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School is one month away, and as summer vacation comes to an end, you know what that means for parents? Quite a few trips to Costco, Walmart, and other various grocery stores. Needless to say, you’re about to spend a lot of money, especially on food. Throughout the school year, families tend to have a more structured meal schedule, as snacks and meals often come at specific times each day. That being said, the back-to-school grocery trip can be a little more expensive than usual.

A survey found that Canadians plan to spend $883 on getting their family prepared for the school this year. And according to a Dalhousie University report, the average Canadian family is expected to spend as much as $420 more on food in 2017 due to rising food costs.

So as your family prepares for the season, some preplanning and budgeting may be in order. Here’s how you can save on your family’s food spend.

Planning your meals down to a tee

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” - Someone who got stuff done (Google tells us it was Benjamin Franklin)

Before heading to the grocery store, sit down with the kids and make a list of the exact items you’ll need for the week. Making a weekly trip for all your groceries will minimize the chance of you having to run out in the middle of the week and buy items that are not on sale at the last minute.

Discuss options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and don't forget the school snacks. Non-perishable items are always great, but make sure to include a few healthy options in there as well.

You can also go as far as finding a printable meal-planning template online so you can post your family’s weekly menu on the fridge. If you plan your meals ahead of time, then you know exactly what to look for in stores and you can shop where the ingredients are on sale. Routinely sticking to a list also gives you more leverage to say no when the kids throw random items into the cart while at the store.

By planning with the family, everyone in the household also has the chance to voice any objections before meals are prepared, so you aren’t scrambling around to create a last-minute alternative.

Buy items with repurposing in mind

Here’s something that will save you both time and money: repurpose components from one day’s meal into another. For example, if ground beef is on sale, you can cook it on Sunday and place equal amounts into three separate containers - one for taco night on Monday, another for shepherd’s pie on Tuesday, and another for chili on Thursday.

However, avoid buying just anything in bulk because it’s on sale. Chances are, you’ll forget you bought it and it will go bad in the fridge, or you’ll get tired of it. A rule to go by: if it’s not on your shopping list, don’t buy it.

Learn the art of couponing, flyer flipping and price matching

Typically, every Thursday, supermarkets update their weekly flyers, which you can browse through online or through various mobile apps like Flipp or Reebee. Looking through flyers via apps can save you money in numerous ways: you can easily find store coupons, compare prices from different stores, and plan your grocery trip ahead by knowing which stores have the sales.

If there is a certain grocery store that has all the items you need but doesn’t have them on sale, find out if that store has a price matching policy. You could turn your grocery outing into a one-stop trip by taking the flyers (via hard copies or mobile apps) and getting the store to price match items.

If you’re using coupons, check the expiry dates before bringing them along to the store. And keep in mind that just because you have a coupon for something, doesn’t mean you should buy it. Once again, stick to items that are on your list. 

Make money where you spend it

Cashiers will often inform you of a store credit card just as you are getting ready to pay. Some people may be wary to sign up for store cards, but there are cards out there that reward you for spending money. And since groceries are an ongoing expense, why not put it on plastic for something in return, such as cashback or points towards free groceries?

A few cards to consider:

  • The Scotia Momentum® Visa Infinite* Card offers multiple opportunities for cashback: 4% cash back on eligible gas and grocery purchases, 2% on drug store purchases and recurring bill payments, and 1% on just about everything else. There’s also no annual fee for the first year.
  • For the first six months, the SimplyCashTMCard from American Express offers 5% cash back on eligible purchases at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants in Canada. After that, you’ll get 1.25% cash back in those categories.
  • President’s Choice® also offers two credit cards that work just like a points card, making it a great choice specifically for grocery rewards. While the President’s Choice Financial MasterCard offers 10 PC points per $1 spent, the President’s Choice Financial World Elite MasterCard offers 30 PC points per $1 spent at participating grocery stores where President's Choice® products are sold, on top of 10 PC points per $1 everywhere else. PC points can then be used towards groceries and any products at participating stores where President's Choice® products are sold. 50,000 points are equal to $50 in groceries, and for a limited time, you can get a $100 e-gift card and up to 20,000 PC points when you sign up through RATESDOTCA and activate your card.

With the kids heading back to school, an extra $100 can mean a lot of fruit snacks and granola bars. Sign up today at RATESDOTCA and happy shopping!

This post has been updated.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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