Six ways to save on groceries

Canada’s inflation rate may have cooled this past month, but my wallet isn’t feeling it. Despite avoiding meat, fish, eggs and dairy, my eyes pop at each grocery bill. So how do we stretch our budgets further? Is it even possible to find stuff that is fresh, local, in season, organic, fair trade or minimally processed — without breaking the bank?

To find out, I visited one store last week: Whole Foods.

Now, I’m not encouraging you to shop here; this exercise will show you higher-end price points to illustrate the fact that you can apply the following shopping strategies to find cheaper goods elsewhere. All prices listed below are in Canadian dollars.

But first, coffee

Five dispensers of Allegro coffee beans above paper bags

I always make coffee at home, which means I go through a lot of beans. Whole Foods has a good selection available from bulk dispensers plus paper bags that can be recycled. Pictured above: $4.59 per 100 grams.

Packaged bags of Allegro coffee

Compare that with a plastic bag of the same brand of Allegro beans (pictured). These ones are priced at 5.29 cents per gram.

CoffeeBulk price for 340 gramsPackaged price for 340 grams
Allegro beans$15.61$17.99

Buy in bulk

Bulk shopping lets me choose the exact quantities I want. It leads to less food waste and there is often less plastic packaging. In addition to coffee, I typically get nuts, seeds, spices, sugar, salt, oats, even popcorn kernels from the bulk section.

Nuts are generally pricier than other snacks, but just a handful will add crunchy substance to a bowl of fruit, granola or yogurt.

Dispensers of organic whole raw cashews, organic European raw almonds and organic whole raw almonds

Pictured: Whole Foods charges $4.49 to $4.99 for 100 grams of organic nuts. Conventional nuts will most likely be cheaper.

NutBulk price per 100 gramsBranded and packaged
organic raw almonds$4.49Royal Nuts: $5.94
organic raw cashews$4.99Clevera: $5.88
organic raw walnuts$4.99Elan: $5.99

Some grocery stores have a station where you can grind nuts into nut butter (pictured below). If you have access to one, take advantage and get your peanut butter fresh.

Grinding machines to convert peanuts into peanut butter and almonds into almond butter

Load up On proteins, carbs, fibre

Beans, lentils and legumes are cheap and high in protein while keeping your belly full. The dried varieties — which can also be found in bulk (notice a theme here?) — are even better value than the canned versions.

Whole grains in the form of bread, pasta, rice and noodles are my daily essentials. They also freeze well for several weeks.

Loaves of sourdough bread from Blackbird Baking Co.

Pictured: these loaves of sourdough, made locally without any additives, are $6.99 each. They may be more expensive than Wonderbread, but it takes me more than a week to get through one loaf. Each breakfast involving two slices of toast costs me less than $1.

Brown, red and yellow skinned potatoes

Local potatoes, synonymous with comfort food, were $1.49 per pound.

Get plantiful

I look for leafy greens that don’t come in plastic bags or boxes. Here, organic spinach and kale were $3.49 per bunch. It works out to be cheaper for me because a small box contains too little, but a large box has more than I can consume before the greens start to go bad.

Bunches of leafy green vegetables

To get the most bank for your buck, stock up on cruciferous veggies because they last a long time in the fridge. Go for bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens and radish.

Red and green apples

Organic Canadian apples ranged from $2.99 to $3.99 per pound.

fill the pantry

Coconut milk is another staple of mine for sauces and soups. The full-fat version keeps me warm and satiated.

You can score deals sometimes, like on the day I visited. Various brands of coconut milk were marked down to as low as $2.99 each.

Cans of coconut milk on shelves
Zazubean chocolate bars

This brand of vegan 90% dark chocolate was on sale for $3.99.

finally, Don’t shop when you’re hungry

As with any kind of shopping, impulse buys can be dangerous. When your eyes are bigger than your stomach, be sure to eat before you go to the store.

Have any tips for saving on groceries? Leave a comment below!

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