    I have a family of 4, two of which are younger than 5 years old, we would be lucky to spend less than $800 a month. We buy economy brands and eat steak maybe once a month… budget numbers like $250 are unrealistic.

  7. 7. Jungle

    Last month we did $167 (no fast food) for two adults. This also includes brown bag lunch to work :)

    Also had a great price match at Walmart last week, every item was price matched saving around 30- 50S% off in some cases including stacking coupons.

  8. 8. Craig

    @Jungle, how much time do you spend looking for coupons and price matches? Please detail a weeks worth of food (loosely). Where in the country are you locate? How often do you shop for food? How many store do you go to in this time frame (looking for advertised deals)? Do you have a larger (freezer) grocery bill each year?

  9. 9. Marianne

    Great tips! We have been working hard to cut back on our food costs but it feels a bit like two steps forward and one step back. For example, at the beginning of the month there was a really good deal on cheese and I stocked up but we ended up eating less of it than I thought and I had to throw away half a bar of cheese because it went mouldy. I have been doing a lot of price matching which has been great! We barely eat beef because of the high cost and stick mostly to cheap pork. We love our freezer and stock up whenever there is a sale. We are aware of some discount grocery stores- used to work in the same plaza as three of them- but haven’t really harnessed the power of them yet. There is one store near us that sells very cheap meat and is known for having amazing deals but they also sell a lot of expired food and it kind of grosses me out so I don’t buy meat from there..

  10. 10. Robert

    These articles always focus on price alone. As a student, my gf (now my wife) and me were spending less than $150 a month. As working adults who are growing older, we now look for quality and health.

    We buy organic fruits and veggies. We buy two $5 loaf of bread rather than the 2 for $4 cheap sugary no-name brand. For a young family of four, we spend about $600 a month (including going to two or three different stores; the flyers dictate where we go but they are all very close to our house).

    If you focus on cost alone, you may grow weaker and with diseases like gastro issues, etc. I did. Now that we focus on health rather than cost alone, we are very healthy and with more energy.

  11. 11. Craig

    Well said @Robert. I question the long term health of a family living on a grocery budget of $250/month.

    @Robert, while $600 is much more realistic (not to mention heathly) I still wonder where I could possibly find $200 worth of grocery savings each month? That’s about an entire weeks worth of groceries.

    We shop the flyers, look for sales. Use coupons when possible but are certainly not extreme couponers (I don’t know where people find the time). We shop some econo brands when the ingredients are not so bad. We meal plan. We buy meat on sale and almost never pay full price. We make our meals using raw ingredients and almost never buy convenience items. We have a freezer but admitedly could do a better job using it. Ultimately our purchase decisions are based on health first, price second.

  12. 12. SST

    @Robert — agreed. Wife and I could easily cut our grocery bill by 3/4 if we ate “all white” and nutritionally void “food”. But then again, what we would save now we would pay back in spades in later years through health problems and medical bills.

    Besides that, a person is alive for only a very short span of time, life is much more than a focus on money alone (how capitalist society has trained us to do). Enjoy your food while you can. :)

    p.s. — don’t forget to RESPECT your food! Something N.Americans have a hard time doing because it is so abundant and cheap (ie. disposable).

  13. @Walter – The idea is there with the credit card but I guarantee that using cash you will spend less.

    @Robert – If you shop organic, it will cost more but I agree in pro-active health.

    @Craig – It would be interesting if you shared your meal plans for the whole month. Trust me it is do-able to have a budget of $250 / month (for a family). We don’t buy any junk food and we have good knowledge of what is on sale.

  14. 14. Craig

    @Steve, I’m willing if you are. I think it would be very interesting to see what a family eats $800 vs $250. We plan our meals a week at a time. Are you planning a month in advance? Also, what’s consider junkfood?

  15. 15. Harry

    Great detailed tips. I currently rent an apartment with no freezer and I have been jumping up and down with frustration knowing what kind of money I could be saving from using one. The rest of the tips are very useful too. Thanks

  16. 16. Seth

    I’ve a hunch that prices are marked differently on weekends than regular days but have not done a verification so far. As a store owner it makes total sense to mark up stuff (even by few cents) on busier days.

    It would be interesting to know if someone has done some research in this aspect.

    edit: not related to groceries per se but I found this http://www.smartmoney.com/spend/family-money/the-best-time-to-buy-everything-20025/

  17. 17. Jimmy McJimerson

    @Steve: I’m with Craig – post the info on what you are eating in a week (about $62.50). I am a family of 4 in Ottawa with a 2 yr old and 4 yr old. I run easy ~$600 – 700/month not inc. paper towels, dish soap etc. I shop specials at the local grocery store + Costco every 3-4 weeks. I don’t waste a ton of time driving all over the country side to buy loss leaders, but I shop sales and stock up when price makes sense because I am cheap. I do eat no-name cherios, KD and simple things like Tuna Sammies but also enjoy putting together the odd $20-25 dish of chicken enchilada’s or a few steaks on the BBQ. Dinner’s leftovers = next days lunch @ work.

    I just can’t imagine eating for 250/month unless you are leveraging the local soup kitchen,OR only buying rice, potatoes, water, OR you work at a restaurant and eat for free 5 days a week.

  18. I like these — although I spend more than that in a month and I’m just one person! Number one is key, and it’s a good idea to visualize actually throwing cash into the trash when your leftovers spoil.

  19. 19. John

    I like the idea about using cash. Truly, if you shop at small local “mom and pop” type shops, you’ll find some people willing to make a deal. Be kind when negotiating, but firm.

    Thanks for the great post!

  20. 20. Jungle

    Hi Craig:

    I might spend 10 minutes a week doing my grocery list which I base off the flyers when they come out Friday. For coupons, there are websites where you can order them and I also trade with a someone at work too who collects coupons. Also some products have coupons on the back, like Latencia Milk over the last month. They came with Black diamond cheese coupons which I stacked this week as they were on sale at food basic for $4.44, got $1 off that, just price matche at walmart so I don’t go store to store.

    I live in Toronto and shop for food sometimes 1-3 times per week. If we are going out, I will plan grocery runs to save on gas and if not, I ride my bicycle with a duffel bag.

    I don’t have a freezer , just the one my fridge has and usually stock it with boneless skinless chicken, extra lean ground beef, pizzas. milk and bread when they go on sale. I won’t buy meat unless it’s on sale. I devide it up and put it in freezer bags.

    Well a weeks worth of food..
    This week we did whole wheat spagetti (bought 99 cents on sale) with x-lean meat balls, (bought on sale 2.99 lbs), bread crumbs, diced tomato (bought on sale two for $1), tomato paste. It lasted us for dinner for four days.

    For lunches, we did egg salad sandwhiches on whole wheat. Got the eggs for 1.67 at loblaws, lite mayo on sale for $3, bread was 1.88 and I think I stack a coupon on that too. Two apples, got 8 lbs bag for $3.44, bananna bread my wife made, (made with 10KG flour 6.99), Also did peanut butter and jelly sandwhich too. Got the pb for $2 last sale!!

    Breakfast for me was oatmeal with bran addons. Plus two coffees, got 1L cream for 1.99, fogers coffee was 7.99 I think. Wife did activa yorgurt (tub 2.99) mixed wtih almond granola (3.79)

    Also dinner we had a mccain thin crust pizza, was 2 fo 5.44 at walmart.

    Tonight when I came home I had a glass of Natral milk, (on sale 3.88), bowl of shreddies, (family size box 2.99 !!) and some potato chips I got for my birthday.

    I was hungry because I rode my bike 104 KM this week to back and forth to work.

    Cost me $0 in gas despite it being $1.37+ in Toronto, $0 for gym membership, and used my commuting time effectively to save money.

    yay to me!!

  21. 21. Jungle

    Ok so today is Friday morning and I go through the flyers and these are the must buys this week. This should help anyone save money with some meal ideas too:

    Food basic
    Butter 2.77 (freeze it, wife bakes)
    Tom .67 (tomato sandwhiches)
    Red pepper .88 -use in chick pea salad(chick pea on sale all the time)

    Freshco
    Yams .79 bake sweet potato fries on olive oil and parm cheese)
    10 lbs bag onion (cheap!)

    No Frills
    Boneless, skinless chicken 3.44 lbs (freeze) -plan meals around chicken ( I have one with red pepper)
    armstrong 500g cheese 3.97 – for whatever
    grapes .97 cents – for lunches
    500ml coffee cream .99 (good price)

    I could keep going but you get the idea… become familar with prices and don’t over pay.. use the smart cash credit card and get another 3-5 % back in cash.

    Price match at no frills, walmart or freshco to save time.

    Good luck !

  22. 22. Craig

    @Jungle, appreciate your time writing all that down.

    After reading the forum at Grocery Alerts (and reading your comments), my take is the real savings are from stacking coupons on sale items. While I do go through my local flyers each week, I am not sure I have the dedication/time to keep up on collecting coupons and stacking on sales…. but then I guess I can’t complain about spending so much more on groceries.

    Also, do you find that sometimes you buy items just because they go on sale and you have a coupon to stack? I was reading this extreme couponing blog once and this lady would go to Shoppers and buy like 10 sticks of deoderant just because she they were on sale and she had coupons. Granted, she would get 10 sticks for about a buck…. but I mean, who needs ten sticks of deoderant? Same goes for food items. Granola bars for example.

  23. 23. Craig

    @Jungle, did you eat spagetti 4 days in a row?

  24. 24. SST

    @Jungle: “Boneless, skinless chicken 3.44 lbs”

    Here’s a tip — buy whole chickens, or at least skin-on/bone-in. They are a lot cheaper and take maybe one minute to skin/de-bone.
    Or just cook with skin/bone, since that’s where a lot of the flavour comes from. Then remove skin/bone after cooking. Easy.

    Don’t pay for convenience when you don’t have to!
    (labels in my grocer have the $/unit on them, I always buy using this instead of just the overall end price)

    I remember hearing someone say only buy prepared foods (ie. not raw state) if it saves you five minutes or more in prep time. Any less and you are wasting money. However, I still won’t buy instant mashed “potatoes”.

    p.s. — have you ever tasted chicken in other countries? Canadian chicken tastes ugly. :(

  25. Everyone has some great points.

    I have received a lot of comments of exactly how we spend less than $250 month on groceries.

    I am creating a spreadsheet that will list the meals we have eaten and the food and drinks we have purchased for each day of the month.

    I will see if I can do a followup post.

    It will be interesting since my wife is due any day now with our first baby!

  26. 26. psss

    @steve …Get the baby to breastfeed. it saves money on formula and healthy for the baby :D

  27. 27. Sarlock

    Family of four, we average about $800-$1,000 per month on food. We don’t bargain shop, however, and buy mostly organic products. We also entertain guests 2-3 times per week for dinner, so that certainly adds to our food budget.
    There has to be a careful balance between buying on sale and buying good products. There is so much on the grocery store shelves that seems healthy because of the packaging and advertising but it’s really just white flour/sugar/corn starch junk. Quality is just more expensive, no way to get around that.

  28. 28. Jungle

    Craig: I will only stack a coupon for something I can use, otherwise spending money on something not needed just cause it’s on sale, is silly. This can expand beyond grocery shopping.. (live within your means)

    I know someone that does buy the 30 deordorent sticks with coupons, they save money sure, but they are spending too much money. I agree with you, just because something is on sale, and you have a coupon, doesn’t mean you should buy it. YOu have to be able to use it.

    The great thing about food, is for the most part you can create meals or side dish or snack with most stuff bought with coupons.

    Yes, this week I did eat spaghetti 4 days out of 5. THis was due to me working a hetic schedule and no time to make food after work, so it worked preparing and storing in tupperware. ALso there was no waste. Normally we don’t really stretch leftovers this far, but this week it was needed.

    SST:

    Is it hard to separate the chicken? I’ve read some amazing things on how you can stretch over a dozen meals from a whole chicken. Prepping and freezing. I am very interested in this and might start doing it.

  29. @Craig if you question health habits perhaps you might consider going back to the basics. Here is a link to 1 whole pork leg, 45 servings and $23 bucks. – http://www.groceryalerts.ca/1-pork-leg-45-meals-23-bucks/

    When it comes to eating healthy it’s actually cheaper it just takes more time and effort. Like making your own pasta from scratch. A 10kg bag of whole wheat flour for $9.99 will make much more pasta than you can buy for $2.00/ box it just takes time. All that is needed is water, flour and eggs.

    @Robert I agree with you on bread however have you ever made your own? Here is an example – I’m sure if you watch what you eat you are familiar with Holy Crap cereal that retails for $10.99. You can make this power food for 1/10 of the of the cost from scratch. Do the same with bread. In fact that healthy bread you buy at the store still contains a tone of preservatives.

    We make all our bread, pasta, and pizza dough from scratch.

    @Marianne I only buy cheese when it’s on special and usually in the US. We freeze cheese and butter that can last easily for 6-8 months.

    We would definitely love to share how we manage to cook tasty healthy meals over the month for $250.

  30. 30. D

    There is always the option to buy a discounted gift card to the store where you do your shopping and use it as your form of payment. You can still use coupons in conjunction with this method!

  31. Buying alternative cuts of meat is a great way to cut costs, and you can make a really attractive and delicious meal with a bit of creativity.

    I find that you can do a lot with a pork tenderloin; they only cost a few dollars and will comfortably feed a family of four. Not only is a pork tenderloin a cheap cut of meat, but it is so versatile: grill it, bake it, pan-fry it etc., and there are so many quick and easy marinades or rubs that you can make from ingredients already in your fridge or pantry. It can be made into a casual or elegant meal.

    There’s no waste with a pork tenderloin so you get the best bang for your buck there, too!

  32. 32. dlm

    @Louise: I tried a pork roast recently and found it *dry* when potroasted and difficult to chew. Producers are taking so much fat out, I’m leery of being able to eat it. How do you handle it?

  33. 33. Nick

    Well, I’m perhaps not as frugal as some of you, but I think I’m doing fairly well. I’m a single guy and I budget $50/week which includes all of my food,protein powder, toiletries, kitchen supplies, cleaning products, etc. I find this very do-able and in fact, I might need to reduce my budget as I find I am stocking more food than I am eating.

    I workout hard 3-5 days a week so I eat a fair bit and eat very healthy. I find the key for me is to actually make food from as close to scratch as possible. It’s a lot cheaper and you learn a good skill in how to cook (not to mention impress the ladies!).

    When I first started setting up my budgets, I was trying to use a lot of coupons, but I found that the vast majority of coupons are for name brand and pre-processed foods, which are never a great deal. You can almost always do better by just buying no-name products or better yet breaking whatever it is in to the more basic ingredients and making it yourself. The only think I buy in a box, would be the odd frozen pizza for a treat, or granola cereal.

    Of course, you always plan your meals around the major sale items. After a while of being price conscious you will get a good idea of what the best prices are for certain products. I usually only buy things when they are at or near the lowest price and I will buy and freeze enough to last me until the next time they go on sale, which you will also get a feel for after a while. All this planning used to take me a while to do, but after a while it is just instinct now and doesn’t cost me any noticeable time. I usually give the flyers a quick skim, 5-10 minutes and will visit one or two grocery stores a week.

    Also, for cooking meats a digital meat thermometer is your best friend. It cooks perfectly every time. Slow cookers are also great for large stews.

    Also, with regards to buying items in quantities, 30 sticks of deodorant might be a bit much, but I’ve bought 5 or 6 at a time if they are at an unusually low price, such as with a sale and coupon. I mean, you are going to use them eventually aren’t you? I find Dollarama a good place for shampoo and things like that sometimes. they often have expensive brand names for $2 a bottle.

    Well, I feel like I may have written a small essay here, but once I got going it was hard to stop…. This is my first post btw.

  34. 34. Mark

    I would also like to know how you’re affording to feed yourself on $250 a month. My wife and I spend about $400-500 per month. Mind you, that also includes costs for cleaning supplies, and things like garbage bags, but those don’t exactly take a huge bite out of the budget. How is it that you are able to do this? You mention making your own bread – I do this too on occasion and yes it is cheaper and even healthier (I know and can control what goes into it, and I can actually pronounce all of those things, and no preservatives) but the problem we have with it is waste. It has no preservatives like the store bought junk, so it tends to harden within a few days. This tends to make it more costly, not less costly. How do you store things like bread so that they last longer… or does your family simply eat the entire loaf within a couple of days and making 2-3 loafs of bread in a week is actually plausible for your situation?

    On another note, you might also want to add: Start a Garden to this list. Fruits and vegetables are expensive but they can be grown at home by yourself. Also healthier because they’re not injected with growth hormones or sprayed with pesticides – unless you do that yourself, of course. I’m trying to figure out how I can grow them inside during the winter, but I don’t imagine it would be too difficult.

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