EASY MONEY

Buy your cake and eat it, too: how to make your grocery budget work double time

Grocery shopping may take a bigger piece of your budget pie chart next year. In fact, a recent report predicts the average Canadian family will spend $411 more on groceries in 2019 due to rising food prices.

Luckily, you don’t have to overhaul your grocery list. These simple strategies can help you shave a little off each grocery bill, which will add up to substantial savings over time.

Plan ahead

It’s hard to plan for tomorrow’s dinner when all you can think about is what you want for lunch today. But a little bit of forethought is always a worthwhile investment.

If you need inspiration, sites like Supercook help by matching the ingredients you have on hand with popular recipes from all over the web.

Planning out a few meals for the week helps you buy ingredients you need and avoid throwing out food you don’t. Thinking ahead also means fewer trips to the store,so you can spend your time and money on something more fun. Like your aspiring polka band. Or Fortnite.

Make a list

Even if your mental recall rivals Sherlock Holmes’. Even if you took one of those photographic memory tests and somehow—against all odds—passed. Even if you once memorized all of Alice’s lines for your Grade 5 debut in Alice in Wonderland (she’s in every scene). You should still write out a grocery list.

Having a list in hand keeps your attention on track. You’re more likely to get in and out of the store without a meandering detour down the chip aisle.

It’s the same reason you’re never supposed to go grocery shopping when you’re hungry: you will fall prey to million-dollar-marketing, wind up with ice cream and mozzarella sticks, and have to come back the next day.

Get paid to shop

“Do you have a points/rewards/loyalty card with us?”

Sounds good in theory. But juggling multiple cards and programs isn’t easy.

Enter the next generation of integrated cashback and rewards apps. You can link them directly with your debit and credit cards and get cash rewards for shopping your favourite brands.

Some, like Drop, work on a points system—similar to a cash back credit card without a new line of credit. Different brands offer different points per dollar spent, and you can turn those points into gift cards.

Checkout 51 or Caddle are other options that focus specifically on groceries. Participating in one of their weekly offers adds up to a check mailed right to your house.

These apps focus on brands rather than stores, so you don’t have to change where you shop, and you can also shop online. Now you have an excuse to order those Wasabi Kit Kats from Japan.

Outsource your produce selection

What’s one way to save time and money and tackle the problem of food waste? Let someone else pick your fruit and veg for you.

Produce is expected to see the biggest price hike, with increases between 4 and 6 percent in 2019. One potential answer? The curated subscription box.

For a weekly fee, you can receive a box of pre-selected produce. Some companies, like Montreal’s Lufa Farms, focus on local produce. They even use new agricultural technologies to grow in urban zones. Others, like Flash Food in Toronto, deal exclusively in surplus produce—items a grocery store might otherwise throw away.

Subscription services save you time and money compared to picking out produce at the grocery store yourself. Plus, choosing organic, surplus, and local produce is a socially responsible way to shop.

Buy in bulk (when it makes sense)

Stocking up on bulk toilet paper and rice add up to big savings in the long run. But beware: bargain bulk stores like Costco are full of temptations more expensive than their $1.50 hot dogs.

Stick to household products and non-perishables with a long shelf life, and stay away from too much produce at the risk of throwing some of it away.

As you put together a budget for the new year, remember that a bit of forethought really adds up. Adopting small habits now can have a big impact on your long-term grocery spending. So you can buy your cake and eat it, too.