6 tips to help you spend less on groceries

You are reading the Original Version (CLB5+) Read Simple Version (CLB3-4)

Skip to:

Are your grocery bills going through the roof? You’re not alone. Everyone’s feeling the pinch as prices of goods continue to go up.

It’s probably more challenging for those who’ve just arrived and are new to grocery shopping in Canada. You might still be figuring out what “limit 5” actually means (and if you’re actually saving money from this offer) or wondering whether it’s cheaper to shop at small ethnic stores than at Superstore.

Here a few tips and tricks to help you not only cut down on costs but get the best value for your money:

  1. Should you shop at ethnic stores or big name stores?

    Ethnic stores are markets that sell goods and products from a particular county or region. These stores are amazing as they offer a large selection of fresh produce, food items and other products that fit newcomers’ palates and preferences (see Community Resources below to get a list of ethnic stores in Manitoba).

    While it’s great that you can find goods that you used back in your home country, know that not all goods are cheaper in these smaller stores. Most supermarket chains offer lower prices for some dry goods and Canadian-grown and manufactured products. It might be worth the extra effort to drop by Superstore, Sobeys or Costco, or compare prices before you buy.

  2. Consider dollar stores for some items

    Groceries are great for fresh veggies, fruits and meat. But if you’re looking to buy things like party supplies (paper plates, décor, etc.), stationery and cards, cleaning tools, bins, plastic containers and other non-perishables, consider getting them at a dollar store like Dollarama or Dollar Tree. You will find a bigger selection there plus they are offered at a fraction of the cost compared to supermarket prices.

  3. Check the price before buying

    Goods can be priced per unit or by weight. This is especially true for produce. For example, some fruits like lemons are sold per piece, while others like cherries, by weight. Other goods can be bought both per piece and by weight. To avoid sticker shock at the counter, check the exact price by using the scale if you’re buying something by weight (you can find them near the produce section). You can also ask the cashier to check before ringing up your item so you can decide whether the total price is reasonable.

    Other tips:

    • Understanding sales and discounts – Groceries usually call their discounted items for the week (or month) “specials.” You can check out flyers or advertisements to know the specials or ask an attendant at the store. Some supermarkets may also have a designated section or shelf for discounted goods.
      Discounted goods will also have attractive labels. You’ll see:

      • Bright red “Sale” or “Low Price” signs.
      • Tag prices in a different colour than regularly priced items. It can say “limit 5 (or a certain number).” This means that you get the discounted price when you buy one to five pieces (or whatever number is indicated) of the item. If you buy more than the indicated number, you will have to pay regular price on the items beyond the limit.
      • “Buy groups of 2” means you’ll need to buy two (or whatever number is indicated) of the item to enjoy the discounted price.

      As you may have guessed, offers like these make consumers buy more of the product because of the lower price per unit. Just remember that this is a great deal only if you intend to use or consume the product before its expiry. Otherwise, you’re better off buying just the amount you need at the regular price.

      Always check expiration dates of items on discount. Often times, but not always, these are discounted because they’re nearing expiration dates. This means that the product is still good (or effective), it’s just that you have a shorter window to consume or use them up.

    • Apps and discount cards – Comparing prices is a good habit to have if you want to cut costs. Nowadays, you don’t need to drive from store to store to check, you can just use mobile apps like Flipp or reebee. If the store where you frequently shop offers “price matching,” you can still get the lowest price for an item even if the lowest price is offered at a different store. Simply show the cashier proof, like the item in your phone app or a printed flyer, to get the lowest price.
      Meanwhile, loyal shoppers benefit from rewards programs that are available in most supermarkets. These types of programs allow you to accumulate points every time you shop. These points have equivalent dollar values that you can use towards your grocery bill and to get free items, discounts and other perks. Applying for a card is usually free of charge.
    • Remember the Taxes – Don’t forget to allocate for taxes in your grocery budget. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Manitoba is 5% and Retail Sales Tax (RST) is 7%. However, there are food and beverages that are exempt from RST. The appropriate taxes are charged at the check-out counter.
  4. Schedule your shopping days

    If you want to get the best deals, consider shopping during the midweek. Tuesday or Wednesday are the days most stores put up new stocks and start offering specials. As expected, weekends are the busiest days for shopping and by that time, discounted items could be sold out.

    Also take advantage of no-tax-days and special discount days to stock up on certain items. These events are announced on flyers, advertisements and online. Meanwhile, if you want big discounts on candy or holiday food, shop right after any big holiday. You’ll see the prices of your favourite chocolates slashed by 50% or more right after Valentines, Halloween or Easter.

  5. Buy off brand and use bulk bins

    Off brand or store brands are “generic products that are similar to a branded product in substance or functionality, but lacks marketing or branding.” An example of this is the No Name line of products. You’ll notice that these products are just as good as well-known brands but are considerably cheaper.

    Meanwhile, bulk bins hold spices, grains, nuts, dried fruits, and other goods that you can buy by weight. Buying from these bins can be more economical (and prevents waste) compared to buying pre-packaged items especially if you need only a small amount of the ingredient. Buying by weight is also cheaper because you won’t be paying for packaging. You can find bulk bins at most groceries or at the Bulk Barn.

  6. Remember that you can return items

    Unhappy with a purchase? If a product is damaged, spoiled or not what you expected, you can return it to the store for a refund or exchange. Most stores will accept it within 14 days of purchase, but check online for store policies to be sure. Return the product in its original packaging and remember to bring your receipt. If you don’t have your receipt, stores may provide store credit.

Want to know more ways to save? Read: 3 smart ways to save money and help the planet at the same time.
Note: English Online is not affiliated with the brands and stores mentioned in this article. They are mentioned for illustrative purposes and not for endorsement.
Sources: 12 ways to save big on groceries and shop on a budget, My money coach; and How to shop the bulk bins, Elisabeth Allie, Inside the Mill. Accessed May 25, 2022.

Back to top

Community Resources

Download Where to Buy Traditional Foods in Winnipeg from Food Matters Manitoba. It lists more than 70 ethnic food stores and where to find them.

Home & Family, a website by the Manitoba Association of Home Economists, has many resources for newcomers. Know what fruits and vegetables are in season in the prairies, where to find community gardens, nutrition programs, and other resources.

Back to top

We'd love to hear from you!

Please login to tell us what you think.

Related Learning Activities

Tips about how to get ready to file your tax return in Canada

T1 form for tax return in Canada

Taxation can be a very difficult and overwhelming topic. The goal of this workshop is to make it a little… Read more »

Preparing yourself for retirement in Canada

A young girl stacking piles of quarters.

Getting financially ready to retire in Canada is one thing, but there’s a lot more to it that that. Come… Read more »

The importance of having a will

A young girl stacking piles of quarters.

we have all heard that it’s important to have a will, but why? Come to this workshop and find out!

The importance of having a will

Article thumbnail fallback

Having a proper well could save you and your family from financial disaster. Join this workshop to discover the importance… Read more »

Back to top

CC BY-NC-SAText of this page is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA, unless otherwise marked. Please attribute to English Online Inc. and link back to this page where possible. For images and videos, check the source for licensing information.