When I first became pregnant, I was inundated with advice about….everything. Well-meaning friends and family (and those lovely strangers you meet in the store) felt the urge to unload every thought and opinion they have ever had regarding pregnancy, childbirth and parenting on me as if it was a matter of life and death. A lot of it was very biased information that was “hit or miss”, but every once in a while I would receive a valuable tip that would significantly improve our lives. Some of the very best types of information I received had to do with saving money, specifically while on maternity leave when you are on half your usual salary (or less, for some Mamas!).
My husband and I may not exactly be qualified as bona fide “foodies”, but we definitely enjoy our food and we don’t mind paying slightly more if it means better quality. Being on a reduced household income presented a big challenge for us, but we decided to get creative and find a way to maintain our high food standards, and amazingly, we ended up eating better! So without any further ado, I give you….
Top Six Ways to Save Money on Groceries (and Still Eat Real Food):
- Budget. Sit down and create an actual budget before your maternity leave. Find out what you spend on groceries, and then cut down/out things that you can (and should) live without, such as processed items, junk food, etc. A great way to figure this out is to write every. single. thing. down. that you buy as soon as you get into your car, including the price. This is a real eye-opener to finding out where your money is going! It was a big motivator for me as well, as I began to circle items that I could cut out next time, or highlight items that I got on sale. There is just something about physically writing something down that sticks!
- Ditch the credit card.
So this is something most of you have heard a million times, but it works! For me, I go to the bank each Monday and take out grocery money for the week (taking out money for the month is just too hard for me to visualize and I lose track of my spending). When it’s gone, it’s gone. Do this for a few weeks and I guarantee you will only buy the essentials! Some people also suggest that you use a preloaded credit card if you don’t like carrying cash, or if you are super responsible, use your credit card but pay it off as soon as you get home. Personally, cash is the best visual, so I strongly suggest this.
- Plan, plan, and plan some more.
Before maternity leave, I was definitely more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl when it came to meal planning. I shopped on an empty stomach, when I was bored, and when I craved something specific. I bought in bulk, thinking it was always a good deal, and that surely we would be able to eat it all before it expired. I would wander the aisles aimlessly, trying to let the shelves be my inspiration for that night’s dinner. Sound familiar to anyone? Let me just say that the results usually included a lot of wasted food, a lot of the same, boring meals, and a lot of extra trips to the store to get things I had forgotten. This also meant a very high grocery budget each month! No matter how good or bad of a cook you may be, it is imperative that you plan (at least 75%) of your meals! To start, pick 2-3 healthy meals you know you enjoy and then double up the recipe and freeze, or find a similar meal to use up the leftovers later that week. You would be amazed at how many meals you can make from one whole organic chicken! When you plan meals and only buy what you need, you will find that your money stretches a lot easier, which enables you to use your money to buy the best quality foods!
- Grocery store alternatives.
As you will see throughout my blog, I am a strong supporter of organic foods; not only because of the superior quality and increased nutrient value, but also because it supports a lot of local farmers, which therefore reduces the carbon footprint on shipping products from other locations and supports our local economy. Organic food is definitely not cheap, but there are ways to still afford them if you know where to look! In Ontario, where I live, a company called Organics Live introduced home delivery of customizable boxes of organic fruits and vegetables for less than retail costs. You can select what size of box, depending on your family size (we get a small box for our family of two adults, a toddler and a baby for $37) and each week they give you the opportunity to view the contents of the next box and switch up items as you prefer. They deliver food that is in season and is as locally grown as possible, so the food quality is amazing. Also doesn’t hurt that they email out weekly newsletters with tasty recipes and food tips/info! Did I also mention that you get $10 for each referral you make?
- Use cash-back websites.
A friend introduced me to this brilliant money-making concept. There are several websites that connect you to common retail websites, and in return, they reimburse you a percentage of your purchase back! Other sites (like Swagbucks) award you points that you can use to buy gift cards for websites like Amazon, etc. I use these sites when I have to buy certain staples that don’t usually go on sale, such as spices, vitamins, peanut butter, dishwasher tabs….just random things I don’t need right away. So, for instance, I sign in to my free Ebates.ca account and connect to Walmart to shop like I normally do, and once my order is processed, I get an email from Ebates saying they have credited my account with 2% of my purchase! There are literally hundreds of stores and more being added, and periodically they double your return or offer “hot” deals and incentives! Every 3 months they send me a nice cheque for not doing anything but shopping as I usually do! Why wouldn’t you take advantage of this?!
- Coupons and Price-Matching.
There are some amazing people out there who are champions at couponing and pric-matching, but I am not one of them. I just do not have the patience! If you are not too keen on bringing a duotang of flyers and clippings on your shopping trips, fear not! Today’s busy Mama can just use a nifty app on her phone, such as Flipp, that enables you to look up any grocery item, and it will look through all your local flyers to show you all the prices and coupons available! Places that price-match, like Walmart, allow you to just show them the item on your Flipp app! Other websites, such as Save.ca, email you alerts for new coupons available and you can select ones to print or to have mailed to you.
Those are just a few ideas to get you started! Do you have any other tools/practices that have helped you save money on groceries?
Helping you save one penny at a time,