“Save money” and “eat high quality foods” don’t have to be oxymorons.
Let me teach you 7 sneaky ways I’ve figured out how to save money at the grocery store in Canada.
These ways do not require you to cut coupons, start meal planning, search online, switch to generic brand everything, overhaul your budget or sign up for a bunch of rewards programs (although those tactics help too!)
As a stay at home mom to 6 kiddos, and a naturally resourceful woman, I have gathered many tools and ideas to help save money on our grocery list, while also providing quality nutrition for my family, so that we can spend it on the other things that matter most to us.
Here they are:
Use the Flashfood app to save money on groceries
Flashfood is a service that is hosted in stores all over Canada and the United States, and if you haven’t been taking advantage, you’ve been missing out big time! Big stores often have items that are soon to be discontinued, surplus of specific things, and items that have damaged packaging, or are nearing their expiration.
In these instances, those items are given to Flashfood, who takes photos of the items, and lists them on their app for 50-90% off of their retail price.
This includes baked goods (like bread, cakes, muffins etc.) fresh produce (fruits, veggies, bagged salad mixes), dairy products (milk, lactose free milk, cheese, dips etc.), meat (all kinds of frozen, fresh and deli meats), prepared meals, pantry items and even sometimes vitamins.
Each day, all throughout the day, those items are handed over to the flashfood fridge and added to the running list on the app for purchase- first come, first served.
This process happens at several stores throughout the area, so depending where you are and your travel plans for the day, you could have access to a large variety of items.
To access these deals, download the FlashFood app on your device, then search for stores close to you (depending where you are, there can be many!). Click on the specific store that you would like to go to, and search through the products that are listed.
Under each product there will be a “best by” date, which is also the “pick up before or you will lose your purchase date”. Because the stores are not allowed to sell items that are past their best before date, you must pick it up before they “officially” expire.
I very regularly get expensive cuts of meat for a sliver of their retail price (I just put them in the freezer at home), great snacks and treats for my kids, and delicious salad mixes that I wouldn’t otherwise purchase.
Keeping up with flashfood when we are getting close to grocery order day typically results in me saving 25-50% off of my grocery bill!
You’ll need to have a credit card to pay for your items online when you select them, and remember that they are constantly adding new things to the roster so check back regularly. (If I’m already going to the store that day, I check every hour to make sure I get as many deals as possible, and then I pick them all up at once. Rinse and repeat the following week.)
If you’re new to flashfood, you can download the app on your mobile device, and then use the code below to get $5 off your first 10$ (or more) order!
Flashfood code: $AJAT22Y2D
Go to the dollar store BEFORE the grocery store to save money
Even though the prices at the DollarTree have increased from $1.25 to $1.50, it is still truly one of my favourite stores to go shopping at. (And that has nothing to do with the employees there who I’ve become friends with, which makes shopping even better!)
Often times, when companies are about to release a new product they will send it to the Dollar Tree first. I don’t know why they do this. What I do know, however, is that this does happen and my family has benefited from knowing this many times!
There have been many occasions where I have gotten full packages of Oreo cookies, boxes of “fun” cookies or fruit snacks for my toddlers (you know, the character shaped ones), 6 packs of protein drinks (I drank these when I was pregnant and too sick to eat), and many many other great deals.
When I do get in on something new that is being sold at the DollarTree, I often just buy 12 packages or boxes of whatever it is. This might sound like overkill, but we’ve got a big family so it’s usually a supply to last a couple weeks.
I have a list of items that I always get at the DollarTree first before I go to the grocery store, because I know that Superstore, Walmart etc. will sell the exact same item for significantly more. One example of this is Hunt’s Pasta Sauce, which I get for $1.50 at DollarTree (when I don’t make it myself), but will pay $2.49 at regular price in the grocery store.
Items that tend to be similar quality all around like spices, corn starch and icing sugar are also usually less money at the dollar store.
If you don’t have a preference for Ziploc brand sandwich bags etc., the DollarTree also sells that (and aluminum foil, Saran Wrap) for quite a bit less than the larger stores.
Things like markers and craft supplies, the brand name ones, are often sold at the DollarTree too for even less than they sell for at the Dollarama!
You will also find that you can often get bread, buns, tortillas and hotdog buns at the DollarTree, and often the heartier more expensive types and brands as well! When I realized that the bread truck stopped at Superstore, and then drove across the parking lot to the DollarTree to deliver the SAME bread- I stopped buying it from larger stores.
Now, I make most of our bread from scratch, but I like to grab a couple of loaves from the DollarTree to pop in the freezer for if I ever forget to make it or am too tired.
Of course you can’t get everything at the DollarTree, and there are some things that I don’t buy there because of the lack of quality. In general, however, if you pay attention, you can really save money by going to the DollarStore to check out their inventory before hitting the larger grocery store.
Use discount produce subscriptions to save money
Having high quality food, and especially produce, is really important to me. I also want my kids to know what a balanced diet is, and to be able tp appreciate the variety of tastes and textures out there. For that reason, produce isn’t something that I often skimp on.
That being said, I have definitely found some ways around the astronomical costs of produce, especially in the winter!
One of these ways is to use discount produce subscriptions. In Canada, there is Spud.ca, and other smaller ones depending on your area.
These are services that take produce that is misshapen or imperfect aesthetically, and they sell it for a drastically reduced price.
I love this because it keeps good food out of the landfill, allows people to have access to high quality fruits and veggies, and saves money.
Typically, you would order ahead online and put whatever you wanted into your basket, and then it would be delivered the following week. They also have subscription services, which I have done in the past and were SO. GOOD.
If you don’t live in a larger centre, the discount produce subscription might not be accessible to you, however nearly every area has a market close by.
Market culls are a little something that you have to know to ask about to benefit from it. At the markets, the farmers bring their best stuff to sell, and no one wants to pay top dollar for produce that doesn’t look right.
But, because YOU know that produce that doesn’t look right still TASTES right, you can ask if they have any cull produce. This is stuff that’s misshapen, sometimes they have slight bruising, or they might be ripe (which would mean that you could eat them right away or use them for canning). The cull produce is typically sold for a sale price, and is still the same high quality because it’s grown on the farm with all the other produce that is being sold.
I love to do this at the end of the summer, when I’m starting to freeze and can things for winter.
Also, if you visit any farms or u-picks at any time during the year, it’s always a good idea to ask if they have any cull produce for you to buy!
Know your store’s routines to save money on groceries
Okay this tip is especially clever.
Think about it though, every business has a system and routine for functioning. This is what makes everything move and flow in an orderly fashion.
Part of that routine is marking items down (clearance!), seasonal switches, store layout etc.
So, by knowing when it is that the store that you go to does the item mark downs, or sends their items to flashfood, or where their sales section is, you can really take advantage of having first pick at the items that are freshly discounted.
For example, I know that at the store where I shop, they always do their flashfood produce boxes and meats on Saturday mornings. Without fail. So, on Saturday mornings I always make sure to log on and check a few times between 9-11 am so that I can get first dibs on the fruit boxes, and get meat for that week.
We regularly get 8-10 lbs of mandarin oranges for $5.00. And it’s not Christmas time! Typically this happens because there are a couple gross oranges in the bag, so they open the bag to dispose of those ones, but can’t sell a bag with missing oranges at full price. So off to Flashfood they go. And then off to my fridge. At regular price mandarins will run about $2.99/lb so this is obviously a steal!
Seriously, don’t miss out on this.
We also live close to a small market that has a bakery attached to it. When the bread and baking doesn’t sell at the bakery, it gets moved over to the market, where I can buy it at 60-70% off. That switch over happens when the bakery closes, at 6 pm.
If you are into baking, it’s always a great idea to check out your local stores after big holidays like Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Christmas. There is often a ton of overstocked seasonal items that get reduced 50-90% the day after the holiday.
These are great opportunities to stock up on things like chocolate pieces and candies that can be used for baking and homemade treats. (If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love this homemade brown sugar sauce for pancakes!)
So all this is just to say, that it is worth it to pay attention to the processes and procedures that are happening at the stores around you. I mean, don’t be creepy, but it’s worth it to pay attention to the things that happen at the same time every time you’re there, and then use it to your benefit.
Pay attention to store policies to save money on groceries
Most big stores have price match policies, and they also pay attention to all the other stores so you don’t often have to worry about doing the price matching yourself.
That being said, if you ever find a smoking deal somewhere close, and your grocery store doesn’t have the same deal, look into their price match policy because they more than likely will match it for you!
There have also been times where I’ve noticed something (like an expiration date) when I’m at the till and then don’t want to buy the item anymore. In those instances, I’ve had staff offer me 15-20% discounts. For that reason, I know that if you have an item with damaged packaging, or is close to the expiration date, the till staff are able and allowed to give you a discount on that item…you just have to ask!
Some stores also have policies pertaining to special weekly offers. One popular one is “if I don’t offer you the deal of the week, you get it for free”. In my experience, most of the cashiers don’t bother asking if you want the deal of the week, and also most customers don’t bother getting their item for free. These items are not always things that would be helpful, but when they are..well you might as well!
Know the sales cycles and baseline prices to save money
Lastly, if there are items that you always buy, pay attention to when they go on sale. Typically, stores have a 6 week (ish, it’s not an exact science) cycle where something goes on sale approximately once every 6 weeks. So, for the things that we use regularly, I know what the baseline price is, and I know what the best sale price is. (Pay attention here, because the items will probably be on sale a couple times within that period, but they won’t be at their lowest price) I can also estimate about when it would go on sale again, so I like to get enough laundry soap (or cat litter or whatever) to get most of the way through that period, then I get more.
We are also kind of minimalist, so I don’t get apocalypse amounts of items, but grabbing 2 boxes of Tide instead of just 1 has proved fruitful many-a-times.
Know which stores have better sales to save money on groceries
This kind of seems counter intuitive, but there’s a method to it.
Typically, larger or busier stores have less items to discount because they have so many people going through and buying their products. Also, if it’s a popular store without many others in the area, their discounts tend to be less substantial.
I’ve recognized that the smaller independent stores closer to me (in every city I’ve lived in) has better and more substantial discounts. This is because their traffic is not as heavy, and they just want to get rid of the items that are perishable or discontinued and get at least a little of the money back.
This also rings true with bigger chain stores such as Walmart. The locations that are less central and have a lower traffic volume tend to have a better discount section for this reason.
So, if you need to get perishable items like meats, it’s worth it to go a tiny bit out of your way and hit up the less popular stores to find better savings.
These money saving shopping tips will hopefully help you at the grocery store to navigate the systems that are often making tons of profit, even while people are really hurting for good quality food. Which obviously irks me.
Money is an interesting thing in that it tells us a lot about our values. If you’re having trouble determining what your own values are, take a look at your spending habits and ask yourself what possessions you own that are most precious to you.
Money is a tool, nothing more and nothing less, that we use to navigate the world and have our needs met. It’s one of many currencies (like time, energy, skill) that we can put to work to help us build lives that feel good to us.
In my own life I have been working hard at understanding my own relationship to money, and how the beliefs that I hold about it influence my ability to get and manage it.
Wishing you joy as you manage and gather your resources, recognizing that everything is spiritual and our outer lives are always a reflection of our inner ones.
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Aja Celeste is a mom to 6 beautiful children and a twin mom! She is also creator and writer of That Zoi Life and a professionally trained Evolutionary Astrologer who has been doing astrology for 7 years. She is also a health care assistant, has a Bachelor of Ministry Degree, and is passionate about supporting people in conscious parenting. She also does Psychosomatics using Recall Healing.
Please contact her at [info@ThatZoiLife.com] if you would like to find out more about working with her.