This post is dedicated to André, who I believe could benefit from learning how to save money on groceries, since his net profit is about -$500 per year. Other students or people living on a budget could probably benefit from this post too.
1. Shop by the flyer
This is the number one way you can save money. Checking out the flyers of stores will tell you what sales and deals they have and also let you plan your groceries ahead of time. You can compare sales between different stores and see which ones are better. Also, when you plan your groceries and stick to your list, you’ll be less likely to make impulse buys, which will also save you money. If you almost exclusively buy things that are on sale, you will save a ton of money in the long run.
2. Getting to know the prices at different stores
Shopper’s will usually have cheap eggs and milk, while Loblaws will only have cheap milk when it’s on sale. Sobey’s and Metro tend to be more expensive than No Frills. After a while of shopping at the same stores, you can get a feel of the regular prices of certain items, as well as how cheap they can get when on sale. You can use this method to figure out where the best places are to buy different items.
3. Shopping in Chinatown
Chinatown is super cheap! You do pay for what you get, though, so the quality is usually not the best. However, for fresh produce and meat, Chinatown will usually have the cheapest prices, and the meat is usually decent. I’ve found that Lucky Moose in Toronto has the best quality for the lowest price, so if you live close to Chinatown or are passing by, it’s a good idea to try to do your groceries there. Note that Western items such as peanut butter or pasta will be more expensive than what you could get at a Western store, though, so you should stick to fruit and vegetables, meat, and Asian products.
Grocery stores don’t usually give out coupons, but a lot of other places do. Bulk Barn does, for example ($3 off $10 purchase). Restaurants and fast food places do as well. Loblaws and No Frills have online coupons that you can print out. Various brands (e.g. P&G) will also often have coupons on their websites or if you join their mailing list. You can save a lot on household products such as shampoo, toilet paper, or dish soap.
5. Student discounts
Tons of places have student discounts! You should always ask if they have it available. College Park Metro and Bulk Barn both have 10% student discounts on Wednesdays and Sobey’s has it every day. All you need to do is show the cashier your student ID. At UoT, you can also get an ISIC card for free, which you can use for things such as student discounts with Via Rail or Greyhound.
6. Points cards
Almost every store has its own points card and you should definitely take advantage of them. They are almost always free and you basically just earn points on your purchases. Loblaws and No Frills have PC Plus Points, Shopper’s Drugmart has Optimum points, and Sobey’s and Metro both do Air Miles (you can choose to get air miles or cash miles). You can also download most cards on your phone so you don’t have to carry around the physical card everywhere.
7. Personalized deals
Following up on the previous point, points cards will also often have personalized deals. Loblaws will keep track of your purchases and offer your special deals just for you, based on things that you buy often, such as 300 pts for a pack of cookies that you buy often. These are just like free points on things you would get anyway! Some stores such as Sobey’s also offer deals such as 50% off a certain item when you use their points card, so these are definitely good things to take advantage of.
Have you ever gone to a store hoping to get that really great deal from the flyer only to find out that the item you’re looking for is sold out? It happens ALL THE TIME. If something is on sale for an amazing price, chances are other people will have noticed. And here you see the beauty of rainchecks. If a certain item is on sale in the flyer and is sold out, you can ask for a raincheck for that item. The cashier will write it out for you and it’ll usually be good for about 30 days, so you can come back to that store (any location) and get that item using the raincheck for the same price as when it was on sale. These things are so good! They’re particularly useful if you tend to go shopping late at night when many things are gone.
That’s all for now. Hopefully that was useful!