On this page:

Before you go:

Make a plan and write your grocery list based on a week or two weeks worth of meals. Follow your list at the store to make sure you get what you need.

Plan your menus around sale items and grain products, vegetables and fruit that are in season.  Remember to save leftovers for lunches and suppers.

Go shopping when you are well rested and full.  It’s been proven that people who shop on an empty stomach spend more money.

If  you can, leave children or other family at home if they tend to add expensive or unplanned items to your cart.

In the store:

Shop around the edges of the store first.  This is where you can usually find the basics: vegetables and fruit, milk products, grain products and meats.

Read that label!

Reading food labels can help you make healthy food choices. Visit Canada's Food Guide online for information on how to read labels. 

Ask for a rain check if an item on special is not available. This allows you to pick it up later at the special price.

Use the stoop and rise method.  Items at eye level may be more expensive than items on the lower and upper shelves.

Unit pricing helps you to compare similar items of different sizes or brands.  The price per ounce, gram or litre shows the best buy.

Buy the freshest possible.  Check the best before date to make sure that food won’t spoil before you can eat it.

Watch the cash register screen as your food items scan through.  Sometimes mistakes can be made.

You’ve probably seen words such as Canada Choice or Canada Grade A on some foods.  All food grades are equally nutritious. Often the less expensive grades will suit your needs.

Buying in bulk saves packaging costs and can cost less. Save money on all your basic foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice, flour, oatmeal, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and beans by buying in bulk.  Consider dividing bulk foods with a friend.

Buy what’s on sale.

Clip coupons and use them – but only for products you really need.  Even with coupons there may still be a cheaper brand.

Compare prices between name brands and store brands.  You will usually get the same quality for a lower price. Read the nutrition label for sodium and fat amoounts.

It does pay to shop around if the stores are close together, but don’t waste time, energy and gas driving from store to store.

Limit convenience foods.

Convenience foods can be expensive.  Foods like canned soups and stews, frozen dinners and packaged noodle and rice mixes are often costly. If you want to save money, you may want to spend more of your time preparing meals. 

Top-quality food for half the cost

Ask grocery store staff about less-than-perfect fruit for sale, such as bananas or apples.  Some bakeries sell day old bread and baked goods at a lower price.

If  your time or cooking skills are limited, you may be willing to pay more to add some convenience foods to your grocery cart.

Snack foods are some of the most expensive foods in the store.  Replace some of your snack foods with whole grain breads.  This will help increase your fiber intake, and it will also cut food costs and fat in your diet. 

Instead of potato chips, turn leftover whole wheat pitas into pita chips by brushing them with oil then sprinkling them with a seasoning, cutting them into wedges and baking them in the oven at 350degrees F for 10 minutes.  You can also snack on stovetop or air-popped popcorn.


Dark-meat chicken parts, frozen whole chickens, ground turkey and ground beef are usually cheap year-round in Canada.

Check with the deli clerk about buying “ends” of deli meat rolls at lower prices.  Also ask the meat manager if they sell about-to-expire cuts for half price.  Freeze the meat if you won’t be able to use it by the expiration date.

Buy whole chickens and roast them slowly in a covered casserole dish with water in the oven at 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).  The meat will fall off the bone after eight hours. This will give you boneless chicken breasts, plenty of meat for two or three other meals and chicken bones for broth.

Find out if discounted meat is put out for sale at a certain time or day.

Use less tender cuts of meat, such as round, sirloin or flank in moist stews or sauces to make them more tender. Fill a crockpot or slow cooker with meat and vegetables, let it cook all day and come home to an easy and delicious supper.

Storing food safely

Spoiled food wastes money, so learn how to store your food safely. Buy smaller amounts of foods that spoil quickly, like fresh vegetables. Check “best before” or “expiration” dates.  Only buy the food if you can use or freeze it before the date.

Learn more about food storage and safety.

Keep meat portions smaller (about the size of a deck of cards) to save money. Other Protein

Peanut butter, tofu, lentils, split peas, kidney beans or other dried beans are good sources of protein and are usually less expensive than meat.  For some ideas on how to use these foods, check a recipe book or ask your dietitian. 

Quantity cooking

Busy people need to save every bit of time and money available to them.  The next time it’s 5:30 pm and you’re dreading the dilemma of the dinner hour, resolve to try one of these ideas. 

Double or Triple.  When making dishes like lasagna, soup, spaghetti sauce or casseroles, double or triple the recipe and freeze the extra portions for future meals.

Once-a-month cooking. Cook a month’s worth of meals over the first weekend of every month.  This will take a lot of planning and cooking but in the end, you will save on time and money.

Adapted from HealthLink Alberta.