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 Bulk Foods
  • 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. 
The greatest trick to saving by buying convenience foods and in bulk, be sure to do the math: You will likely be surprised at how much you can save (or spend)! 

Up Next: Making time for life and love…