You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy these days: we have 36 hours worth of activities to jam into the alloted 24. The result? We often cut corners by purchasing convenience foods: pre-made entrees, pre-cut vegetable trays, de-boned/skinned meats, processed foods, coffee shops, and the list goes on!
While the occasional cut corner is warranted – and even necessary – virtually every time we reach for a convenience item, we are spending 25-75% MORE than we would if we took the time to do some of the legwork. Some examples (based on Eastern Canadian prices and years of price matching practice):
- Homebrewed coffee: 90% LESS than a cup of Tim’s, 95% LESS than a premium coffee
- Skin on, bone in chicken/fish: 25-50% LESS than boneless, skinless
- Pre-cut produce tray: 60-75% MORE than fresh whole produce
- Shredded cheese: 60 – 70% MORE than a block of cheese
- Dry beans/legumes: 65 – 70% LESS than pre-cooked/canned
- Flavored rice: 40% MORE than regular rice with seasonings/bouillon
This list could go on and on. Bringing along a calculator when shopping can help you to quickly calculate the difference between convenience prices and the whole food options: many stores even offer this information on the shelf tags. If the difference is negligible, or you need to shave some prep-time, go for the pre-done option…the important thing is to be aware!
Another way to cut cost per unit/100g/100mL is to buy in bulk. There are two main ways to purchase grocery and household items in bulk: bulk foods and wholesale club-style packs. Here are some tips to be sure you’re getting the most out of your bulk shopping!
Wholesale Club-Style Purchasing
- For brands you regularly purchase/have on hand, the per unit/portion cost can be cut significantly depending on the item. Great items to stock up on: cleaning supplies, paper products, snack/lunch foods and baking/pantry goods.
- Be careful to keep smaller portions of your bulk purchases on-hand while storing away the rest: large packages result in an average 42% more consumption!
- Wholesale shopping with a friend or family member affords the opportunity to pay the cheaper per unit price while doubling or tripling your variety if you split your purchases and swap!
- Be sure that you have the room to store your bulk purchases, and be careful to keep an inventory so you’re aware of what you have.
- Don’t buy more produce/perishables than you can actually eat prior to spoilage.
- Eat before you shop: impulse club-pack purchases can really add to your total bill!
- If you are paying for a membership at a wholesale box store, be sure that your savings aren’t eaten up by membership fees: be sure the cost is worthwhile!
- Freezing produce is a great way to save money while preserving nutrients. Purchasing a 5lb box of blueberries is usually around $13 while a single half-pint can be as much as $3-4! Buy the larger option and simply freeze! Just be sure to invest in quality freezer bags to avoid freezer burn and wasted food.
- Be careful to avoid buying a product unfamiliar to you for the sake of a great deal: If you or your family doesn’t like it you’re saddled with it or forced to waste!
- Some stores will offer a discount if you purchase a case. Obviously be wise with this, but for larger families this can help the dollar stretch just that much further.
You usually won’t receive if you don’t first ask!
- Buying staples such as grains, pasta, beans/legumes in bulk can save anywhere from 30 – 70% as compared to buying packaged/canned goods, and they taste better too! Dried beans only need to cook for an hour after soaking overnight!)
- Sales on bulk foods can cut costs even further. As long as you have proper air-tight storage for these items, they will keep for a long time and help to be sure you have items on hand for quick homemade items (snacks, granola, etc.) at a fraction of the cost.
- Be sure to have containers (recycled plastic and glass can be a money saver as well!) on hand: bags of spices and unlabelled white powder can get lost, be forgotten about, or need to be replaced simply because it’s no longer clear what it IS!
- Buying in bulk is more environmentally friendly! A single, biodegradable bag versus a thick plastic liner surrounded by a cardboard box: do the math! Many healthfood stores will even allow you to bring your OWN recycled containers in to save on packaging.
- One of the greatest values to be found in bulk food shopping is that you can buy according to your NEED! Only need 1/2c of peanuts? You’re probably looking at about $0.40 versus the smallest package of peanuts in the grocery store which rings in at at LEAST $3.00! Across the board, you can save simply buy purchasing only what you need instead of what is offered in the package.