With prices of groceries, rent and pretty much everything else nothing short of eye-watering, buying ingredients to make nutritious home-cooked meals can be stressful. As a student, I often caught myself gravitating towards ultra-processed junk with a smaller up-front price tag to make my cart seem more full. I’d still feel shocked about the total, wondering how a tiny bag of groceries costed so much.
Nonetheless, as someone who loves to cook, I’ve learned that there are some smart strategies you can use to keep those grocery bills as low as possible. Does it take some work and extra effort? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely! Ultimately, a bit of extra effort will go a long way in keeping your mind and body nourished and healthy, all without breaking the bank.
Use Flipp to track flyer deals (and stock up!)
The Flipp app is every student’s best friend. It allows you to browse weekly digital flyers from retailers near you, or search for the items you need, helping you compare prices across outlets to find the best deal. I diligently check the flyer deals at NoFrills, Food Basics and Walmart to find good discounts and stock up when I find a great deal (you can freeze more things than you realize!) While you may spend more up front, you’ll save loads in the long run.
Some retailers are consistently cheaper than others
Retailers such as NoFrills, Food Basics and Walmart offer consistently cheaper prices across the board compared to Loblaws, Sobeys, Metro, Rabba, Whole Foods or Pusateris. By planning ahead and shopping at the more reasonably priced retailers, you’ll save a lot. While running to the nearest grocery store for that “last minute” ingredient is understandable, try to plan meals ahead and shop ahead of time whenever possible. Those savings will really add up.
Price matching: don’t be afraid to do it
Many retailers such as NoFrills, FreshCo and Real Canadian Superstore allow price matching. Price matching is a practice where a retailer will match a lower advertised product price from a competing store – essentially selling you the same item for the cheaper price. All you have to do is show the cashier the better price you’ve found elsewhere on a flyer and let them know you’d like to have it reduced. However, ensure you check each store’s policy because they may have exceptions – for example, many stores do not price match with Costco.
Speaking of Costco…
I’ll just say it – I love Costco, but it’s not something a student can realistically benefit from alone. For fresh produce, it’s very difficult to individually finish up what you buy in bulk before it spoils. It’s quite expensive up front to bulk buy at Costco and most students don’t have sufficient storage space. What’s more, it’s also hard to get back value worth the $60 membership fee unless you’re shopping often.
As a student, you most likely don’t own a car – this means you’ll have to deal with the mammoth task of carrying your bulk-buys on the bus (take it from me… its not easy) or order very expensive Ubers (negating the savings.) That said, sometimes their deals are amazing and the best course of action is to find friends or family who have a membership and ask them to purchase specific things you use.
Too Good To Go: a solution for when those cravings hit
Too Good To Go lets you buy unsold food from your favourite spots at cheap prices. You’ll do a lot of good from buying on the app – satisfy cravings for restaurant food and go easy on your wallet, all while saving slightly-imperfect-but-perfectly-good food from being thrown away. However, before you buy anything on the app, do your research (Reddit has great reviews on this.)
Users have reported that the value you get depends on the specific store and store location. Most stores will sell products that taste excellent but have tiny imperfections, but some stores are outright criminal and sell things that are not worth consuming.
Don’t forget IGNITE’s cozy soups
IGNITE recognizes the financial challenges many students face when it comes to food expenses. To help students with this, IGNITE’s Soupbar offers a healthy, free-of-cost option for students looking to supplement their meals. Choose from soups such as minestrone, Italian tomato and pepper, butternut squash, lentil and many others. As winter progresses, curl up in front of the television with a delicious soup from IGNITE!
Subscribe for points or rewards
Most big grocery stores and retailers have points or rewards cards that you can sign up for. These may be simple and free of cost (like the PC Optimum membership) or may offer better rewards in the form of credit cards or money accounts. While these rewards are not dramatic, they definitely add up over time as you benefit from cheaper in-store purchases (special member pricing) while accumulating points.
By incorporating these simple habits (they’re really more habits than hacks), you probably won’t see an instant drop in your grocery bills but definitely save in the long run. As they say, little drops make an ocean, and it’s the same idea with grocery savings too!
Snagged a delicious soup from IGNITE? Check out these four perfect side-dishes to enjoy your soup with!