Disclaimer: In 2018 I am following a No Spend. This means that I am focusing on saving money and not spending on any frivolous or unnecessary items. A No Spend can look different for every person, depending on what their goals are. Through this series of monthly posts, I am sharing my tips and tricks that I have discovered along the way.
No ifs or buts about it, groceries are a priority and a necessity. There is no way around it, even during the most strict “No Spend” you still have to eat. There are some ways to help with costs, such as growing your own food, but not everyone is able (or willing) to do that.
Here are five practical ways that anyone can save on grocery related expenses.
Keep an Inventory
How many times have you gone to the grocery store, looked at an item, and couldn’t remember for the life of you whether or not you actually had some at home? I’m betting a lot. You can’t remember though, and so you go ahead and buy it. You then realize you have two, and eventually end up throwing one out because it was expired before you used it. What a waste of money!
I use the app Grocery King to keep track of everything I have. You can add the items and sort them from “pantry” (anything in your cupboards) and “garage” (freezer etc). You can even enter expiry dates so you know whether the item is still usable. It can be a pain to enter everything in, but as long as you keep on it every time you use something, it’s a huge timesaver! I don’t enter weekly items like fruits & veggies, but everything else gets tracked on this app. When I get home from a grocery trip, I will sit down with my receipt and enter in my new inventory.
You don’t have to use this app, I’m sure there are others out there. You can even use a spreadsheet if that’s more your style. Just make it something that you will use and keep updated. Knowing what items you actually have can be a huge game-changer.
Since you have your inventory all logged, meal planning is a cinch! Take a look at what you already have on hand and base as many meals around that as you can. If there is one odd ingredient that you need for a recipe, try to utilize that product in other recipes the same month. That ensures that you don’t waste the remaining amount and it’s one less ingredient that you have to buy again!
Not only is meal planning less stressful, but it saves you from having to go to the grocery store for a one-off item from the last-minute meal that you’re craving. Just put that off until next week and include the ingredient in your weekly grocery trip.
(For bonus meal planning tips, check out this post!)
I cannot say enough good things about the app Flipp. This has been a total game-changer for my weekly grocery trip. This one app has every flyer that’s available in your area. You can browse the flyer and “clip” items, which then show up on your shopping list. You can also manually type in items that you need. There are a few benefits to this:
- You can find the best deal. I regularly go to two stores a week, but I look through 6(ish) flyers. I’ll clip every item that I need, no matter what store. I can then compare which store has the cheapest price on the item and price match it at Wal-mart, where I’m shopping anyway.
- It keeps it organized by store. If I clip items at Wal-mart, it shows it under Wal-mart. If I clip Sobeys, it shows as Sobeys. This means I don’t have to look through my list every time trying to remember what I want to get where, it’s just all right there.
- You can find unexpected sales. I often look through each flyer 2-3 times because items keep popping out to me. Sometimes though, I miss it all together. So, say I need white milk. I enter that onto my list and then I click on that item. It then shows me every store that has white milk on sale, and I can then clip/price match it!
- Sometimes you will see a dollar symbol ($) beside an item. This means that there is also a coupon available for it! You can click on the symbol and it will take you right to that coupon. Some you do have to print, but some are rebates that you can collect through the app.
- You can enter all of your reward cards, so rather than digging through your wallet, you simply open the app and go straight to the card. It’s way less junk in your wallet too!
I recommend Flipp to anyone who wants grocery shopping to be as stress-free and easy as possible. It also helps if you pay attention to the cycles that flyers run through. Learn when the cheapest prices happen, and stock up at that time. I know that approximately once every two months, Sobeys will have chicken breast on for a good price. Even if I have a couple of meals worth left, I’ll still pick some up. It’s much better to pay less now than to pay more in two weeks when I run out. Learn those cycles, learn when to buy.
You don’t have to be qualified to appear on Extreme Couponers in order to save some money on your grocery purchases. Canada isn’t a hot spot for coupons, and there are a lot more regulations in place to stop you from doubling or stacking your coupons. That being said, it’s still not a lost art. There are apps like Checkout 51, Ibotta and Zweet that allow you to redeem coupons just by taking pictures of your receipt, which when you’ve reached a certain amount you can request a cashout via PayPal. I’ve even gotten money back just for buying fruit, any fruit! It’s nice when you can save on everyday items that you are buying anyway. Don’t forget to check coupon websites and flyers/newspapers. Even coupons for bonus reward points are worth taking a second look at.
Just be careful not to fall into the dangerous hole of buying items that you don’t need solely because you have a coupon. You aren’t doing yourself any favours that way. That’s the benefit of the apps, you can look after you’ve done your shopping.
Did you have a terrible experience with an item? Maybe your Pillsbury Pizza Dough completely fell apart when you opened the tube (yes, this statement is from personal experience). Maybe your shampoo didn’t smooth your hair like it claimed it was going to. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the company behind the product! You’re spending your hard earned cash on this product, make sure you’re getting your money worth. You might be tempted to just shrug it off until you’ve used it up, or just throw it in the trash, but let the company know. Not only is your feedback valuable to the company, but they will also want to make it right with you.
I want to stress: do not take advantage of this. When I recommend doing this, I am referring to honest issues that you have with a product. Do not start making up issues in order to try and get free products. You are not doing anyone any favours by doing that and it’s dishonest. This world could always use a little more honesty.
If you do have a company that you love the product of, or you find that you use a lot of their item, you can still reach out to them and tell them what you appreciate about them and their product! People are so quick to reach out with complaints, I bet you will make their day with a compliment. You can even request some money saving coupons while you’re at it. You won’t always get some, but most companies are happy to hand them out.
Even though you can’t completely go without spending money on groceries, these are some easy ways to help cut back on that expense. If you have to spend the money, you may as well be smart with how you go about doing. It’s just more money to put towards your debt or into your savings!