Jun 032012

Last week I shared a couple of tips to buy food on the cheap. Now I will reveal another way to save.

I shop at Costco. Buying groceries in bulk is a great way to save money. A tray of 48 pork sausages only costs $13. Three loaves of bread for only $7. They always have food items on special as well. For bulk perishable items I would split them up into smaller portions and freeze them. Below are some groceries I bought from Costco this year. Some items have already been partially consumed. By the way, I don’t recommend reading the rest of this post on an empty stomach.

It costs $55 a year for the privilege of shopping there but you get two Costco cards, and it’s totally worth it if you split the cost with a friend. It’s good to know where to buy cheap groceries like those ribs from the previous post for only $3.08. And all those food from the produce market; 2 potatoes for just 65 cents. But what kind of recipes can we prepare from these cheap ingredients? Well by mixing together different items from different stores we can make some pretty cheap, healthy, and delicious dishes. I’m not a very good cook, but I’ve been taking pictures over the last week of what I’ve been eating at home to demonstrate some simple recipe ideas anyone can make.

As you can see these dishes used the ingredients mentioned earlier in this post and in the one before so the numbers are all calculated based on real prices. Most meals like these only cost around $1 to make. So if we eat 3 meals a day, plus a snack, then each month our grocery bill would only be around $100. But in reality it may fluctuate because sometimes we can treat ourselves and spend more. But other times we might skip a meal or go to a restaurant instead which won’t count as grocery spending. The point is if we wanted to, we could live quite comfortably on $100 a month for all our food needs. Not bad, considering the average Canadian spends over $300 a month for all food expenses, (includes eating out.)

My BMI is around 23 so I’m not underweight. I normally consume around 1800 calories a day so I’m not malnourished either. I would say my diet is pretty balanced overall. So spending less doesn’t necessarily mean depriving ourselves of anything important. Last week I mentioned the average consumer spends about $205 a month on grocery shopping but I only spend half as much as that. Now you know how. And you can do the same (^o^). Just remember these 3 simple suggestions. 1) Buy fruit and veggies from small produce markets. 2) Buy meat products when they go on sale. 3) Buy everything else from a wholesaler.  Just because we live in an expensive city doesn’t mean we have to spend a lot of money to enjoy what it has to offer (^_-)

May 312012

Saving Money on Groceries

This post is all about grocery savings. How much do you normally spend on groceries each month? According to an OSEC report Canadians spent about 84 billion on groceries in 2010. On average that’s roughly $205 a month per person. 🙂 According to the US department of Agriculture, the average American in 2009 spent around $150 a month from food stores. That’s because food is generally cheaper to buy in the States.

To save money on food we have to change our spending habits, not our eating habits. What we buy is not as significant as where and when we buy them. I eat just as much food as the average person, but I only spend about half the amount as the average Canadian on grocery shopping. How? It’s as easy as pie.

For fresh produce and grown foods most consumers buy them at large grocery chains (Save-On.., IGA, Superstore, Safeway, Sobeys, etc) But these mainstream stores are more expensive than those smaller, local markets you sometimes see around town. How much can you save if you buy food from a smaller store rather than a big retailer? I carried out an experiment earlier this month to find out.

First, lettuce look at the following items I bought at Safeway. I picked Safeway because it’s an international name that most people would recognize (I hope.) Click images below to enlarge them.

The total for 1 full bag of food came to $16.73. Close up of receipt on right.

Okay, not very cheap as expected. Welcome to Vancouver. You might find a better deal from IGA or a Loblaws but it still wont cut your monthly grocery bill in half. So now let’s see what happened when I bought the same goods from a small, independent produce store.

The total for 1 full bag of food came to $5.64. Close up of receipt on right.

I know the items aren’t exactly the same. But I did my best to create a fair comparison. I tried to keep the weights the same. Looking past the minor inaccuracies of this experiment it’s easy to see that the smaller independent store is cheaper, much cheaper, like literally 1/3 of the price of a large franchise. I’m not big on brand loyalty when it comes to food. As long as there’s nothing wrong with it, celery is celery to me, no matter where I buy it from. Sometimes the quality of goods in smaller stores aren’t the best, and you have to eat them quickly before they go bad, but if you make frequent trips to the store this isn’t a big deal. The other issues some people may not like about shopping in smaller stores, is the lack of choices, lack of sanitation, and lack of customer service. But if you know exactly what you want, don’t have to ask for directions, and wash your food before eating it anyway, then be a smart cookie and support your local small food businesses. Besides, their cheap prices just can’t be beet.

This is the small store I went to for the experiment. They’re called “Consumers Produce”

The Safeway I visited is the one on 3410 Kingsway. What’s interesting though is that the small produce market, Consumers Produce (above,) is located at 3388 Kingsway. The address is actually on the receipt if you look closely.  Yes, the two stores are literally on the same city block. And yet the goods in one store is 3 times as expensive as the other and they are still able to compete with each other. Either there are a lot of loyal customers who value Safeway’s shopping experience, or they don’t know about this little store just a few buildings down the street.

WTF? Huge price difference.

So now you know my secret. Saving money on your next food bill is literally as easy as walking into a cheaper store. I’ve heard other ideas like clip coupons, plan multiple trips, price match, or prepare a list, which all takes time, commitment, and energy. But by just going into a smaller independent grocer you automatically save more than all those other shopping tips put together, without even having to think about it. Piece of cake.

Examples of a couple other independent markets around town. They exist in other cities all across North America too. There’s probably one near you!

Of course I don’t mean to turnip my nose at large grocery chains. They still have a purpose after all. They may not offer the best deals on produce or groceries, but I do sometimes buy meat products from them, especially when they’re on sale.

The DVD is to show scale only. It did not come with the food.

The best part about most meat is they can be frozen and will last a long time. But I digest. The point is by buying food from the right places, and waiting for certain things to go on sale, we can already spend less than 50% of what most people are paying for food in this country. In part 2, I’ll write about how I buy other types of groceries for cheap and share some simple meal ideas with everyone. Continue reading part 2…