Along with rent, taxes and transportation, food is one of the largest expenses for most Canadian families — but there are tricks for keeping a lid on your grocery bill.
On average, Canadian households spent 14 per cent of their budget on food, totalling an average of $8,784 per year according to Statistics Canada's latest figures.
"When you do all of those things, you are going to save money — and since food is so expensive and we all need it, you really need to plan those things of how you're going to spend that money," Liz MacKay told CBC Radio: MainstreetP.E.I.'s Kerry Campbell.
MacKay, who also pens the blog Fighting to be Frugal, shared her five top tips for being a savvy food buyer.
1. Have a master list
Have a master grocery list in your home — not one for your weekly needs, but one that lists your inventory of things you like to keep in stock. Let everyone in your family know where it is. If they use up an item, they need to check or cross it off the list so it can be replaced, MacKay said.
It's especially good to keep track if you've stocked up when certain things are on sale.
Know what stores usually have the best prices on your "must have" inventory items, MacKay advised.
2. Know what it costs
Take your family members grocery shopping with you and teach them what things cost.
"They'll put things on this grocery list that I'm just not going to get," she said. "But when they go and they see how much groceries cost, they're like, 'Oh my goodness I can't believe!'"
MacKay has children ranging in age from six to 18 years old. She teaches them how to check the price per unit to accurately compare prices.
"It's a great life skill to teach your children," said MacKay. "Because they're going to hopefully buy their own groceries and not live on your couch for the rest of their life."
MacKay also has her children put away the groceries at home so they know where food is in the house.
3. Make freezer meals
Make freezer meals — when you're cooking up a pot of chili, double the recipe and freeze half, MacKay advises. Remember to label and date the containers.
Pull them out to defrost on a morning when you know you're going to be pressed for time that evening.
Have a list of what is in your freezer, reminds MacKay, so you don't forget what's in there.
4. Meatless meals
Have a meatless meal at least once a week, maybe even two, MacKay suggests. Ingredients like beans are much cheaper than meat, she said.
"There's so many great meals out there now that are actually meatless — I'm not saying you have to be vegetarian," said MacKay.
Her family loves this one-pot Mexican quinoa and lentil chili.
5. Meal plan
While planning meals is "the curse of my life," MacKay said, it does make life easier in the end for her busy family. She often uses the internet for recipes.
All these tips work together in a circle, she said — knowing what you have on hand makes meal planning easier, and so on.
For more tips on household savings, the federal government's Office of Consumer Affairs has a website with all kinds of useful information.
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