Smart shopping can tame your grocery bill

Food prices are the highest they’ve been in 40 years, and a new survey shows how far Canadians are going to stay afloat as grocery bills continue to rise. 

Driving the news: Food insecurity has become a big issue for many Canadians caught in a struggle between paying bills or putting food on the table.

  • More than half of the 1,000 people surveyed said they were buying less expensive and lower quality food.

  • And 17% of people have cut back on the amount they eat, skipping meals to stretch their budgets. 

Why it’s happening: Why else? Inflation. Food prices surged 11.4% in September from the previous year—the biggest increase since 1981.

  • Supply chain snarls, increased transportation costs and higher agricultural production costs have also contributed to more expensive grocery bills.

  • Big Grocery has been accused of price gouging, though they deny that’s what’s going on. 

Why it matters: Unless you’re intermittent fasting, skipping meals isn’t a great idea. But tweaking your shopping can help you lower your total at the register. 

  • Power points. Most large grocers have a points/rewards program. Used cleverly, you can amass them quickly during promotional earning events. When they run spending promotions, your points temporarily increase in value, which would be the ideal time to spend them. 

  • Become a “waste warrior.” Some apps connect you to local stores with food products approaching their “best before” date. TooGoodToGo will send notifications for fresh and prepared foods in your area that you can buy for ⅓ of the price.

  • Learn how to coupon and price match. When you’re doing a grocery haul, a little planning can go a long way. Find a grocer that offers price matching (pro tip: group all your price matches together and let the cashier know your plan—they will love the organization!) And browse for coupons online—this is a great place to start.

  • Check out your community pantry. There’s a stigma around using food banks, but there shouldn’t be—visits have increased 35% over the past two years. If you feel guilty about it, remember you can always volunteer your time or donate when you’re financially better off.

Bottom line: You can stretch a small food budget, but it requires planning, preparation and a bit of open-mindedness. If you challenge yourself to learn new recipes and techniques, you’ll be able to shop sales and create a great meal. Here’s a bit of inspo.