Updated: 4 days ago
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Being a newcomer is not easy, especially when you are just starting and trying to figure out how this new country works.
In this post, I will go over how to buy groceries on a budget in Canada so that you can save your money for other things.
I will share some strategies we use to save money on groceries while you buy in supermarkets in Canada.
Table of contents
15. Cooking at home
16. Food cravings
1. Make a list of what you need
The first thing is to be prepared.
Make a list before you go to the grocery store.
Please make sure you take inventory of your items, note the essential things to buy, and stick to them when you get to the grocery store.
It can be on paper or digital, Aldo has a checklist on his cell phone, and we review it every time before going to the supermarket.
I've read that our ability to make decisions deteriorates as we go through the day, so try not to shop late in the afternoon or when you're hungry because you'll end up with many things that catch your eye.
2. Explore different supermarkets
We did this process early on to understand prices, foods of our preference, distance from home, etc.
We went to all of these stores: No Frills, Walmart, Sobeys, FreshCo, Whole Foods, Superstore and Wholesale Club.
We had great experiences and expensive ones, but we discarded them accordingly.
Today our grocery shopping is a mix of Walmart, Wholesale and Farmer's markets, but I'll tell you more in the body of this post.
3. Buying in bulk
As I mentioned earlier in our initial tours of different stores, we found some things worth buying in bulk.
One affordable store we found was Wholesale Club. They usually sell products to small businesses, but you can go in like a regular person and buy.
We used it to buy rice, some vegan desserts and veggies sometimes.
4. Go to the farmer's market
Try to find out in your area if there is one available.
So far, in Mississauga, we have discovered two and both are highly recommended: Burnhamthorpe Fruit Market and Mississauga market.
Both are far from home, but we take advantage of the weekend to walk there and get our week's worth of veggies.
5. Use apps that prevent food from going into landfills
I think I've mentioned this in several posts. There are two apps that we use almost weekly.
We love them because they combine saving money with keeping food out of landfills and the products are in excellent condition to be consumed.
Flashfood has agreements with supermarkets; once the product is close to its expiration date, they post it on the app with photos; you buy it through the app and pick it up at the supermarket.
We use it to get fruits and vegetables. Usually, each box costs about 5 CAD. We have used it in Wholesale Club and at the SuperStore. Here are some examples of the packages we have purchased.
Too Good To Go, on the other hand, has deals not only with supermarkets, they include restaurants, so at the end of the day, they have surprise bags with food that food didn't consume.
They have Instagram, where you can check, and I can assure you that it is abundant and worth the money.
As we are vegan, there are not too many places, but they have the Burnhamthorpe farmers market, and so far, for 7.99 CAD, we have received huge boxes with fruits and vegetables.
6. Check the flyers weekly.
You will notice that sometimes you will get junk mail in your inbox.
Lately, I started checking it, and we found great prices at some supermarkets, so when we get it, we review and organize to buy some products that we usually use that are discounted or on sale.
There is an app called Flipp that a colleague told me about, but I haven't used it yet, in case you want to check it out too. There you can find digital flyers.
7. Store membership.
I know this is something I have heard many times, but I have to admit I haven't used it.
There is a Costco store where you pay a membership and have access to buy in bulk.
We went there once to know if it was worth it, but for us vegans, it wasn't because most offerings were milk, meat, etc.
It's an option you can explore, but go first to check if the offers are aligned with what you usually buy.
8. Buy generic brands
As usual, supermarkets run their brand, usually cheaper than others.
If branding is not something that bothers you, I recommend you get them.
For example, Wholesale handles No Name, and Walmart handles Great Value.
9. Go meatless
I know you're going to say... Oh, here she is talking about veganism... so bear with me on this one.
You may not have noticed, but meat is usually expensive. If you want to cut your budget, try other products.
For us, beans, lentils, and tofu are much more affordable than the prices we had in our home country. They are also readily available in regular supermarkets, so being vegan or vegetarian is cheaper here.
Anyway, it is not necessary to become vegan or vegetarian, but you can reduce meat consumption and try other options, at least for your budget.
10. Buy in season and freeze
Buying in season and freeze is beneficial if you visit farmers' markets or places where you can buy in bulk.
You can find good deals; for example, we have bought a box of 12 mangoes for no more than CAD 10 and then cut them up at home and separated them into bags to freeze and make smoothies later.
Another way to get a little money back by buying groceries is to shop through apps that give you cashback.
I know of Rakuten, which gives cashback when you buy through their page; it can be an option if you grocery shop online.
What I use is to pay with the Neofinancial credit card that gives me cash back every time I go to Walmart, so you can check this option as well.
12. Walking to the supermarket
This tip is not directly related to grocery shopping, but it will work for you.
When you're a newcomer and you don't have a car. You will be forced to use public transportation or walk.
I recommend walking to get to know the area and save money on transportation.
Check the area where you live, know the stores you have nearby and look for the most convenient one.
We live 1 or 2 km from the supermarkets and 3-5 km from farmer's markets, and we also take it as an exercise.
You will have to carry your shopping, that's why we have the details in point 13.
13. Have a shopping cart
Sometimes you will have to buy larger quantities of food, and if you are like us, who don't have a car, you will have to carry these products home.
We used to carry everything in bags, but sometimes it was so heavy that we asked for an uber and a couple of blocks. This cost around 10-15 CAD.
We highly recommend getting a cart. We bought this one last year, which has helped us greatly.
We go everywhere with it; I think so far, this cart is running more than 5 km per week.
Two wheels are broken, so if you have the opportunity to invest in one with bigger wheels, I recommend it. We have also used it all winter long
I have seen this one even with kids, but it is more expensive. If we upgrade someday, we will go for this one.
14. Use reusable bags
This is something that changed this year, now it is mandatory (I think) to have your bag, but recently if you didn't bring it, you had to pay for it.
However, back in Chile, we used to use reusable bags, so we bought ones here from the beginning.
I suggest you invest in reusable bags and take them with you whenever you go to the grocery store.
We also bought these reusable bags for fruits, so you don't have to use the plastic ones, and you help save our beautiful planet from generating more plastic waste.
15. Cooking at home
One of the most effective ways to save money is to cook at home.
Our food was delivered several times a week when we lived in Chile. However, when we arrived in Canada, we found that ordering deliveries were much more expensive.
Additional charges, taxes, and tips are not included in Chile.
I still remember one time we ordered food for the two of us, the dishes cost 28 CAD in total, but with all the taxes, fees and so on, the order cost around 50 CAD.
So our meals are almost always prepared at home. It's not easy because sometimes we crave something different, but we try to have a mix of other foods.
Aldo sometimes cooks for dinner and lunch, so we have covered at least two meals.
16. Food cravings
I can relate to the idea that sometimes you want to try something from a restaurant.
In that case, the best thing to do is check out places near your house and pick it up.
That way, you save yourself money on deliveries and additional expenses. In addition, we have a couple of places nearby where food is affordable and easy to pick up.
In Mississauga, vegan options are Copper Branch, Meltwich Food Co and Fresh Burrito.
Dinner for both is around $20-30 CAD when we pick up.
Another strategy is to complement what you have at home and buy a portion of food.
For example, we learned that the regular burritos at Fresh burrito are huge, so we buy one to share and add a cup of homemade soup. That's about 10 CAD.
I hope you find these tips helpful and save a few dollars you can use on other things.
If you know of more apps like Too good to go and Flashfood, let me know in the comments below because I'd like to do my part to keep food out of landfills.