5 ways to stretch your grocery dollars

Learn how to save money on food shopping without skimping on dinner.

By Laurie Mackenzie

How to adopt a new mind-set
This story was originally titled "Stretch your grocery dollars" in the October 2007 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

Unlike Old Mother Hubbard, most families are more concerned about an empty wallet than a bare cupboard. When money is tight, we quickly look for ways to cut back on spending. It’s easy to forfeit a night at the movies or a new handbag, but spending less on food isn’t so simple.

“Groceries are not the most fun thing to give up,” says Tracey Drabyk-Zirk, a rural leadership specialist working with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.
“But lots of times we don’t suffer from the change. It’s just adopting a new mind-set.”

Here are five ways to create that mind-set and stretch your grocery dollars.

1. Set a budget
“Evaluating your spending habits will show you where your money is going,” says Drabyk-Zirk. Track your spending by saving grocery receipts. Separate grocery and non-grocery items, such as magazines and toilet paper, which are available at the grocery store but shouldn’t be included in your food budget. Then decide how much cash, not credit, you’re willing to devote to groceries.

TIP:
While you have all those receipts at hand, notice when the prices on items you buy every week are at a high or low point. When the price hits its low, buy a few so that you can skip the item when it slides into the high range.

2. Involve the family
If you clean out the crisper once a week to throw away rotten fruit and veggies, you may as well be tossing loonies and toonies instead. “It doesn’t matter how good a food is for you, if you don’t like it, you’re not going to eat it,” says Edna Schutz, a facilitator with Home Economics for Living Project in Regina. Take note of preferences and eating habits. Ask the family to brainstorm ways to balance the grocery budget, so that everyone takes ownership of the spending plan.

TIP: When it comes to stepping foot in the store, solo works best. “Go alone or at least without family members who are going to bug you to buy more,” adds Betty Burwell, a home economist and money-management counsellor in Saskatoon.

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