FI Frugality Personal Finance

How to Save Money on Groceries (36 Valuable Tips)

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Photo by Thomas Le on Unsplash

Grocery prices got you down?

Grocery prices have gone up all over the world—including here in Canada, where I live. Researchers predict that a typical family of four (two adults and two teens) can expect to spend over $16,000 on groceries in 2023

As more and more of us are hit with sticker shock when seeing our grocery bill, tips for how to save money on groceries are increasingly needed. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place for help!

My family of four is the ‘typical’ family represented in the Canada Food Price Report. And yet, we only spend $6,600 per year on groceries. How is this possible? I’ll share exactly how we do this below, with my 36 best tips for how to save money on groceries.

Watch for sales 

Watching for sales is the most significant thing you can do to save big on groceries. However, there’s more to it than blindly trusting advertised prices. 

If you can get organized and strategic when shopping grocery sales, you’ll save THOUSANDS (possibly tens of thousands) per year. Here’s how:

1. Check flyers for weekly sales

Most grocery stores put out weekly sales flyers to showcase their latest sales. These days, perusing flyers is only a few taps away—via flyer aggregating apps such as Flipp

Using Flipp, I can easily browse all my local flyers and search for specific items. For example, if we’re running low on pasta, I’ll do a search to see if and where it’s on sale that week.

However, grocery stores are in it to make money, so you can’t rely on their flyers to tell you if an item is really a good buy. Don’t fall prey to their marketing tactics! Instead, get educated and learn what an actual good price is. 

In the next tip, I’ll share why this is key to saving money on groceries. 

2. Know your sale prices 

This tip is so important when shopping grocery sales: you have to know what a true sale price is. Grocery stores sometimes advertise “hot” prices… but the reality is, they’re often not.

As an example, I frequently see chicken legs on ‘sale’ for $2.99 per pound. However, I’ve been tracking the price of chicken for long enough to know that $1.99 per pound or less is a true sale price.

If you’re buying five pounds of chicken, that’s a $5 or a more than 50% difference! This is massive, but you would only know this if you know your prices. How do you know what a good price is? In the next tip, I’ll teach you how to learn this crucial money-saving skill.

3. Record and track sale prices 

Most of us can’t possibly remember the lowest prices for all the items we shop for. That’s when a digital or written record of these sale prices comes in handy. 

My favourite way to record and track sale prices is by adding notes to items in the groceries app* on my phone. This way, I can easily look up previously-recorded sales prices and add the item to my shopping list at the same time. 

Some people prefer to use good old pencil and paper or a spreadsheet. Use whichever method works best for you—the goal is to get familiar with sales prices and have a way to easily recall them when needed. 

*My husband and I have tried many grocery shopping and list apps, and our hands-down favourite is Our Groceries. It’s free, easy to use, and available for Android or iOS.

4. Leverage your network to watch for sales

Another great way to watch for sales and get familiar with good prices is to swap tips and alerts with your network of family and friends. 

In our family, my husband’s mom and uncle frequently email the rest of the family to share an amazing price on a specific item (such as cheese). We also do this with our friends (a favourite item is whole pork leg for $0.99 per pound)!

If you don’t have friends or family who are into saving money on groceries, try Nextdoor, a local Facebook group, or subscribe to a site such as Red Flag Deals.

However you tap into the hive mind for sale prices, it can be a fun way to connect with others AND improve your money-saving skills. 

5. Whenever possible, wait for sales 

Sales happen often enough that I’m usually able to wait for a sale before I buy any given item. And of those items, I’m able to buy the majority of them not just on sale, but at the lowest sale price. 

If you check store flyers weekly, you’ll almost always catch the sales that you’re looking for. (Flipp also lets you create a list of watched items so you’ll be notified when they go on sale. Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t work that well, but I hope it’ll improve in the future.)

6. No sale? Use a backup 

If you’re not finding what you want on sale, you can still avoid paying top dollar by:

  • Buying the item at regular price, but only purchasing a small amount—just enough to tide you over until the next sale.
  • Purchasing the item from a discount grocer. (Their regular prices are often as low as sale prices at other grocery stores.)
  • ‘Shopping’ from your freezer or pantry until there’s a sale.
  • Substituting the item you need with a similar item that’s on sale.
  • Postponing a dish in your meal plan until you see the ingredient you need on sale. 
  • Asking family or friends if they have the item on hand, then offer to buy it back for them when it’s on sale. 

As you can see, there are plenty of options to help you wait for a sale. By using these tactics, we’re seldom stuck with buying groceries at regular prices. 

Related article: 53 Ways You Can Embrace Frugal Living Today 

Meal plan 

To know what you need to shop for, you first have to know what you’re cooking. The best way to do that is to make a meal plan. Here are my best tips on why and how to meal plan:

7. Always make a meal plan 

If you’ve ever arrived home at 6 pm with hungry kids and nothing in the fridge, you know how stressful that can be! Meal plans can help prevent this.

They may take a bit of time to create, but they’re well worth the effort. Meal planning offers many benefits:

  • Saves time when grocery shopping because you already know what you need.
  • Saves money because you can plan ahead of time and check for sales.
  • Makes life less stressful (you can plan easier meals for busy days).
  • You always know what’s for dinner when your kids ask.
  • You’re prepared and ready when it’s time to make dinner.

I know it can be tempting to skip the chore of meal planning. Try to resist that urge and instead, find ways to simplify meal planning and make it enjoyable. Some ways to do that include:

  • Using the same basic meal plan every week.
  • Getting inspired by finding recipes for dishes you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Following a meal-planning blog for easy ideas.
  • Doing the planning with your partner and/or kids.
  • Reminding yourself of the money and time you’re saving.

Don’t give up if it takes a while to get the hang of meal planning. Each time you do it, you’ll get faster and faster at it. (These days, it only takes my husband and me about an hour per week.) 

8. Meal plan around sales 

When my husband and I first started living on our own, we made the mistake of meal planning around what we wanted to cook versus planning around what was on sale. By starting with what we wanted to cook, we’d end up buying many ingredients at full price. This was not good for our wallets!

We eventually learned to start with what’s on sale, and it changed everything. For one thing, it saved us a lot of money. But it also helped to expand our cooking horizons. Every week, we’d buy what was on sale, then would have to figure out how to turn those ingredients into delicious dishes.

Over time, as we’ve become more experienced, meal planning and cooking have become well-practiced habits. It’s a streamlined, relatively quick process, and just part of our routine and something we do. 

9. Meal plan around your produce

There’s a wide variation in how long different vegetables can be stored. Use this to your advantage by buying a mixture of shorter and longer-lasting vegetables each week.

In doing so, you shouldn’t need to shop more than once a week. In addition, if you plan your menu around your produce, it will help to minimize food waste—which saves you money. 

Below is a list of common types of produce and approximately how long each lasts*.

  • Leafy greens: a few days.
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini: up to a week. 
  • Celery, peppers: about two weeks.
  • Carrots, cabbages, onions, potatoes: several weeks. 
  • Squashes, frozen vegetables: several months. 

*These timeframes will vary depending on how and where you store your fresh produce. 

Using this list, take a look at the produce you plan to buy for the week, then plan your menu so that you cook them in order. For example:

  • Sunday: pasta with salad.
  • Monday: grilled chicken with another salad.
  • Tuesday: tofu stir-fry with broccoli and zucchini.
  • Wednesday: pork chops with steamed broccoli.
  • Thursday: chicken legs with roasted peppers and onions.
  • Friday: fish sticks with cabbage and carrot coleslaw.
  • Saturday: meatloaf with frozen mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes.

Note how the delicate vegetables are eaten early in the week and the hardier ones are left to the end. This helps to ensure you use up all your weekly produce and consume it when it’s still fresh and nutritious. 

Shop smart 

Now that you’re well-versed on how to buy your groceries on sale, it’s time to make a list and head to the grocery store. The tips below will help you shop smart and stretch your money even further.

10. Do most of your grocery shopping at the cheapest store 

Get to know the prices at your local grocery stores and do most of your shopping at the cheapest one. Whether it’s Superstore, Walmart, or your local ethnic store, one of them will regularly come out ahead with the lowest overall prices.

Below is a graphic which was recently shared by my friend Jolie in her Canadian Ladies Money Club Facebook group. She notes, “This was shared in a local community group, so Calgary, and recent to about a month ago (January 2023). It came from Reddit.”

calgary grocery store price comparisons

Doing the math with this chart, it’s incredible to see the spread between stores—overall 23% higher for Safeway (highest) versus Walmart (lowest). That’s potentially thousands of dollars more per year in grocery spending.

Here’s the takeaway: if you switch to doing most of your shopping at the cheapest store, you can easily shave at least 10% off your grocery budget. (But often, you’ll save much more—some stores can charge 50, 60, or even 200% more for the same item.)

11. Stock up during sales

This is an obvious one that most people already know, but it’s still worth mentioning! When you see an item that you often use on a good sale, buy lots of it. (I try to buy enough to last at least three months. That’s usually enough time for the item to go on sale again.)

Of course, this works best for shelf-stable, dried, canned, or jarred items as they don’t require refrigeration. However, if you have a standalone freezer like we do, you can also stock up on items such as meat, bread, and freezer-friendly veggies when they go on sale. 

There’s a bit of added cost for the electricity an extra freezer consumes, but the cost savings in groceries more than offsets that. (Note, you can also use the tips in my fridge hacks post to ensure your freezer is being used optimally.)

12. Buy in bulk 

This is another often-shared tip, but it can help so much with your grocery budget and should never be overlooked. However, you need to be thoughtful about how and if you buy in bulk. Here are some tips to make the most of bulk buying:

  • Only buy in bulk if you know you can use up the larger amount of food.
  • Split bulk packages with family and friends. That way, you all get the lower unit price, but in a reasonable quantity.
  • Split up your bulk purchase—use one portion right away, then freeze the rest for later.
  • Calculate the unit price to ensure that the bulk-sized item is truly a better buy. Sometimes, a smaller size that’s on sale is actually cheaper.
  • If you know you won’t be able to use up a bulk-sized package, buy a smaller one. Even if the unit price is higher, you’ll still save money because you won’t later need to throw the expired food (and thus, your hard-earned money) away. 

13. Make a shopping list and stick to it

Never go grocery shopping without a list! Browsing without a list or plan leads to a longer shopping trip, higher spending, and impulse purchases. Avoid all that by planning ahead and knowing exactly what you’re shopping for.

Use my tips above as well as a meal plan to work out your grocery list ahead of time. Then, when you arrive at the store, you’ll be ready to grocery shop efficiently and with confidence that you’re getting the best prices.

14. Use price matching

If there’s an item on sale at one store, but you’re planning to shop at a different one, see if they’ll price match the item for you. This is such a huge time and gas saver—I wish all stores offered it! 

To price match quickly and easily, have your flyer app loaded on your phone with the sale item shown and ready to present to the cashier. (You can also use paper flyers, but those are getting harder to come by.)

Note that some staff and stores are more particular than others about price matching. For example, one staff person or store may reject your request if the sale item is at a store that’s not located in your local area.

Don’t let that deter you! Over time, you’ll learn to price match with confidence as you get familiar with each store’s policy. 

15. Buy close-to-expiry or imperfect food

This is one of my favourite grocery-shopping hacks just because it’s fun and feels good. Buying expiring or imperfect food not only saves you money but also diverts food waste and is a great way to try products you may not otherwise buy.

I love shopping for amazing deals on food that’s close to expiry, but still good via the Flashfood app. (Read my full Flashfood review for more info and use my referral code, CHRIWAMP for a bonus $5 credit.) 

To save even more, try other apps and services such as Too Good to GoImperfect Foods, and Olio.

16. Shop at ethnic grocery stores

If there’s an ethnic grocery store near you, it’s worth checking out for big grocery savings. (This is a nifty little secret that many people aren’t aware of!) The meat and produce at these small stores tend to be very fresh and lower-priced than even the cheapest big box stores.

As an added bonus, you’re also supporting a small, often family-run business in your community. And, on top of that, these stores may be within walking distance from your home, which saves you gas and gives you some exercise.

Many of the guests in my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life interview series mention shopping at ethnic stores as one major way they save on groceries. I highly suggest that you make ethnic stores part of your shopping routine to save money and discover new, unfamiliar foods. 

Check out ethnic sections too!

Reader Robert left a comment that was so helpful, I decided to add it to the post:

“I sometimes find even the “ethnic” section of regular stores have cheaper items compared to a few shelves over. I’ll always take a buzz down that aisle just to scan for items I was going to get anyway, sometimes you’ll get lucky! I started to exclusively get hummus in that section because at my local store there is hummus for $1.99 regular price vs $4-5 on the regular shelf!”

I can’t believe I forgot to mention this tip! Robert’s absolutely right—you’ll often find similar products in ethnic sections/aisles that are significantly cheaper. My favourite finds in ethnic sections include:

  • Chickpeas.
  • Dried beans.
  • Lentils.
  • Spices.
  • Dried herbs.
  • Tahini.

Thanks for the pro tip, Robert! 😉 (If anyone else has favourite ethnic section finds to share, let me know in the comments.)

17. Compare unit prices

Some stores are good about including unit prices on their signage, but most are not. It’s worth making the effort to calculate unit prices on your own when food shopping. This could lead you to discover, for example, that the regular price of a larger container is cheaper than the sale price of a smaller one.

Unit prices are also useful when comparing brands—especially if they sell their products in package sizes which differ from each other. The same is true when comparing the same product between different stores, and a specific package size is only available at certain stores.

The only way to know if you’re getting the best deal is to calculate the unit price. So when you’re shopping, be sure to have your calculator app ready!

18. Buy store brands 

As much as possible, buy store brands for the staples you shop for. Often, these products are indistinguishable in taste and appearance when compared to a name brand. However, the savings are usually significant.

As a bonus, most stores offer money-back guarantees to entice you to try their store-branded products. That means there’s no risk in trying their goods. And who knows—you may discover a store brand that’s even better than your favourite name brand!

19. Don’t shop hungry 

We’ve all experienced the torture of grocery shopping when we’re hungry! Not only is it hard to focus on the task at hand, but our growly tummies can make us more impulsive. 

Your hangriness could lead you to buy and spend more than necessary, which could put your efforts to save money to waste. Avoid these issues by ensuring you’re well-fed before you shop. 

If you don’t have time for a meal, keep some snacks in your bag or purse and eat them before you head into the store. Just think—that $2 granola bar could save you $100 in impulse buys! 

20. Check your food inventory before shopping 

Have you bought an item at the grocery store, only to bring it home and realize you already had a bunch of it in the back of the fridge? We’ve all been there, and know how exasperating it can be—especially if it’s an item (such as fresh produce) that won’t keep for long.

It’s very easy to get around this annoying problem. Yes, it takes a bit of time to do a food inventory of your fridge and cabinets. But it’s worthwhile as it could save you time and money.

It also prevents food waste by stopping you from buying a duplicate item which you may not be able to eat up before it goes bad.

21. Take advantage of loyalty programs 

Most grocery stores offer loyalty programs to incentivize customers to keep coming back. As long as it’s free, I think it’s always worthwhile to register for these programs. You’re spending the money anyway—why not earn points to use for free groceries later?

Here in Canada, my favourite loyalty program is PC Optimum. Their program includes a large number of stores and gas stations, which makes it very easy to rack up points. (My family earns hundreds of dollars per year in PC Optimum points!)

If you’re inclined, take a deeper dive into your favourite points programs to optimize your earnings and redemptions. There are often little-known ways to take advantage of bonus points offers and special redemptions to build up a large number of points.

22. Use a cashback credit card

Cashback credit cards are a great way to earn back a percentage of your grocery purchase in cashback rewards. In particular, look for credit cards that offer a higher percentage back on groceries.

Alternatively, you could also use a store-branded credit card that rewards you with bonus rewards for shopping at their stores. My favourite store-brand card is the no-fee PC World Elite Mastercard.

It earns us 30 points per dollar spent (3%) at their grocery stores and gas stations. This is the highest earn rate in Canada for a free credit card. If you frequently shop at PC-affiliated stores, this card is well worth getting.

23. Use coupon and rebate apps

I find coupon and rebate apps to be a very minor way to save money on groceries. This is especially true if, like us, you don’t buy many name-brand products. However, many people save a lot by using these apps (and printed coupons). 

Therefore, I still think it’s worth checking your favourite app or website for coupons and rebates before you shop. My favourite coupon app is Checkout 51 because the offers are generous and easy to redeem.

Another bonus with coupon apps and coupons is you can stack them on top of sales, store offers, loyalty points, and credit card rewards. This could result in incredible savings! 

But as always, do the math and check your prices to know if you’re actually getting a deal. If you’re buying an item at regular price, even a high-value coupon may not match a good sale price. 

Cook smart 

Now that you’ve done your shopping and brought your groceries home, it’s time to get cooking. And, you’ve guessed it—I’ve got tips to help you save time and money here as well!

24. Cook extra, then freeze the surplus

One great way to take advantage of bulk buying is to bulk cook. For example, when we buy a huge tray of ground beef, we’ll cook up the whole package at once. 

When we cook the beef, we keep the seasonings simple—just some diced onions and salt. This way, it can be used in a variety of dishes in the future (e.g. spaghetti, tacos, shepherd’s pie, etc.)

Once the beef is cooked, we’ll use one portion immediately. Then the rest is divvied up into containers (enough to make a meal or two) and frozen for later use. 

You can do the same thing with complete dishes too, such as lasagna, curries, soups, stews, and more. Cooking in bulk then freezing not only saves money and time but also makes life easier and less stressful. (Future you will thank you!)

25. Substitute some meat

Most of us have become more aware of the climate and health impacts of eating meat. However, you don’t have to do away with all the meat in your diet. You can instead take the more moderate step of substituting a portion of your meat for plant-based alternatives. 

Now, I’m not talking about expensive (and nutritionally questionable) meat alternatives. Instead, what I’m suggesting is healthy, inexpensive plant-based foods such as tofu, mushrooms, legumes, and beans. 

As my family has gradually moved towards decreased meat consumption, we’ve learned that the reason why these foods are great substitutes is because of their texture. In addition, they’re blank slates as far as taste, and easily take on the flavour of the dish they’re added to. 

We’ve found that tofu puffs tend to be the closest to meat in mouthfeel and chew, with mushrooms coming in a close second. Legumes and beans don’t really simulate the texture of meat, but if cooked to al dente, they make a satisfying substitute. 

I also like to sub out up to half of our ground meat with shredded TVP, aka texturized vegetable protein. Visually as well as taste and texture-wise, TVP is almost undetectable in a ground meat dish. (Which is especially important for picky kids.)

On top of being better for your health and the planet, TVP is also really cheap! I highly recommend it and the other meat substitutes I’ve mentioned above. Your body and your wallet will thank you for trying them out (even if only part time). 

26. Make your own 

Many of us are so used to buying pre-made foods, sauces, and condiments that we don’t realize that many of them are quick and easy to make at home. 

It’s not only cheaper to DIY these items, but you also save money because you can make only as much as you need. (No more half-used bottles and jars cluttering up your fridge, then going to waste.) 

Below is a list of just some of the many premade goods we’ve made ourselves:

  • Sauces (barbecue, teriyaki, tzatziki, etc.)
  • Marinades and rubs.
  • Taco seasoning.
  • Spice mixes.  
  • Dressing.
  • Breadcrumbs. 
  • Shredded cheese (pre-shredded costs more and doesn’t last as long).
  • Cookie batter.
  • Soups (freeze small portions so they’re as convenient as canned).
  • Snack packs (making them at home is also more eco-friendly).
  • Beans (instead of buying canned beans, buy dried beans, then soak and cook them).

Great creative and see if you can replace anything in your pantry or fridge with a homemade version. You’ll save money, prevent food waste, and minimize the clutter in your fridge and pantry.

Eat smart 

Another impactful way to save money is to pay attention to what and how you eat. Making changes in your diet will not only improve your health but also help to decrease your grocery spending. Here are some tips to help you eat smarter:

27. Avoid convenience foods 

Convenience foods such as prepared meals, frozen dinners, and meal kits are costly and (typically) unhealthy. If you break down the per-serving cost of these pre-made foods, it’s always higher than if you’d made it yourself.

As an example, my family cooks a variety of high-quality meals that cost, on average, $2 per serving. On the other hand, convenience foods start around $2.50 for a very small serving. (You’d need 1.5 to 2 servings of these pre-made meals to match one of my family’s home-cooked servings.)

Note, however, that I’m not suggesting that you cut out all convenience foods. After all, they’re undeniably time-saving and yes, convenient. But if you do buy them, calculate the per-serving cost and decide if it’s worth paying the higher price.

Also, just like with the rest of your groceries, check the prices and try to only buy these foods when they’re on sale.

28. If you eat meat, eat cheaper meats and cuts 

While my family has substantially reduced our meat intake with healthy meat substitutes, we still enjoy and eat some meat. To save money on the meat we do eat, we:

  • Eat mostly chicken and pork.
  • Choose cheaper cuts of meat.
  • Mostly buy frozen (rather than fresh) fish and seafood.
  • Always buy meat at the lowest prices.
  • Stock up on meat during sales, then freeze it (so that we never run out and never have to buy at regular prices).

As with convenience foods, you don’t need to cut all meat out. You just need to be thoughtful about how and what you buy and consume. Doing so can decrease your grocery budget by hundreds of dollars per year.

29. Drink water instead of juice and pop

Ditch the sugary drinks (except for treats and special occasions). Instead, hydrate yourself with clean, fresh water. If tap water where you live is safe for drinking, you’re in luck—it costs you essentially nothing!

However, many areas of the world aren’t as fortunate and water needs to be bought, boiled, or filtered. But even in those situations, it’s highly likely that water is still more cost-efficient than any other drink. (And, as long as it’s clean and safe for consumption, it’s definitely the healthiest choice.)

30. Try intermittent fasting 

I can’t remember when my husband and I started intermittent fasting, but I’m quite sure it was in 2017. That’s when our grocery spending dropped significantly (and has continued to stay low). 

My husband fasts on a 14/10 schedule and I’m closer to a 16/8 schedule. We’ll skip breakfast, then he’ll eat lunch around noon and I’ll hold off until closer to 2. After that, we eat dinner around six, then have a small snack at night. 

Intermittent fasting saved us $1,000 per year in grocery spending, helped us lose weight, and is easy and relatively painless to do. If your doctor clears you to try it, give it a shot—it could shrink your grocery bill and your waistline!

Minimize food waste 

Have you ever stopped to consider how much food your household throws out or composts? Do you know how much that wasted food cost you to buy? If not, the number may shock you.

In Canada, the average household wastes more than $1,300 of food per year. And in the US, the average family of four throws out $1,500 in wasted food per year. That’s a lot of money that could be used for other things (like reaching FIRE). 🔥

Fortunately, preventing food waste is very much possible and not that hard. Here are my best tips to help you keep your food fresh and out of the compost heap.

31. Keep your fridge organized 

We’ve all been there—digging through our fridge looking for an item, then discovering a bunch of stuff buried and hidden in the back. If we’re lucky, these rediscovered items will still be safe to eat. 

But more often than not, they’ve gone bad and need to be tossed. This is a huge waste of money and can easily be prevented through the simple act of organizing your fridge.

In our household, fridge management is a regular chore. Every day or two, we’ll shift things around, look through the drawers, and generally check that things are in order and not getting lost. 

I’ll be honest with you—I don’t enjoy this chore and find it to be tedious and annoying! But by keeping our fridge organized, we rarely lose or forget about items and almost always eat up all our food before it goes bad. 

As a result, we only generate one to two salad box-sized containers of kitchen waste a week. (99% of it is food scraps such as bones, fat, peels, pits, stems, and food-soiled papers.) 

In turn, this saves us from throwing out good food (which we spent hard-earned money on). And, as an added bonus, it also helps to reduce our carbon footprint

32. Don’t overfill your fridge

Another important tip is to avoid stuffing your fridge too full. An overfilled fridge is very hard to keep organized. It also makes it difficult to find things and easy to lose and forget about what’s inside. 

In addition, your fridge runs more efficiently when there’s some airflow inside. (It’s suggested that fridges should be kept at about 75% full.)

Note that all of this also applies to freezers!

33. Use my fridge ‘hacks’ 

For more tips to keep your food fresh and help your fridge run efficiently, I wrote a post to share the following tips:

  • Clean your fridge’s condenser and fan. (If the fridge isn’t getting cold enough, this is almost always the problem.)
  • Get a fridge thermometer.
  • Use your fridge’s zones properly.

See How to Save $40 a Month With Three Easy Fridge Hacks for more details (and photos of the disgusting dust at the back of my fridge)!

34. Label and track your freezer items 

If you store a lot of food in your freezer, it’s essential that you label and track these items. Without a system like this in place, it’s all too easy to forget about or lose items in your freezer. 

By the time you discover these items again, they could be long-expired, freezer-burnt, or spoiled. This is a huge waste of food and money. 

Fortunately, you can easily avoid these issues by labelling and tracking your freezer items. Here’s how our system works:

Repurposed containers

To freeze our food, we save all sizes of zippered bags from the food we consume. (For example, bags from dry goods, chips, candy, frozen vegetables, and more.) This is a neat hack for many reasons:

  • These bags are way more durable than Ziploc bags. 
  • They’re distinctive, so they’re easier to find and identify in the freezer. 
  • They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so we can pick the right-sized bag to minimize air pockets.
  • They’re free!
  • If they get wrecked, it doesn’t bother us since they were free anyway. 
  • We’re giving them a few more uses before they’re recycled. 
  • We don’t need to spend money on Ziploc bags.  

Bags don’t work for everything, so we also save plastic containers (e.g. yogurt tubs) to freeze our food. We like repurposing plastic containers like these for the same reasons we do zippered bags (they’re easy to identify, they’re free, we’re reusing them before recycling, etc.)


Once the food has been placed in the appropriate bag or container, we then label it. Using a dark pencil or marker, I’ll write a short description and the month and year on a piece of scotch or masking tape then apply it to the bag or container.


Before freezing the item, record the item in an inventory list for your freezer. We used to do this on a pad of paper, but it was awkward to update. (We’d basically have to rewrite the entire list every once in a while to keep it legible and organized.)

After a while, we moved our freezer inventory list to a shared spreadsheet and it was so much easier! It’s not only easier to access and update, but we can also add notes and colour coding to it. In addition, we can easily and quickly rearrange the items. 

When we record each item, we include the following info:

  • A brief description of the item (that matches the label), e.g. chicken stock.
  • A brief description of the bag or container, e.g. White and green Dairyland sour cream container.
  • The month and year the item was frozen (this should also match the label).

If we didn’t use this system, our freezer would quickly become a black hole of mystery foods! That would then lead to a lot of frustration and time, money, and food being wasted. For us, labelling and tracking our freezer items is well worth the extra bit of time it takes. 

Our freezer inventory

Reader “P” asked in the comments, “Do you think you can publish your freezer inventory? I am sure I will find additional items to freeze and ideas for doing this right.. beginner at freezing!”

I’m happy to oblige—here’s what’s currently in our freezer (arranged by category):


  • Beef Stock
  • Dashi Stock
  • Canned Tuna Water x 2
  • Turkey Stock
  • Chicken Stock
  • Poached Chicken Stock x 4
  • Dashi (Kombu and Bonito)


  • Kalbi Marinade
  • Jerk Chicken Marinade
  • Beef Gravy
  • Turkey Gravy
  • Homemade Okonomiyaki Sauce
  • Blackbean sauce 
  • Tomato paste
  • Gochujang
  • Cheese Sauce
  • Pesto sauce
  • Milk
  • Butter Chicken Sauce
  • Tumeric Chicken Sauce
  • Creamed Corn sauce
  • Green Curry Sauce
  • Pizza Sauce 
  • Tamarind Sauce

Bread, Desserts, Miscellaneous

  • Tobiko Roe
  • Whole Macadamia Nuts
  • Chopped Macadamia Nuts
  • Kirkland Cream Cheese Block
  • Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Cheese Crackers (to use as breadcrumbs)
  • Herb Crackers (to use as breadcrumbs)
  • Red Bean Paste
  • Cooked Pearl Barley
  • Duck Fat
  • Wonton Wrappers
  • Toasted White Sesame Seeds
  • Butter
  • PC Plant-Based Butter 
  • Yeast
  • Tofu Puffs x 3
  • Cashews x 1.75 bags
  • Perogy filling
  • Walnuts for baking
  • Sourdough Baguette
  • Ciabatta Cluster (from Flashfood)
  • Rosemary Focaccia (from Flashfood)
  • Egg Whites 
  • Cooked Steel-Cut Oats (2 portions)

Fruit and Veggies

  • Puréed Pumpkin
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Thai Green Chilis
  • No Name Red Chili Powder
  • Green Onions
  • Minced Garlic
  • Pandan Leaves x 2
  • Green Giant Petite Peas
  • Dried Soybeans
  • Medjool Dates
  • Refried Beans
  • Cooked Black Beans
  • Spinach
  • Homemade Natto x 2
  • Cooked, Unseasoned Chickpeas x 2
  • Applesauce x 2
  • Sliced, Fried Mushrooms
  • Roma Tomatoes


  • Mentaiko from Fujiya
  • Korean Mentaiko
  • Kirkland Shrimp (⅓ bag)
  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs (0.25 bag)
  • Chicken Legs (4 legs, chopped in half)
  • Chicken Drumsticks (about 3 lbs)
  • Pepperoni (200 g)
  • Skipper Otto* Black Cod Collar
  • Skipper Otto Chinook Salmon Tail Trim x 2
  • Skipper Otto Chinook Salmon Belly Trim
  • Skipper Otto Pink Salmon Belly Trim
  • Skipper Otto Halibut Collar x 2
  • PC Blue Menu Ground Turkey
  • Ground Beef (2.1 kg) x 2
  • Cooked Ground Beef 250g
  • Steak x 3
  • Smoked Salmon (half)
  • Pork Loin (740g)
  • Pork Loin (560g)
  • Pork Loin (380g)
  • Whole Pink Salmon


  • Homemade Marinara Sauce
  • Chickpea Confit
  • Lasagna
  • Steamed Pork Patty
  • Homemade Won Tons (1 bag)
  • Homemade Perogies (1 bag)
  • Kalua Pork

I hope our freezer list is helpful and that it generates some new ideas for you, P!

*Skipper Otto is an amazing CSF (community supported fishery) based in Vancouver. Their products are pricey but very high quality. I also like to think of my orders from them as donations to a very good cause—supporting small, independent fisheries. 

If you decide to purchase a Skipper Otto membership, use my referral code (2S5XYXNL) for a $10 credit. Our local fisheries and I thank you for the support!

35. Store all your food correctly 

Another important way to minimize food waste is to store all your food correctly—even items you may have thought were fine at room temperature. For example: 

  • Keep bread from going mouldy by storing it in the fridge. (For the first couple of days, it’ll stay just as soft. After that, you’ll need to toast it a bit before eating.)
  • Freeze bread you can’t eat within a week or two. (But bag it tightly and don’t freeze it for too long—bread freezer burns easily).
  • Freeze dry goods such as nuts, seeds, brown rice, and wholewheat flour to keep them from going rancid as quickly.
  • To prevent over-ripening and spoilage, store tomatoes in your fridge’s produce drawer.
  • Refrigerate bananas to slow the ripening process.
  • Peel and freeze garlic and ginger—they’ll last longer and will be ready to use whenever you need them. 

These are just some ideas—try Googling to see if any of your non-refrigerated items might be better off in the fridge or freezer. 

36. Divert food from going to the landfill or compost 

If your food has reached the end of the line and you think it’s time to toss it, think again! Many foods and scraps that are regarded as ‘useless’ or no longer edible can, in fact, be very useful.

Here are some of my favourite ideas to get you started: 

  • Don’t throw out dishes you made too much of or are tired of eating. Instead, freeze the excess for an easy, quick meal in the future.
  • Freeze extra tomatoes (this makes them easy to peel—no need for blanching).
  • Freeze extra green onions (to use in dishes where they’re fully cooked).
  • Got lots of sauce left but no more meat in the dish? Freeze it to use in a future meal. (Curry sauces are great for this.)
  • Reimagine leftovers
  • Turn Halloween pumpkin guts into a sweet, healthy treat
  • Save tuna water and use it as a base for sauces and broths.
  • Use the entire bunch of cilantro—even the stems.
  • Cook and eat potatoes with the skin.
  • Eat apples with the skin.
  • Turn stale, hard bread into breadcrumbs or croutons. (If the bread’s still a bit soft, you can also make panko breadcrumbs.)
  • Don’t throw out soy and ketchup packets you get with your takeout. Instead, use them to refill your bottles at home.  
  • Grind stale oatmeal into a skin-soothing bath soak
  • Peel, boil, then mash extra potatoes, then freeze them for future use. 
  • Chicken bones and veggie scraps make good, all-purpose broths.
  • Ham bones make yummy broth for pasta or congee.
  • Turkey bones make a perfect broth to use in a gravy. 
  • Beef drippings are delicious in gravy.
  • Shrimp shells make a flavorful broth for won tons.
  • Save the water from rehydrating dried mushrooms—it can help to add umami and a meaty flavour to your dishes. 

There are so many more ideas like these. It just takes some creativity and research to reduce the amount of perfectly-good food you dispose of. Have fun with it and challenge yourself to waste as little as possible. 

You’ll save money and discover delicious new uses for food you’d previously discarded. Over time, it’ll become second nature to use up all your food!

Closing thoughts

There are so many ways to save money on groceries, from watching for sales to minimizing your food waste. Having so many tips and tricks at your disposal means you can pick and choose which work best for you.

As you master some of these skills, you may want to revisit the list and take on some more. With each tip you implement, you’ll increase your savings and live and eat healthier. 

I hope this post has helped you learn how to save money on groceries. Leave me a comment if you have feedback, additional ideas, or questions. I always love hearing from my readers!

Support this blog

If you liked this article and want more content like this, please support this blog by sharing it! Not only does it help spread the FIRE, but it lets me know what content you find most useful. (Which encourages me to write more of it!) 

You can also support this blog by visiting my recommendations page and purchasing through the links. Note that not every link is an affiliate link—some are just favourite products and services that I want to share. 🙂

As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

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  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    January 25, 2023 at 10:44 am

    Great tips, Chrissy. Admittedly some of these tips take time. But setting up some systems and habits can definitely help with this. I’ve learned a few new tricks I can add to my routines to save on our monthly grocery bill. Thanks for sharing:)

    • Reply
      January 26, 2023 at 10:04 pm

      Hi Maria—yes, it definitely takes time to save money on groceries. I wish that wasn’t the case, especially for busy families. Hopefully, some of the easier tasks will be manageable enough for most people to try out. (For example, intermittent fasting and drinking water instead of sugary drinks.)

      I know you’re already quite a pro at saving money on groceries, so I’m happy to hear that you still learned a few new things!

  • Reply
    January 26, 2023 at 5:46 am

    Great post, thank you! I’ll be implementing these ASAP!
    On #16 Shop at ethnic stores, I sometimes find even the “ethnic” section of regular stores have cheaper items compared to a few shelves over. I’ll always take a buzz down that aisle just to scan for items I was going to get anyway, sometimes you’ll get lucky! I started to exclusively get hummus in that section because at my local store there is hummus for $1.99 regular price vs $4-5 on the regular shelf!

    • Reply
      January 26, 2023 at 10:07 pm

      Hi Robert—that’s a fantastic tip and you’re absolutely right. We’ve also found this to be the case, especially with spices, dried beans, and dried legumes. I’ll have to add that to the post if I have time to update it in the future.

      BTW, that’s an incredible savings on your hummus. Nice find! 👍

  • Reply
    January 26, 2023 at 3:16 pm

    Quite a post.. definitely going to implement the freezer inventory spreadsheet. Do you think you can publish your freezer inventory? I am sure I will find additional items to freeze and ideas for doing this right.. beginner at freezing!

    • Reply
      January 26, 2023 at 10:12 pm

      Hi P—great idea! I’ll publish a list of our freezer items when I have time to update the post. Thanks for the suggestion!

      In the meantime, I’d suggest Googling whatever food item you have on hand to see if it can be frozen and how to do it properly (for safety and to preserve the texture).

      Have fun!

      • P
        January 27, 2023 at 1:01 pm

        Wow, awesome, you rock Chrissy!! Thank you :)) Looking forward to it.. the more I freeze the more I am blown away at what all I can freeze. The traditional approach growing up was freezing ice cubes and
        slaving atleast 4 hours in the kitchen everyday. Lol, I rather use my freezer 🙂

      • Chrissy
        January 31, 2023 at 9:34 pm

        Hi P—I just added our freezer inventory to the post. 😉 If you search for “freezer inventory” on the page, you can get to the list quickly. I hope it’s helpful!

      • P
        February 21, 2023 at 9:00 am

        Thank you!!! Freezing marinades and sauces!! Wow, you just made my home cooking easier by a whole bunch.. also, like your tip of freezing gochuchang, I don’t buy it because I can’t get through the whole container. I am curious what are tofu puffs, will Google. Thanks v much Chrissy

      • Chrissy
        February 21, 2023 at 10:15 pm

        Hi P—I’m happy to hear my freezer list was helpful to you! We like to buy the huge containers of gochujang because it’s cheaper that way. But if we don’t freeze the excess, it loses its nice colour and some of its flavour. Freezing extends the life by months (maybe even years)!

        As for the tofu puffs, here are the ones we usually buy: Tip: don’t ever buy the mini ones. We tried them once, but they were hard and dry. 🙁

    • Reply
      February 21, 2023 at 10:07 pm

      My husband & I cannot use a lot of milk with our steel cut oats in the morning or for making yogurt so I buy the 4 litre jug and freeze half of it in two 2L containers and defrost when I use up the half. It is as good as fresh and no problem making yogurt from it. I freeze leftover yogurt so that I have a starter when I return from a vacation. Here are some other suggestions: egg whites (use too many yolks for traditional baking), whipping cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, pureed overripe fruit to replace some of the fat in baking (like subbing applesauce). Not only does it stop waste, it saves on the wallet…..

      • Chrissy
        February 21, 2023 at 10:17 pm

        Hi Mom—thanks for adding these extra ideas for items that are freezable. A standalone freezer really opens up so many possibilities!

  • Reply
    January 29, 2023 at 10:30 am

    As usual, Chrissy is so detailed that even I have learned more from reading this post! I have followed Chrissy’s advice throughout the years even though I thought I knew it all when it came to saving money on groceries! I remember a butcher once telling me that when I buy a cut of meat that is not on sale, that I was subsidizing the price of the meat that was on sale that week. After that, I always bought only meat that was on sale. I also learned from Chrissy how to shop mostly at Superstore and to accumulate the PC optimum points which I use when I see beef tenderloin go on sale – I buy the whole piece that is around $100 for 100,000 points! Tastes even better because the price is right!

    • Reply
      January 31, 2023 at 10:01 pm

      Hi Mom—funny that you learned some new tips from me! I learned most of my grocery-optimizing skills from you! I’d never heard that anecdote from you before (what the butcher told you). That’s such a great way to put it. I’m even more motivated to never pay full price for meat (or any groceries).

      My love for PC Optimum points has only grown through the years. It’s a fantastic program that’s become even more rewarding since I started getting more strategic with it!

  • Reply
    Carolyn M
    February 10, 2023 at 5:06 am

    Growing your own food is another way to reduce your grocery bill. Planning and growing a budget garden is a great way to have fresh produce at affordable prices and it is very fulfilling providing for oneself and ones family.

    If you’re interested in starting a budget garden I have a post about it which I’’ve linked below.

    • Reply
      February 10, 2023 at 7:48 pm

      Hi Carolyn—that’s a fantastic tip. (But there needs to be an emphasis on “budget”, ha ha. I know some gardeners spend small fortunes setting up their gardens and buying seeds every year. 😬)

      I can absolutely see how fulfilling it would be to be able to feed yourself. (Not to mention the health and planetary benefits too.)

      Thanks for sharing your post. I just skimmed it and have saved it to read properly later. From what I quickly read, it’s excellent and very helpful!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2023 at 4:12 pm

    I am 68 and I have always done almost all of the things on your list. Thinking before buying is something ingrained in me. I also enjoy figuring out substitutions for things.

    • Reply
      February 16, 2023 at 11:10 pm

      Hi Laura—that’s wonderful to hear! Thanks for sharing your additional tips. Both are excellent, especially thinking before buying. That’s something that many people don’t practice often enough.

  • Reply
    February 17, 2023 at 9:25 pm

    Like Laura, I also like to substitute things – mascarpone cream is awfully expensive so I make my own from whipping cream when I want to make tiramisu – way better taste too for at least 1/2 the cost! I love oxtail stew but at $16.00/lb, I found that I could sub beef rib bones that cost $4.00/lb! I find it very satisfying when I save that way!

    • Reply
      February 19, 2023 at 10:34 pm

      Hi Mom—I thought of you when I saw Laura mentioned substitutions. You’re a master at it!

  • Reply
    February 19, 2023 at 2:20 pm

    Where can I buy textured vegetable protein at a good price in or near Richmond? Superstore has it sometimes, but they often sell out. Thank you!

    • Reply
      February 19, 2023 at 10:37 pm

      Hi E—my sister helps me pick up TVP from a store called Reshine in Richmond. They carry a HUGE selection of meat substitutes and the prices are good. Here’s their website:

      They often have sales, so sign up for their newsletter to be notified. Enjoy!

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