My friend Heather at In Good Taste and I have been chatting about sticking to grocery budgets and couponing. She’s awesome at it, and her post has some nice tips on sticking to a weekly budget when food shopping. Our conversations, along with other conversations about grocery budgets got me thinking about how different it is to save money on food here in Canada. You have those extreme couponers in the states, and while there are some people who do go to the extreme side of things, couponing in Canada is way different (and less common). Until fairly recently it was really hard to find coupons here. Additionally, food in Canada (specifically meat and dairy) is more expensive than it is in the states.
That said, it is 100 percent possible to keep to a tight budget here! For my family of four, we are able to stick to a pretty decent budget without bending over backward to find and use coupons. Keep in mind that, while some people say otherwise, healthy eating is NOT cheaper than eating crappy foods. If you are expecting to eat only whole foods, expect to increase your food budget, rather than decrease it. If you’re able, shopping farmers markets and growing and preserving your own produce will go a long way in helping you save money. We fall somewhere in the middle on this one, and it works for us.
In this post, I will share some of my money-saving tips. Remember that food budgets are not a one-size-fits-all thing. Do what works for you and your family.
These tips are somewhat specific to Canada, as that’s where I live, but some tips are universal. All coupon websites will be listed at the end of this post. And now, on to my couponing and money saving tips!
1. Subscribe to coupon websites to get printable coupons and coupons mailed to you. This seems like a no-brainer, but there are a lot of coupons available online. Most of them are print-at-home coupons, but some will be mailed to you. Set up a day once a week to sift through websites and print out the coupons you want. Even though it may be tempting, don’t use coupons just because they are available. You’re not going to save any money that way.
2. Get a store card. If your local grocery store offers points cards, sign up! We stick to our local grocery store, and they recently began offering PC Points cards. I get points for every day items like broccoli and bananas, with occasional big points items like diapers or toilet paper. I save up my points until I have 60,000-100,000 and then I spend my points to get a week’s worth of groceries for free.
3. Price Match. Many stores now offer price matching. Mrs. January has a great post with a list of stores that price match, along with links to their price matching policies. Scour your Thursday flyers or use the Flipp app to keep your price matching simple. In order to price match, you have to show the ad from a competing store, and the Flipp app saves you from needing to carry around half a dozen store flyers. Price Matching also saves you from having to shop at many different stores in order to get all the sales. I typically do my shopping on two different days. I get the bulk of our groceries (meat and produce) from the local grocery store (using my points card) and then hop over to the mall later in the week to hit up Walmart (where I price match and use coupons on paper goods, diapers, pet food and miscellaneous grocery items) and the Dollar Store (where I typically buy paper goods, garbage bags and miscellaneous household items).
4. Keep bulk shopping to a minimum. Stores like Costco seem really great (and CAN be), but many times people go in with a short list, and come out having spent $500 on a cart full of items they didn’t know they needed. Be sure you know if you’re really getting a good deal on bulk food items (take note of unit prices). Try to stay away from buying things you don’t normally use. I typically make a Costco trip every 2-3 months to stock up on dog food, baby wipes and lunch snacks. I always set a budget and keep track of my spending as I go. Remember: you don’t need to fill your precious storage space with a year’s supply of toothpaste and ketchup. Buy in bulk only what you expect to consume within a reasonable amount of time.
5. Use rebate apps! Apps like Checkout 51 are great, because you get cash back on things you already buy. Take a picture of your grocery receipt and upload it to the Checkout 51 app to get your rebates. You can choose to have rebates mailed to you when you hit $20, or wait until it adds up a bit. I like to wait until it hits $100, so it pays for a week’s worth of groceries. Again, don’t buy something just to get the rebate. If you don’t normally buy International Delight Iced Coffee, it doesn’t make sense to spend an extra $6 just to get the $1 rebate (though I do love some International Delight Iced Coffee as a high calorie, high sugar treat).
6. Double up sales with coupons. This is one of my favourite things to do. Every Friday I go through the store ads and cross reference them with my pile of coupons. I love to use a coupon on an item that is already on sale (double check the coupons and store policies, though, because some stores don’t allow coupons on sale items).
7. Make shopping lists smart. When you’re making your shopping list, make note of items that are being price matched, as well as those items you have a coupon for. You don’t want to be that person who holds up the line, digging through coupons and flyers.
Target Store Coupons - print
WebSaver – print and mail
SmartCanucks – print, mail, deals
GroceryAlerts – print
Free.ca – print
Save.ca – print and mail
GoCoupons – print and mail
P&G Everyday – print and mail
What are your money saving tips? Share them in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!