Back in the late eighties and early nineties I spent some time with my Aunt Kay who lived in Del Mar, California. This was where I first learned about double and triple coupon deals.
In Canada, using coupons wasn’t so much a thing 30 years ago. I don’t think it’s so much of a thing now either, but some shoppers do use coupons.
Anyway, I remember clipping some coupons and shopping with my Aunt Kay. I got a free chocolate bar, I think it was a Payday. I also bought a 2 liter bottle of pop for 19¢ back in the days when they were around $2. Actually, I don’t think prices on pop have increased that much in the past few decades.
OK, even though I chatted a bit about coupons, they’re not really secret when it comes to saving money at the grocery store. Whether or not people use them, just about everyone knows about coupons. I just mostly wanted to gripe about double and triple coupon values aren’t the thing in Canada like they are in the states. Otherwise I just might be using coupons more often than I do!
I’m also not going to talk about the often shared advice of make a grocery list and shop when you’re not hungry. But if you do need a freebie printable grocery list, check out this post.
Here are my 7 money saving grocery secrets you need to try:
Check expiry dates
This works well in the bakery section of grocery stores, because just about all the packaged pies and cakes have a best before stamp on them. You can give it a try in other departments that sell perishable goods. One time I was shopping at Save On Foods later in the evening – this was one of the first stores in the area to stay open until midnight! I was browsing the bakery section and noticed a manager marking down some goods to half price because they were nearing the expiry date. I asked him if he was planning on marking down the key lime pie, but he said no, so I moved along. A few minutes later he caught up to me and said he’d decided to mark down the key lime pies left in the case by 50%. Sold!
It doesn’t hurt to ask when you see a perishable product nearing the end of it’s shelf life. If the store doesn’t sell it, they have to chuck it in the garbage. It’s against the law to sell expired products, though some stores aren’t as swift as others at noticing and removing the items.
You can either eat the item really fast or put it in the freezer to enjoy later.
Is it really on sale?
Get to know your prices. Occasionally I buy Dare Veggie Crisps. I like the zesty ranch flavor, but I’ll buy sour cream & onion and salt & vinegar, too. The regular price is $2.99 at the Real Canadian Superstore and Walmart, but I’ll often see them on sale for $2 or slightly less. I’ll buy a bag or two when they’re on sale, but I don’t like them enough to pay full price!
I was in Save On Foods a few months ago and they had Dare Veggie Crisps on sale at buy one for the regular price at $4 and get the second one half price. That’s pretty much the same price as buying two packs from the competitor at their regular price. Uh, no thanks.
On the other hand, I recently stopped at Save On Foods to pick up yogurt, and noticed Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on sale for $3.99. This brand normally costs $6.99 to $7.99 depending on the store, and rarely goes on sale. I know a decent deal! I grabbed “If I Had 1,000,000 Flavors” and tossed it in my cart. When is “Everything But The…” going to come to my area?
It’s a good idea to know the approximate prices of the foods you regularly buy to know if that “sale” is really a good deal or not.
Stock up on what you use lots of
Are you a baker or a batch cooker? Do you have a small freezer in your house? Even if you live in a small space, see if you can fit one in, even if you have to put it somewhere weird like the bathroom or living room. If you live in an apartment, put it on the balcony. Where I live there’s a nice spot on the sundeck next to a plug that my freezer calls home. In September 2019, my freezer was a victim of the creepy food thief.
I keep a lot of stuff in the freezer that not everyone thinks of keeping there.
Flour. Yes, I hope it slows down the expiry date. And keeps bugs out of it. There’s nothing worse than opening your flour and seeing movement. It didn’t matter if I kept my flour in the bag I bought it in or in a glass canister. Eventually the bugs came. I don’t seem to have that problem since relocating flour to the freezer. I buy larger bags of flour now. It’s cheaper to buy larger bags when you compare the price by the pound against smaller bags. I bake a lot of muffins, so I want the flour there when I’m ready to bake.
Oatmeal. Powdered milk. Yeast. Cornmeal. Other baking goods to extend their shelf life are stored in my freezer.
And avoid creepy crawlies!
Non-traditional grocery shops
Sometimes you can find really interesting and cheap groceries in places you don’t expect. I regularly buy produce from a local chain green grocer called Fruiticana. In addition to fruits and vegetables, these shops stock a lot of grocery items that appeal to Asians, especially East Indians. I always check the dried beans, and often I can find garbanzo beans on sale for half the price or less than the grocery stores. Same with spices. I bought a big container of cinnamon, about twice as big as the ones sold at grocery stores – at about half the price! Wow! A bag of pink Himalayan salt cost $2. It never hurts to make a few passes down the grocery aisles and see the deals at these little markets.
Become a forager
No dumpster diving here!
All through the month of August I see cars pulled to the side of the road and the occupants picking blackberries. This year I made more of an effort to pick blackberries at the farm where I keep my horses and put them in freezer bags to enjoy later this winter. I see muffins and smoothies in my future!
Check out my recipe for skinny blackberry muffins.
My landlords have blueberry bushes and I walk my dog over and snack on them. This year I picked enough to bake muffins and freeze some. The owners of the farm where I keep my horses gave me a bag of blueberries that I put in the freezer.
Think of the money I’m saving by not buying frozen berries at the grocery store!
There are a couple of apple trees on the property where I live. I’ve just made cinnamon applesauce in my Instant Pot and I’m planning to put it into freezer bags in half cup portions. I might need to adjust the recipe and make some more. Maybe store them in one cup portions! I don’t usually eat applesauce unless I have a plain yogurt that needs to be jazzed. Odd thing is, I’m not a huge applesauce person, but I do need to keep it on hand for recipes like my chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. My dogs will eat applesauce, so it won’t go to waste.
If I’m lucky, I’m almost always the recipient of zucchini from someone whose garden had a bumper crop. I’ve even seen a merchant on the street where I walk my dogs put a box of zucchini outside the store with a “free, help yourself” sign. I’ll bake a chocolate zucchini loaf or muffins whenever I score one.
Can you think of anyone who grows fruit or vegetables and has too much and they’re just rotting on the tree or bushes? Offer to harvest the crop so it won’t go to waste!
As for berry foraging, be very certain you know the berries you’re picking are edible. In the wild, I don’t touch any berry that looks like a cranberry or blueberry.
Just. In. Case.
Too many poisonous red and blue berries around!
We have a Canada Bread warehouse in the next town, about a 20 minute drive for me. This is a big bakery that supplies bread and other products to all the grocery stores in our region. Dempster’s gourmet bread sells for upwards of $4 in grocery stores. That’s over my budget. There’s a discount store called McGavin’s Bread Basket where they sell bread products for a couple of bucks cheaper than in the grocery stores. Well, depending on the product! The real deals are at the Bread Basket store adjacent to the warehouse bakery. The truck drivers pick up bread products that are close to expiring, bring them back to the warehouse, and then to the adjacent Bread Basket. Here they’re sold, and the price depends on how many you buy. For example, if you buy 10 items from the bargain section, they’ll cost $1.50 each. If you buy 5, they’ll be priced at $1.75, and if you only buy one, then it’s a different price. Sorry, I don’t recall the exact prices, I’m just throwing them out, though $1.50 each when buying 10 or more sounds about right to me. This can be a combination of any of the products in the bargain shelves: gourmet breads, bagels, garlic bread, tortillas, hamburger buns, etc. Great deal. I buy 10 or more, put them in the freezer, and I’m good for two or three months and the haul costs less than $20. I probably also bought a box of cookies or Twinkies that were on sale too.
Yummy in my tummy!
However, these days I’ve pretty much cut bread out of my life. Read more about my portion control and weight loss goals.
Everyone wants a deal at the flea market! There’s a huge flea market in our local fairgrounds every Sunday selling first class junk. I hardly ever go, but when I do I always check out the places selling produce to see if I can save money. There’s almost always vendors selling nuts too, but they’re still in the shell – peanuts, hazelnuts and walnuts. Fortunately I have a nut cracker.
The story of my life. Putting in a little work to get what I want.
Check out my other articles on saving money on groceries: