Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Grocery sales are the bread and butter of the food industry, and although helpful for consumers, they can be budget-draining.
After years of writing hundreds of blog posts about grocery shopping in Canada, grocery sales are our worst enemy.
You read that right, and although I pride myself as a grocery shopping coach, I’m not perfect.
Today, I’m answering a question from a CBB reader who wants help limiting her purchases when food goes on sale.
We can relate to this reader since we’ve battled the scars of extreme grocery sales shopping for years.
You would think that a great deal means saving money, but some people take this to the extreme.
At one point in 2010, we began our journey into the life of compulsive grocery shopping.
Trying to combat one problem led to another, which led to overstock and food waste.
Pandemic panic buying has pushed Canadians’ food waste bill to $2,000 annually per household
The Winnepeg Free Press
Let’s have a look.
Buying Too Many Grocery Sales
Dear Mr. CBB,
I want to discuss “How to stop buying so much when groceries are on sale.”
For example, if I see meat on sale on Flash Food, I will buy so much that I don’t have enough room in my freezer.
I am a compulsive sales shopper on Flash Food, Amazon, and grocery stores.
Although I have a grocery budget, when I see a sale on food, I buy it.
It has gotten worse since the Covid lockdown.
What Does Compulsive Mean?
Before we get into this topic, let’s discuss the meaning behind being compulsive.
If I had to wager a guess, I’d say it’s doing something on a whim.
It results from or relates to an irresistible urge, especially one against one’s conscious wishes.- Oxford Dictionary
For example, I have a grocery budget of $250 and a grocery list, but veering off the path because of grocery sales.
These grocery sales may be advertised, non-advertised, or pop-up throughout the day on Flashfood or Amazon Canada.
I compare it to dangling my favorite food in front of my face so much that I can’t pass it up.
Maybe you feel the same urge when food shopping for grocery sales and have that urge to buy more than you need.
In a way, couponing taught us that buying as many products as you need is ok.
- If you can afford it
- The coupon states one coupon per purchase. *you can buy multiples of the same item but need one coupon for each item.
- No quantity limits
- Even if you can’t afford it, it saves you long-term money.
Often, shoppers forget whether they’ll be able to eat the food before it expires.
Although most food lasts beyond the expiry date, it’s not worth hanging on to.
Grocery sales come around often, so what’s more important is to save a bit of money buying a few products rather than 20 or 100.
Food waste is a massive problem in Canada, and the Food Bank won’t take expired food; if they do, they won’t pass it on to people.
Fear Of Running Out Of Food
Survival mode kicked in when Covid struck Canada, and we went into lockdown.
A researcher at the University of B.C. Okanagan, who studies environmental and resource economics, says events like this don’t just test Canada’s supply chain, they can also cause panic buying.
Food Hoarding And The Need For Community Connection
Panic buying was a way for Canadians to ensure food and health supplies were available.
We started to see shops running out of essentials such as toilet paper and grocery staples wiped out.
Even though the government promised us that grocery stores would stay open, it didn’t matter.
Food security takes more than promises; breaking that habit after three years is hard.
There was always that “what if” mentality that Canadians couldn’t shake off.
Consumers began shopping compulsively for grocery sales to stockpile for food emergencies.
Although the Covid-19 lockdown has since been lifted, and life is relatively back to normal, shopping habits may be skewed.
However, there is hope for shoppers who weren’t affected by the lockdown yet spellbound toward grocery sales.
Although people can be obsessed with grocery sales for many reasons, the first part of the solution is to understand why it’s happening.
Can you relate to any of the reasons below?
- Food security or running out. Covid-19 is an example.
- Not having enough money to buy food on the next shopping trip prompts stockpiling.
- Products that are heavily reduced are enticing.
- Coupons make grocery sales sweeter and worth stockpiling.
- In-store specials are hard to pass by.
- Food Inflation
- Growing up with bare cupboards or little money for food can be triggering.
- Food Apps prompt above-average grocery deals. FlashFood, for example.
- Extreme Frugal Living
The cost of food in Canada increased 8.30 percent in April of 2023 over the same month in the previous year.
Consumer Price Index (CPI) Not Seasonally Adjusted 2022-2023
As we can see from recent data from Stats Canada, the CPI is steadily increasing, with Food prices jumping from 177.9 in Dec 2022 to 183.1 in April 2023.
During the past twelve months, the CPI has increased by 4.4%.
Overall, prices are going up, and Canadians must prepare accordingly.
|Products and product groups3, 4||December 2022||January 2023||February 2023||March 2023||April 2023|
|Household operations, furnishings and equipment||131.9||131.4||132.8||133.3||133.7|
|Clothing and footwear||94.8||93.8||95.6||96.8||97.5|
|Health and personal care||141.5||142.4||143.0||143.7||145.7|
|Recreation, education and reading||121.7||122.6||123.7||125.1||125.4|
|Alcoholic beverages, tobacco products and recreational cannabis||184.2||186.5||187.3||189.0||189.4|
|All-items excluding food and energy7||144.0||144.3||145.0||145.9||146.6|
|All-items excluding energy7||149.7||150.4||151.2||152.0||152.7|
Ways To Reduce Overbuying Grocery Sales
I don’t think there is one correct answer, but many steps are involved in reducing grocery bills.
We’ve been stockpiling food for years but not in mass quantities.
After our stint with extreme couponing, it made no sense to waste time and money if we weren’t eating the food we bought.
It might make sense for some families based on how many people are being fed, their diet, and the amount of food eaten.
So how can shoppers take a step back from overspending on grocery sales?
Finding A Solution To The Problem
Below are the ways we tackle this topic, but it’s not something we’re great at.
Since using coupons to the extremities, buying anything at a regular price has been challenging.
We no longer collect coupons but use them only if they are in front of a product on sale.
It may not be a solution for some people, but it was a way for us to step back.
Our weakest link is finding 50% reduced in-store products not advertised on FlashFood.
Although we have a stockpile budget, we talk before putting something in the shopping cart, not on our list.
- What will we make with the product?
- Will we eat the product?
- When will we eat it?
- Have we compared the reg price with other grocery stores using the Flipp app to ensure we get the best-reduced price?
- Can we add the product to our emergency stockpile list?
Monthly Average Food Prices 2021-2022
It’s clear to see how food prices have been on a roller coaster according to Stats Canada numbers in the chart below.
Although some food prices have increased very little, the point is that it all adds up in the end.
Grocery Budget Allowance
If you’re not already using a grocery budget, determine how much money you can spend on food and other supplies.
Related: How much should my grocery budget be?
Tailor your budget based on your net income and as part of variable expenses since you can increase or reduce the number as needed.
Homemade vs. Store-Bought
Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy raisins, flour, eggs, butter, sugar, and oatmeal to make oatmeal cookies.
Consider whether buying ingredients to make cheesy mac n cheese is smarter before buying boxes of KD.
Related: Is it cheaper to buy store-bought or homemade baking?
Create A List Based On Grocery Sales
Always go to the supermarket online or brick-and-mortar using a list based on grocery sales.
Use a freezer inventory, refrigerator, and pantry list to know what products you have before buying more.
Determine what meals you can create around what is on sale and add to dishes with other products.
For example, if chicken wings are on sale, you can add a pasta salad and canned or frozen corn as a side.
Buying more food than you can consume in 3-6 months might be too much unless you build an emergency stockpile.
Avoid The Centre Aisles
We don’t always have to go down all the aisles because we might already have what we need at home.
If that’s the case, avoid the aisles you don’t need to travel down because they are only triggers.
You’ll buy something you didn’t come for or think you need, but you don’t.
Some people swear by ordering groceries online and picking them up to avoid the grocery store altogether.
That might be an option for someone who needs an in-store experience detox.
Get in and get out as fast as possible, being mindful about the products you buy and reading labels.
Don’t rush out without reading your receipt to ensure all prices were charged accordingly.
Take in as little of the smell and environment as you need so you spend less and move on.
Of course, not everyone has to take extreme measures, but if you need to cut back, try anything.
Overspending on grocery or pop-up sales can seriously affect a budget and money that might go towards paying other bills.
For a couple such as ourselves with no debt and available cash, it’s hard because the temptation is followed by the ability to buy food without consequence.
This is not how we want grocery shopping, so we must pull out all the stops.
We’re not always successful, but we do have tricks up our sleeves that you are learning about today.
Build A Reasonable Stockpile
You don’t have to build an outrageous stockpile for it to save money, as it’s mostly about food security.
A product might be on sale this week and full-price the next, so ensuring you have extra help stretch your budget.
I suppose a stockpile is part budget, part security, but it needs to be monitored.
Unfortunately, Walmart no longer price matches, but some grocery stores still allow it.
For this reason, it’s great to do one-stop shopping instead of visiting various stores.
The more stores you visit, the higher probability of overspending on food is imminent.
More To Browse, More To Buy!
Remember, not everyone has self-control, but if that’s not you, then shop til you drop!
If you have a partner or spouse who despises grocery shopping, let them go.
They want nothing more than to get the job done.
The only trick is that you must do the hard work and ensure they are getting the best deals.
People who hate shopping often throw things in the cart, pay and go home without much regard for prices.
Not everyone, but you catch my drift.
For example, if I go shopping alone, I’ll be this person, but if we go together, it can be a train wreck.
Not that it’s Mrs. CBB’s fault, but it becomes overwhelming when we think about cooking.
Grocery sales prices are cycled on the most popular brands, so there’s no need to go wild.
For Canadians who food shop once a month, it might make sense to double up on grocery sales.
Saving money on grocery sales is only effective provided there is no waste in the grand scheme.
Discussion: What other suggestions can you offer our reader Anne?
Please share your comments below.
Thanks for stopping by to read,
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