How to Save Money on Groceries in Canada

According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2024, the average Canadian family will spend up to $701 more for food in 2024.

This brings the cost for a family of four up to $16,297 annually, the highest amount ever recorded.

This is due to inflation, supply chain interruptions, extreme weather events, fuel costs, and other factors.

While these factors are out of our control, our shopping habits can change.

Here are 11 ways to save money on groceries.

1. Plan Your Meals

Planning meals for the coming week might seem like a lot of time and trouble.

However, consider the benefits.

First, it only takes between 30 and 45 minutes a week to set out what you want to eat for meals and snacks.

You may have leftovers and recipes you already use regularly.

It’s just a matter of filling in the blanks with a few new ideas.

You can use this free template provided by the Dieticians of Canada.

Second, you will only make one trip to the grocery store instead of running out several times.

This will save time, energy, and fuel for your vehicle if you drive.

Third, you will waste less food, focus on what you need, and save money.

Fourth, you can eat healthier food.

We all know how easy it is to pick up fast food or pop a packaged meal in the microwave.

Instead, you can eat a more balanced diet that fuels the body.

Finally, you don’t have to figure out what to make when you’re busy, tired, or both.

You’ll get meals on the table faster and with less stress.

2. Create a List & Stick to It

Once you know what you want to make, review what you have in your cupboards and fridge.

Add any items you need to your shopping list.

Whether you use a pen and paper or jot them in your phone, stick to your list.

Consider using a coupon app such as Checkout51, a coupon/cashback hybrid.

You just upload your receipt and they’ll pay you out when your account reaches $20.

If you shop online, it is even simpler.

Just install the Honey app on your browser and it will automatically apply the best available coupons during checkout.

No searching through flyers or clipping coupons.

The app also automatically notifies you if an item you use goes on sale.

3. Stop Buying Brand Name

We all get in a habit of buying the same brands.

However, many generic brands are just as good, or even better, for far less money.

No Name, President’s Choice, Kirkland, and Great Value all offer generic food and household products that cost much less than their competitors. 

If you’re unwilling to give up on certain foods, at least try pantry items such as rice, pasta, vinegar, sugar, and flour.

Their paper towels, detergents, and toilet paper are often considerably cheaper too.

4. Eat Less Meat

According to Health Canada, healthy eating patterns include mostly plant-based foods.

More vegetables and fruits, whole-grain foods, and plant-based protein foods can lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Besides that, meat is expensive.

We’re not suggesting you live on apples, but fruits, vegetables, grains, and plant-based proteins usually cost less.

Key Insight

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians spend nearly 50 percent more on meat than fruit or vegetables.

5. Shop Several Stores

Shopping at one store might be convenient, but you probably won’t get the best value.

You may want to split your shopping between several stores to get the best prices on what you use.

For instance, household items are almost always cheapest at big box or discount stores.

However, you may prefer to buy your fruit and vegetables from a regular grocery retailer.

Dollar stores shouldn’t be ignored either.

There’s a misconception that they only sell cheap, imported items.

This isn’t the case.

They often carry brand name Canadian products at a much lower price.

Once you understand what you buy regularly, it’s just a matter of setting a shopping pattern.

It may take you a few minutes longer, but you could save a bundle.

6. Buy Fewer Packaged Foods

Most people buy packaged foods at one time or another.

It could be frozen pizza, hot dogs, or chicken strips.

Unfortunately, these foods provide empty calories and can cause cravings.

These cravings are your body telling you it needs nutrients.

Consequently, you could eat more, spend more on groceries, and gain weight.

Plus, many pre-packaged foods include ingredients that can harm your health.

Whole foods are always a wiser solution and cheaper in the long run.

7. Stock Up During Sales

If you’re out on your regular shopping spree and notice something you always use is on sale, stock up.

Good stockpile items include rice, pasta, oats, dried beans, coffee or tea, and sugar.

Other things you may want to stock up on are items you use regularly such as pet food, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, soap and garbage bags.

You will use them and you will save money in the long run.

8. Shop for Seasonal Foods

Sure, it’s nice to have avocados in the dead of winter, but consider the cost and nutritional value. They are transported a long distance and they’re shipped green.

Instead, try to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Crops such as turnips, beets, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, squash and yams are readily available during the winter.

Mushrooms are also grown in Canada throughout the year and you can find Canadian apples in November.

You can often find cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and lettuce from nearby greenhouses too.

Farmer’s markets run year-round and you’ll buy directly from the grower.

This food can have more nutritional value and it is often organic too.

9. Cook Big Batches

Preparing bigger meals that you can’t consume in one sitting makes perfect sense.

You can package the leftovers to serve as meals on other days.

For instance, if you’re making spaghetti sauce it doesn’t take more work to cook a big pot.

Just divide the remaining portions into containers and pop them in your freezer.

The same idea applies to stew, chili, quiche, and even pancakes and muffins.

Defrost, reheat, and enjoy without the fuss.

10. Buy in Bulk

Bulk food buying is generally cheaper since you aren’t paying for brand packaging.

Plus, you can buy what you can reasonably use.

This ensures you don’t end up throwing money away.

A good example are spices.

When you buy a package in a supermarket, chances are you only really need a small amount.

The remainder sits in your cupboard and loses its potency and flavour. 

11. Use Reward Cards

Many supermarkets offer reward programs that can save you plenty of money.

You’ll accumulate points that you can use to reduce your food bill and you don’t need to track anything.

These stores usually offer specials for cardholders too that can slash the cost of certain items.

It doesn’t cost anything to join and the benefits are considerable.

If you shop online and save your shopping list, apps often automatically highlight offers that apply to you.

Couple grocery shopping

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What store has the cheapest groceries?
  • Why is my grocery bill so high lately?

Charlene Royston

Charlene Royston has written extensively for the private, public, and non-profit sectors for over ten years. Her experience working with a trust company led to a special interest in personal finance, including mortgages, investments, and retirement options. By simplifying the complex, she hopes to empower others to make more informed decisions.