In my recent article in the Globe and Mail, I’m on track to be mortgage-free by 31, the most common question I received was how I could possibly survive on only $100 a month in groceries. If your family is like most, groceries are your second highly household expense behind mortgage or rent.
Although Canada’s annual inflation rate was only 2.1 per cent in August, it seems like prices at the supermarket are rising a lot faster. Not only are prices higher, packages are being downsized, as consumers are being asked to pay more for less – what a concept! It’s enough to make you want to throw your hands up in the air as a consumer.
I’m living proof that with a few simple spending choices you can spend less and still enjoy your favourite foods for under $100 a month. Here’s what a typical meal consists of for me in a day:
- Oatmeal ($0.15)
- Banana ($0.15)
- Milk ($0.20)
- Total: $0.50
- Bagel and Peanut Butter
- Slice Carrots
- Rice Cake
- Total: $1
- Spaghetti and Sauce / Kraft Dinner and Frozen Vegetables / Brown Rice and Frozen Vegetables /
- Homemade Pizza
- Total: $1-$2
- Total: $0.50
Daily Grand Total: $3-$4
Here’s how I’ve managed to spend so little on groceries and how you can, too.
Save a bundle on gas – and groceries. With the price at the pumps, you won’t save much money driving around town for the best deals . The good news is many discount grocers match the price of rival stores simply by showing a competitor’s weekly flyer. Here’s another tip – to avoid overspending, consider making a shopping list and browsing the flyers for deals on products you’re already planning to buy.
Consider Cutting Back on Meat
No, that’s not your steak being grilled, it’s your wallet! Sizzling meat prices can really take a bite out of your grocery budget. Have you ever considering going vegetarian? Instead of eating meat, you can try consumer protein-rich foods like almonds, dairy products and tofu. If you’re not ready to give up T-bone steaks and chicken breast, consider limiting yourself to red meat once per week or only buying meat when it’s on sale – your wallet will thank you!
Shop at Discount Grocers
How would you like to buy everyday grocery items for a lot less? By shopping at discount supermarkets, the savings can really add up! Shaving $20 off your grocery bill each week will add up to yearly savings of over $1,000! You don’t have the sacrifice quality for savings – discounts grocers often have just as good quality produce and meat as the so-called premium stores. Need proof? MoneySense did an article, Why No Frills has the best value produce, that discovered discount supermarkets actually have produce at or near the same grade of premium supermarkets (sometimes even better).
Skip the Fast Food and Cook at Home Instead
We’re all guilty sometimes of picking up takeout pizza on those late nights out, but if you make it into a weekly habit it can really take a bite out of your budget. The trick to avoiding takeout is to make meal preparation at home as simple as possible. Not only will you save money, you’ll eat healthier too. Try cooking your meals in batches on the weekend when your schedule is less hectic. With your favourite meals prepared in advance, all you’ll have to do is pop it into the microwave and you’ll have a piping hot meal in under five minutes. I’m never tempted to dine out because it takes me more time to stop off at a restaurant than it does to cook at home.
Stock Up During Sales
Stocking up on grocery items you buy every week can add up to big savings. When you see your favourite non-perishable items like canned vegetables and coffee on sale, consider stocking up. By buying enough to tide you over until the next sale, you can avoid paying full price.
Buy in Season
Buying your favourite fruits and vegetables out of season can cost you a bundle. Have you ever seen the price of cherries in January? Yikes! Consider substituting your favourite fruits and vegetables for produce that are in season. If you love watermelon, you can save a bundle by choosing fruits like oranges and pears during the winter.
By changing a few costly habits, the savings can really add up on your grocery bill. Saving money on groceries doesn’t have to be a chore. Once you get into a weekly routine, it’s as easy as pie. You’ll hardly notice the extra work, meanwhile you’ll free up your cash flow for more important long-term goals like paying down your mortgage sooner or contributing to your RRSP.
Do you have any tips for saving money on groceries?
About the Author: Sean Cooper is a single, first time home buyer and landlord located in Toronto. He has experience in the financial sector as a Pension Analyst, RESP administrator and Income Tax Preparer. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce in business management from Ryerson University. Follow him on Twitter @SeanCooperWrite and read some of his other articles here.