With the rate of food inflation increasing more than normal in 2020, some shoppers are becoming more conscious about what they’re buying.
“We don’t buy extras, we just buy essentials,” Costco shopper Fran Rudyk said, noting her regular grocery bill has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic.
“No meat, all essentials — milk, bread, eggs, orange juice, laundry soap. $179. And it’s still much cheaper than at any of the leading grocery stores.”
Rudyk says the increase in food prices means she’s planning her grocery list more carefully these days.
“Don’t waste food, don’t buy extra if you think you’re not going to eat it — we’ve learned that since the pandemic,” she said.
“It’s too expensive to throw food out.”
“But I’ve noticed even the regular grocery stores, they’re not giving the deals that they used to.”
With stay-at-home orders, self-isolation for illness and general concern about contracting the coronavirus, many people traded in-person shopping for online ordering of their groceries when the pandemic began. Plenty of others traded in trips down grocery aisles for the convenience of online shopping long before COVID-19 hit. Experts say regardless of your reasons, that convenience comes at a cost.
“Online purchasing is much more expensive — it’s probably five to seven per cent more expensive,” Sylvain Charlebois, director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, said.
“If you’ve got somebody shopping for you, they can’t negotiate and wheel and deal and get those discounts for you,” Jeremy Bradley, author of The Official Guide to Being a Winnipeg Cheapskate, said.
“It’s a half and half thing — people aren’t wanting to venture out to the store, but then if you do, that’s where you get the better deals because you can personally go and ask for them.”
According to Bradley, the produce aisle is rife with opportunities for discounts.
“Anything that has an expiration date is something that you should be mindful of,” he says. “If you go to the produce section and there’s those prepackaged salads or even just washed up lettuce already. If you see a few brown pieces, there’s nothing wrong with asking the produce clerk or manager for a discount sticker.”
“You can easily save 30 or even 50 per cent just by asking.”
Bradley also suggests scanning flyers for coupons — and combining items already on sale with manufacturers’ coupons to save extra cash.
But he says a real gamechanger for shoppers looking to save an extra buck is an app that can price-match items, like Flipp or Flashfood.
“I think that because there’s price-matching now from the big stores, it’s actually really easy to get a discount,” Bradley said.
“Back in the day, it was sort of hard because you had to bring the flyers and flip through them and prove it. Now you just hold out your phone and say ‘hey look, Tide or Pepsi is on sale,’ and they price match.”
If you don’t plan on storing certain produce items before using them, Bradley says the clearance section can offer some savings — especially for things you’re planning to throw into smoothies or offer to pets.
And while planning your weekly menu well in advance may not sound like much fun, he says it really does keep your grocery budget in check.