Four things Canadians can do to save money on groceries during inflation

Four things Canadians can do to save money on groceries during inflation

Canadians continue to feel inflationary pressures as rising food costs force many to rethink their shopping options as a way to cut spending.

On Wednesday, the Canadian inflation rate was 6.8 percent, compared to 6.7 percent in March. The recent increase is largely due to the rising cost of food and shelter, with prices at the grocery store reaching a 9.7 percent increase since April 2021.

“It certainly does tax Canadians,” Stuart Smith, associate professor of agricultural and resource economics, told CTV News on Wednesday.

“Every time you go to the grocery store, it looks like one of the staples you buy on a weekly basis has gone up another 2%,” he said.

However, there are still ways consumers can shop strategically and find plenty of wiggle room within their budgets.

Check unit price and sales

Checking sales and discounted items is a no-brainer when shopping, but what can be overlooked is the unit price check.

Personal finance expert Keri Taylor says shoppers should consider unit pricing, which measures the amount of product per item, as deflation occurs as inflation rises.

“Deflation occurs when you buy an item at the same price but in a smaller portion size,” Taylor told in a phone interview on Wednesday.

By comparing unit price, shoppers can determine where they might be spending more on groceries, so they can in turn look for options that carry more products and last longer to avoid extra spending.

Taylor says checking unit pricing between brands is especially important because some affordable brands may actually be more expensive depending on the amount of product.

“It’s really sneaky because you can’t really tell. So you have to be on the lookout for deflation because you might overspend money on an item and not realize it,” she said.

Non-perishable items have a long shelf life, so Taylor recommends stocking up on whatever products the family uses more if the price is right.

Plus, checking sales doesn’t necessarily mean having to switch groceries.

Canadian food retailer Loblaws reported earlier this month that its discount stores including No Frills and Maxi had seen an increase in customers. However, Taylor says it’s important to only visit accessible stores because spending time and money on traveling to the next grocery store can cost you more.

Ask yourself, is this a good use of time to save dollars here and there? Or is it more worth your time to learn how to use the ingredients you have at home to the best of your ability,” she said.

Find alternatives and home meals

While prices for almost all food items in stores have gone up, Canadians are still advised to look for alternative items for their meals. Taylor says she was shocked to find that the eight cans of canned lentil soup she buys often range from $9 to $14.99 at her local grocery store.

“These are all the basic ingredients we use to make meals when we’re on a really tight budget and they’ve all gone up, so it’s frustrating,” she said.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are among the products whose prices have increased the most. Pasta saw a 19.6 percent increase from April 2021, according to Statistics Canada.

As an alternative, Taylor says she’s switched to buying a bag of lentils to make at home. And it’s a ritual she now practices often because she says cutting back on packaged foods and eating out can help keep costs down.

“It’s always challenging but there are plenty of fun recipes that include ingredients like cans of tomatoes and beans, so you can make something quick and nutritious.”

Reduce food waste

Unlike inflation, food waste is something Canadians can control and that can be used to avoid the recurring cycle of overspending on food until it just ends up in the compost.

“Canadians waste just over $1,000 a year per household, which is $92 a month, $21 a week, or $3 a day,” Taylor said.

To avoid food waste, Taylor recommends collecting any leftover ingredients from meals in one bowl and setting aside one day of the week to use all of these ingredients in a simple recipe that can be paired with any carbs.

“Think, can you expand this tossed food with rice or a roll? Can you add sauce to it to make it more delicious? Perhaps you can make it into an omelette or stir-fry?” she said.

Keep your essentials

Finally, Taylor says Canadians don’t have to completely cut out all the products they deem necessary.

“If buying certain products at the grocery store means a lot to you and enhances your life and makes you happy, then you should look for those items and look for places that you can cut elsewhere in your life,” she said.

In order to keep any items deemed necessary, Taylor recommends looking into other expenses that have less value which could be streaming services, old automated credit payments or repeat online shopping.

“There is an opportunity cost for every dollar we spend and we just have to make these tough decisions but look at your budget, see what you can cut or add.”

2022-05-18 22:05:00

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