How to Save Money on Food—Part 2
I know everyone has been eagerly awaiting the follow-up to How to Save at the Supermarket—Part 1 (no doubt you’ve endured a few sleepless nights in excited anticipation . . . sorry about that). Though not all of the following tips apply to supermarket spending, each will trim your overall food spending (and might help shrink your waistline, too!).
Meg’s Top Tips to Cut Your Food Spending
Having manufactured a retail product, I know that packaging can cost more than the goods themselves, and this is a cost consumers pay for. Since I’d rather pay for the food and not the packaging, I often buy “bulk” foods: items in supermarkets’ or health food stores’ bulk bins or aisles, such as rice and grains, flours, dried fruit, nuts, lentils, even nut butters, spices and chocolate. Yes, you might have to scoop the item into a bag and label it yourself (how dare they!), but you’ll be rewarded with big savings and the exact quantity you need. For example, yesterday I bought spelt flour, cinnamon, flaxseed, dark chocolate chips and organic raisins from bulk bins; equal-weight packages of these foods were at least twice the price. Tip: Before you buy bulk, check that bins and surrounding areas are clean.
*Note this doesn’t mean buying bulk quantities. No doubt the 5-litre
barrel bottle of olive oil at Costco is a great price, but unless you’re Mario Batali, it’ll only take up valuable cupboard space and go to waste.
Don’t Be Wasteful
The above note leads me to my next tip: use up what you have. Not only is it wasteful to let food go bad or stale, it’s akin to throwing hard cash in the trash. Take stock of what you have before heading to the grocery store, and don’t overbuy if you’re not going to use it up (Costco shoppers, are you listening?). After all, even if something is priced low, it’s not a good value if it goes to waste. Omelettes, chili or this chickpea sweet potato casserole are a few dishes I make to use up soon-to-spoil food.
Make It Yourself
It’s hardly breaking news that dining out or getting take-out costs more—a lot more—than preparing food at home, but it’s easy to forget that seemingly inexpensive grab n’ go meals and snacks, such as subs, smoothies, scones and protein bars, add up; financial gurus coined this the “latte effect.” There’s no need to forgo restaurant meals altogether, but it’s far more wallet-wise to savour the occasional meal out and prepare everyday meals and snacks yourself. Exhibit A: An iced coffee and fruit n’ nut bar from Starbucks costs $6.14. My knock-off (but equally delicious) iced coffee and protein bar? A mere $1.05 (iced coffee: approx. $0.27; protein bar: $0.78). So if you choose homemade over Starbucks just three times a week, you’d save $733 a year (ticket to Europe, anyone?). Bonus: Studies show people who prepare their own meals are slimmer, too.
Go Meatless More
Meat is the priciest food in the grocery store, so by opting for eggs or plant proteins (e.g., beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh) even a couple times a week, you could easily shave hundreds of dollars off your annual grocery bill. Not only is this a budget-friendly swap, but it’s a health-smart one, too: studies show eating red meat increases heart disease and colon cancer risk. Plus, plant proteins are low in saturated fat and contain essential nutrients (e.g., calcium, magnesium, fibre) that animal proteins don’t. Satisfying meatless meals include my lentil loaf, frittata and bean burgers.
Be Brand Savvy
When you buy name brands, such as Heinz®, you’re paying a premium for packaging and marketing. Store brands (a.k.a. “house” or “private label” brands) adhere to the same manufacturing practices as name brands, but they can cost 30% less. In fact, store brands are often produced by big-brand companies. What’s more, some supermarket chains, such as Loblaw, feature tiered private-label branding. For example, Loblaw’s first-tier brand, President’s Choice®, is (strategically) cheaper than the big-name brand, but Loblaw’s second-tier brand, no-name®, costs less than President’s Choice®. However, a can of beans sold under the President’s Choice® and no-name® labels are manufactured at the same plant; they’re just packaged (and priced) differently. Bottom Line: If a house brand is tasty and has nutrition stats that are comparable to its name-brand competitor’s, I buy the less pricey private label product.