Grocery Shopping Basics

Grocery shopping is one of those things that unfortunately becomes a part of our everyday life especially after we leave home. Our parents used to do it for us and now we need to start doing it for ourselves. With that comes a lot of responsibility and I often find a lot of people just opt for buying takeout food all the time instead. I can’t say takeout isn’t great, but the costs add up. Your best bet is to start grocery shopping for yourself and save some serious cash if you know how to do it.  Given my bizarre love for grocery shopping, it was only natural that I put together a grocery shopping basics post to help students keep on budget when starting to grocery shop for themselves for the first time.

Grocery Shopping Basics

  • Know your prices
  • Write a list, you will be less likely to buy things you don’t need
  • Don’t go hungry, it’s the worst, you will want to buy everything!

Know Your Store

Discount Stores: Best Bets for Students

Especially for students, the best store to frequent are often No Frills, Food Basics and other discount grocery stores including Walmart. These stores often have better prices everyday on non-sale items, and often have really good sales including the dollar sale that No Frills often has.

Grocery Stores: Students be Cautious

When it comes to the more expensive grocery stores like Metro, Valuemart, Sobeys , Zehrs, Loblaws etc  they tend to have fresher produce and greater selection as well as loyalty programs. That being said regular prices at these stores are often much higher than the discount store options. It’s understandable if a Metro is literally outside your door, but I would recommend buying as much product on sale as possible and avoiding regular price goods if you can.
When checking out Metro, I also recommend liking them on Facebook, they often will post coupons and other savings that are exclusive to fans.
For Zehrs stores, student discounts are offered on a specific day during the week. Often their everyday prices aren’t as cheap as stores like food basics or no frills, but adding a 10% on top of sale prices could definitely be worth it.

Non-Conventional Grocery: Great for Sales & Most Likely Close By

A lot of retailers are now starting to have food options when they didn’t have them in the past. Shoppers Drug Mart has begun to recently start stocking Presidents Choice products and has a variety of other grocery items depending on the store size. Keep an eye out for sales since they have really expensive every day pricing, but sale pricing is often really great and you can collect Optimum points as well. Local convenience stores like Mac’s Milk are also great for buying, you guessed it, MILK. Often priced at $3.99 it’s a great price and could be a little closer than the grocery store.  

Know Your Prices

It’s super helpful to go into a grocery store knowing average prices for certain items, that way you know if you are actually getting a good deal or not. For products that I typically buy all the time I keep track of the regular price and what a good sale price is, that way I know if an advertised price is really that great.
Some price guides that I follow when it comes to certain items;
Brick Cheese (500g) $4.50-$6 is often a good price
Baby Carrots (small bag) $1
Broccoli $1 or less
Apples less than a dollar is always better
Cream Cheese spreadable (Philadelphia) $3-$4
Staples like Milk and Eggs are rarely on sale, so if you can find coupons for these things it’s a bonus, Shoppers Drug Mart is often a good place for staples like these and you can collect shoppers optimum points as well
Non-whole wheat (not national brand) you can often find for $1 sometimes on sale at No Frills
Whole Wheat Bread (Country Harvest/Dempsters) $2-$3
Whole Grain Bagels (Country Harvest/Dempsters) $2-$3
Dempster’s Wonderbread is often around $1.50-$2.50 at a good price, you can often find coupons for these
Yogurt (Source 16 packs of individual yogurts) $3.99-5.50- Recently saw these on sale for about $4.50 at No Frills, and the same week for about $7 at was the same yogurt
Tubs of Yogurt (name brand) often $2-$3 is pretty good
Boneless Chicken $3-$4 Often pretty good per pound, it’s often the most expensive chicken you can buy. It’s often cheaper to buy bone in and you can remove it.
Kraft Dinner (regular) $1 or less if often a really good price for a box
Kraft Dinner (specialty) $1.50 is often a decent price for a box
Pasta $1-$1.50 if you aren’t picky about the brands you buy a regular box is often around this price, you can also often find coupon for Catelli brand pasta’s when you buy more than 1 box. I have actually managed to combine coupons and a sale at metro which was a 2for $5 dollar deal for their whole wheat pasta

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons

Of course I couldn’t not include a section on coupons within my grocery shopping basics post. I’m not here to tell you to become a coupon freak because hey that’s just not realistic and no one should do that. That being said, there are some great alternatives that can help save you some additional money, usually on top of sales prices. Checkout51 is a great app which I have sadly neglected lately, you don’t have to fumble around with coupons. Check out my Checkout51 review to learn more about the app and start saving money.
All in all for most people grocery shopping is really annoying, and to be honest it got to that point for me at school as well. For us Canadian’s that walk/bus ride to the grocery store if you didn’t have a car was just to much to bare some days. Make sure to keep a list, follow a plan and get the essentials you need at the best prices possible. It will help you avoid headaches and hopefully less frequent grocery shops if you do it right. By following some of the tips I’ve outlined here in this grocery shopping basics post I’m sure you’ll be fine..

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  • Taqi

    From what I recall, Metro carts aren’t free. There’s one right by my house and I constantly get burned forgetting to bring a quarter.

    I would also like to add that 1L of chocolate milk for .99c at Shoppers is awesome and comes around quite often.

    How is your reading week coming along, Lauren?

  • I guess it all depends on the location then. Thanks.
    And ya I totally agree. Completely forgot about the chocolate milk deal.
    $1 per litre is always good.

  • Yes, Friday really is the day for rfid in retail stores starts their new sales. This technique really works for these retailers and also with the consumers.