Dec
18
2009

Saving Money on Groceries

If you are on a budget, or even if you’re not and you want to save oodles of money on an everyday expense, it is necessary to educate yourself in proper grocery shopping.

I took some business classes and one of the most eye-opening seminars was from a business consultant who frequently does work for businesses like Price Waterhouse Coopers. Part of his presentation on finding money for your business involved grocery shopping. He doesn’t make an inconsiderable amount of money, and he was shocked by how much money he saved by economizing just a little. His mother came to stay with him and his wife, and the first day she was there she offered to go grocery shopping for them and help out with the household a bit. Our accountant friend had always just frequented the local Toronto Loblaws, as it was easiest to navigate and get to.

The mother went to the Loblaws as suggested and was blown away by the prices. She decided to do a quick survey; she stopped people on the street in the neighbourhood and asked them all if they lived there and if so, where they shopped. Most of them directed her to the local “No Frills”, where she went to conduct a standard weekly grocery buy for the young couple. This research netted them a savings of 100.00 per week.

Distinguish Premium from Regular
In the world of grocery stores, there are premium and there are regular grocery stores. The premium stores are generally easier to get to, have more parking, and are easier to navigate. They also make lots of money from high markup items like store-made sushi, salads, and baked goods. If you avoid the stores, you avoid the high markup items, and drastically trim your grocery bill.

That’s not all. Being an accountant, our friend did an Excel spreadsheet of the cost of regular household items at various stores, including convenience stores. His findings were interesting. On average, the “regular” grocery stores such as No Frills and Price Chopper were cheaper, and the “Premium” grocery stores like Loblaws and Fortinos were always higher. However, corner stores were cheaper on more common items like milk, which he postulated was an attempt to get you into the store.

Don’t Shop at The Corner

Unless it is Christmas and it is the only place open, don’t do your grocery shopping at the corner store. A lot of people with less money and no means of transportation go this way to save time, when in fact a small amount for bus fare can save you $20.00 on one grocery buy, even if you are closer on the bus route to a premium store. The exception would be for items like milk, as noted above.

Go During The Day
Most moms picking up their kids from school drop by the grocery store between 3:30 and 5:00. If you can make it earlier in the morning, say around 11:00, you’ll have access to items on the discount racks that are fresh and abundant. Don’t go right when the store opens as you want to give them a chance to stock the discount racks. Bread, baked goods and fruit and vegetables can all be obtained cheaply with this strategy, and some items are usually so fresh they’ll last a week in a fridge. You can freeze bread so if you get a deal, buy two loaves and freeze one. This strategy works effectively at both premium and regular grocery stores.

Where You Shop is Not A Status Symbol

Some people think it “sounds bad” to say that they shop at a discount grocery store. Nobody cares about where you shop. In fact, in these harsh economic times, it has become fashionable to pinch pennies.

Evaluate What You Buy Often – Is There a Cheaper Alternative?
Items like taco seasoning and Hamburger Helper can be made for far less money at home, unless they are on sale. Butter chicken, a staple for a lot of people now that Indian food is more popular, tastes better when made from Patak’s butter chicken paste, cream, and water, rather than expensive butter chicken sauce. Paste goes a lot further for about the same price as the sauce.

Shop at Wal-Mart
Yeah, I wrote that. Wal-Mart not only has staple items for far less money, such as hamburger and chicken, but they carry a wide array of organic products. These organic products range from milk to yogurt to bananas, and your local grocery store may have more of a variety, but they can’t match the price.

Why, do you ask, am I even writing a blog posting on saving money on groceries? When I was a student, I just didn’t have to economize, I had to make a dollar stretch so far you’d think it was a Cenobite (obscure Hellraiser reference there, I know). This meant that my one day off was spent taking the subway to Queen and Broadview to buy my meat at the cheapest and best meat shop in Toronto, and dry goods from the store right next to it. I have no idea if they are still open, it’s been about 15 years. It was a game to see how much money I could save over Toronto grocery store prices, and I won.

Today, everyone has to economize, even if they are upper middle class families. Nobody knows when the next layoff is coming or how much they may need for an emergency. Groceries are an obvious and easy place to cut expenses. Good luck chopping your budget!

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