Saving Money on Groceries by Buying in Bulk

This isn't just junk mail. It's a window to each of
the stores within having to go there physically.
For the first four months of 2015, wifey and I have spent an average of $325 a month for groceries. (In 2013, the average was $410 for 4 adults, and in 2014, the average was $389 for around 3 adults*).

For some of you, that's on the high side. I know.

This also includes restaurant spending ($60 or so for two trips so far) as I lump all food into the same category. We try to not go out so much, but sometimes wifey craves the hand made pull noodles and I can't seem to figure how to make that on our own.

For most of you, $325 is too little to spend on groceries.

What are you? Are you eating like ants?

How can your bill be $325 a month when my husband and I spend $200 a week?

You're depriving yourself of good food!

Actually, we don't feel we are. This past weekend we visited one of the Chinese supermarkets in our area and purchased some cooked lobster for wifey. I don't eat lobster due to some allergies, but wifey reported the meat was seasoned right and extremely meaty. One portion was on sale for $9.99, down from $15.99.

From Food Basics, we picked up some Italian sausages. Last year, you could pick up 4 frozen sausages for around $2. These sausages were fresh and a package of 12 were a shade under $6. Even better! We grilled the sausages and used some as a topping on our homemade cheesy, mushroom, Italian sausage pizza. Suffice it to say, we were full after dinner.

Of course, these deals don't happen every week. So what happens when nothing is on sale?

Well, we have a freezer full of groceries from previous weeks specials.

A couple of weeks ago, we purchased frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts from No Frills. They were on sale for $1.99 a pound. We purchased 2 packages. During the week, we grilled a couple and wifey enjoyed it so thoroughly, we rode the bikes down to No Frills again and purchased 4 more packages!**

A month or so ago, Walmart had cheese on sale for $3.99 for a 450g block of cheese. As we enjoy cheese for many things (like grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, lasagna, etc.) I like to stock up. I don't just buy one at a time as the regular price of cheese is $7.99 (double the price!). On this particular occasion, I purchased 5 blocks! When I put them in the fridge, I compared the best before dates and put the earliest dates on top. We had 7 blocks on cheese in the fridge at one point. Sadly, we're only down to 4 blocks now. I opened up another block yesterday and the best before date of this cheese is September 13, 2015.

Yesterday, we went to No Frills to purchase some pork loin chops. They were on sale for $2 a pound. We purchased only one of these (as wifey isn't a huge fan of pork). We paid over $12 for the pork which means there was at least 6 pounds in the package. We threw it in the freezer when we got home. Wifey plans on making some sort of pulled pork thing. Sounds good. This meat will be used when there is no meat on sale elsewhere.

We're also not shy when we purchase fruits. Wifey loves berries. She visits a small shop near her work during her lunch break and purchases all sorts of fruit there. Any extra fruit we can't finish and looks to be on the verge of going bad, we shove in the freezer for later when we make our home made frozen yogourt. So far, we have blueberries, strawberries, bananas, and nectarines in the freezer. This past weekend, we bought some mangoes and more bananas. Wifey is looking forward to having some mango flavoured frozen yogourt (more on homemade yogourt in a future post).

This stocking up of food isn't just for fresh and perishable food items either.

As we eat a lot of rice, we try to have a huge stockpile of rice in our basement. I don't remember the last time we bought rice. As I haven't seen rice on special recently (at least the price I remember which is $10 for an 18kg bag), we're currently have only 1 spare bag (which we did buy two weeks ago at Fresh Co. I would have purchased more, but it was a new brand and I wanted to see if the rice was similar to the one we normally eat).

My mother-in-law loves to make steamed buns and hand made noodles (among other things). As such, we bought a lot of flour when it was on sale. I believe we paid somewhere around $8 for a 10 pound bag of flour. We still have 1 bag in the basement and 1 opened bag upstairs in the kitchen. Since she's not living with us at the moment, we don't really need to buy any more as we don't use flour as much as she did***.

Don't even get me started on salt. I'm not a fan of salt or salty foods. I thank my mother for that. She was a nurse and saw first hand the effects of salt on the cardiopulminary system. The in-laws though... oh my goodness... as such, we have a huge stockpile of salt. It is like there was a salt shortage or something and they decided to stock up. Last time I checked, we had at least 7 containers (of all shapes and sizes) of salt.

This brings me to the where to stock up part.

Stock up wherever the sales are. Each Thursday, flyers are delivered to our house to advertise the sales going on at each supermarket. Figure out which stores have what and figure out an itinerary to visit those stores. For us, it's not worth it to go to one store just to stock up on one item unless it is on the way or within reasonable biking distance. This weekend, we just drove the the Chinese supermarket and rode our bikes to Food Basics, No Frills, and Shoppers Drug Mart.

Of course, it also helps to know the prices of what you need to buy.

For example, large eggs are generally $2 for a dozen. When Fresh Co had them for $2.88 for 18, we bought two cartons. Kale is $2.99 a bunch at No Frills and Food Basics. However, at the Chinese supermarkets, they are regularly $1.99 a bunch (two weeks, it was $1.37 a bunch. I'd have bought more if it wasn't perishable). Chocolate milk should be $1 for a 1L carton (as the 4L bags of milk are $3.99 or less). So when they are selling the new 750mL carton of chocolate milk for $1, you know to avoid that.

If keeping prices in your head is not your thing, bring a little notebook with you. Write down the prices and sizes of the groceries you normally buy.

This may seem like a lot of work to save a few bucks a shopping trip, but it really adds up. $200 a week is really around $860 a month****. Compared to wifey's and my expense of $325 a month, that's a savings of $535 a month or $6,420 a year.

That's money that can be put towards your registered accounts. We've been given an extra $4,500 of contribution room for the TFSA in 2015. This is a good chunk towards maxing that out for the year.

*In-laws spent various amounts of time with us. For 2013, mainly 4 adults until father-in-law flew back home in October 2013. He returned in March 2014. Both in-laws flew back home in September 2014. This explains the drop in grocery spending despite inflation forcing food prices to rise the past couple of years.

**Although the chicken was $1.99 a pound, we only spent $7 or so for all the packages. This is due to the fact that we had PC Points to redeem at No Frills.

***The last things I remember using the flour for are pizza and pancakes. I also made noodles, but that was a couple months or so ago.

****I chose the $200 a week figure based on wifey's friend who is also a two adult family unit.


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