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Just Sayin’ – Price Checking – Savvy Grocery Shopping Tips Part 1

Price Check!

Just Sayin'


Today’s episode of Just Sayin’ is one of a four part series on price checking before we buy. I’ll be sharing the various ways we can cut costs and get the best bang for our bucks. Today I’ll be discussing how to be more savvy about spending on groceries.


As everything seems to be getting more expensive  these days and often incomes aren’t inflating at the same lightning speed, particularly here in Toronto, Canada, I like to do my homework before making purchases. No matter if it’s groceries, clothing, services or what we need to maintain our websites, it’s a good idea to do our price checking before making a purchase.


In the next three parts I’ll be covering topics on price checking for purchasing website apps, rebates for past purchases in department stores and budget book promotion, but today I’ll start with grocery shopping.


With the escalation of food prices in the past few years, many items such as produce and meat have almost become luxury items. I’m not even going to pretend to figure out why Ontario grown produce often costs more than imports from the U.S. and Mexico, but I’ve learned to work around what often seems fluctuating prices similar to the stockmarket.


From one week to the next it’s not uncommon to see a head of cauliflower or a bunch of asparagus go from $2.99 to $6.99. And those are just a few items to mention. Certainly when the checkout bill is tallied, our grocery bills are exceedingly high and there are only two of us in this household. I shudder to think of the bills for those with children. No doubt these exorbitant prices often lead people to buying some unhealthier, cheaper alternatives. But as I am not a junk food junkie I made it my business to find some workarounds.


Here’s what I do to keep eating healthy while keeping costs down


  • First, it’s a good idea to shop for groceries where they offer a rewards program or a points card. I downloaded the app to my favorite supermarket and signed in with my  reward card number. Every week I’m sent specials of the week, bonus points I’ll receive for purchasing those items (items offered to me are based on my prior shopping expenditures.) These points add up quickly at each shopping venture after swiping my points card. There are rebate levels for accumulated points that I can cash in when I reach which takes money off my bill. This usually works out to anywhere from $20 to $40 every two weeks deducted off my purchase.

  • Prepare a shopping list before going so I can visually see what items I need on my list. I keep my eyes open for sale items, particularly on items I use regularly but may not need that particular day. If it’s a great deal, you bet I’m stocking up. For example, I may not need another brick of cheese that week but it’s vacuum packed and usually $8.00 and often goes on sale for $5.99, I’ll grab one. On the same note, toilet paper is an ongoing necessity for all of us and when it goes from $12.99 to $3.99  with a usual limit per customer, I buy the max.

  • Beef has definitely become a luxury item these past few years. Rarely a good steak for less than $15 can be found. Pot roast used to be a cheaper roast but has also become more expensive, albeit, not the same price as prime rib. It’s a great roast to put in the crockpot and slow cook Thankfully I’m not a big meat eater. But I do enjoy it once a week. So when I do purchase meat I look for sales of a particular cut for that week or I buy meat which is discounted because it’s almost reached its expiry date. That’s not an issue because it’s going right in the deep freeze before it’s expired and there for me when I get a hankering. I’ve also noticed that since the price of meat has risen dramatically, I’m not alone in shopping alternatives and because many others are jumping over to more chicken and ‘the other white meat’ pork, as well as organ meats. And because of demand those prices have also risen significantly. I know not everyone is fond of liver or chicken livers but my hub and me are. Even they have doubled in price now but still considerably cheaper than meat.

  • Produce shopping has become a strategic operation for me when seeing the volatile pricing every week, so I created a workaround for that too. My blood pressure rises sometimes when I see some ridiculous prices of fruits and vegetables. It makes me wonder how much food goes to waste when consumers who are as budget conscious as I am also take a pass on the over-priced items. So drastic measures for leaner times is my policy. I don’t have to succumb to unhealthy eating with rising costs, I just had to become a little more creative about seeking out alternatives. Buy frozen. Frozen produce is the next best thing to fresh. You can steam, saute or roast them just as well as fresh. The winter is particularly expensive here for many fresh fruits and vegetables. I’ll buy what I need if reasonably priced and leave the rest for another day when the price drops. Often I’ll find while one fruit or vegetable is priced dearly another is fairly reasonable and I’ll substitute with the reasonable. These are good times to try out new things we may not normally eat and I can look up a new recipe to incorporate the vegetable in a meal or switch to a different fruit for a period of time.




I can’t help but wonder if everyone would stop buying over-priced food if stores would get the hint with all the waste and consider lowering prices or if all the wastage would fall back on us consumers for the store’s losses causing more increases in pricing. Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation.



Cost Cutting Tips and Recap


  • Meat – Buy on sale, almost, expired, or cheaper cuts you can use in stew or crockpots. Flank steak marinated overnight then cut into cubes make for tender and delicious kabobs you can skewer adding cut up pieces of onions, peppers or whatever you like to add. This is a handy meal for company. Just put them on the BBQ and you have a low cost and tasty meat dish to serve guests. I mentioned a pot roast above in a crockpot. This is an easy meal where you can toss in some vegetables of choice then place your seasoned roast atop the vegetables, cover and slow cook for 6 -12 hours on hi or lo. This can be done in the morning before going on with your day and there will be a meal ready to eat for dinner. The beauty of a crockpot is it tenderizes while slow cooking, thus cheaper cuts of meat are perfect for cooking and coming out juicy and tender.

  • Chicken has also gone up in price along with everything else, but is still not as dear yet as beef. To cut costs on chicken you can buy it with skin on and bone in which is less labor intensive before packing so the savings are passed on to the consumer. There are also many recipes available online to cook chicken many ways, including again, in the crockpot.

  • Produce Shop alternative fruits and vegetables at reasonable or sale prices while the ones you prefer are at higher cost. Most vegetables can also be washed and cut up then put in the freezer to use for soups and stews. So if you find vegetables on sale but don’t think you can use them up before they wilt, consider freezing. Besides frozen vegetables, frozen fruits are a good alternative to maintain daily fruit intake. A great way to use them is to make a smoothie by adding fruit of choice, milk of choice and anything else you may like to add such as a protein powder to make it a complete meal replacement.



Weekly Sales and Rewards Cards


Keep check on flyers from your local grocers to learn about weekly deals. Make sure to get yourselves a rewards card for all the stores you frequent. You’d be surprised how much you can save through the year and the perks you can obtain as rewards for being a loyal customer. If you sign up for email alerts from your favorite stores you’ll get advanced warning of specials and deals.



Here are just a few more of my many loyalty cards I have and the benefits they offer:



  • Shoppers Drug Mart Pharmacy – Offers 10 – 20 times the point value of items purchased, sending out emails daily to download. Each level you reach gives free shopping valued at your points level. $30, $60, $85 and $170 of free goods spent if you let them accumulate to each level. Personally, I like to let them add up and once a year I’m able to purchase a free bottle of expensive perfume with my points.

  • Second Cup Coffee – Offers generous points for anything purchased from coffees to merchandise. This happens to be my favorite coffee house in Canada and every few lattes I get a free one. They also have half price days for members and holiday specials.

  • Sephora – Ok, I’ll admit I love my beauty products and with a Sephora rewards card depending on annual spend you work yourself up to different perk levels and earned points. Points allow you to purchase their special sample sized products with them – specials often change monthly. I like to save my points for when some of my favorite products become available in sample size, like face cream, and grab 4 or 5 of them to keep for travel. They also give members a free sample pack gift on your birthday. And twice a year they’ll run a 20% off promo for members and that’s when I usually go to shop and replenish my stock piles. They also run various promos throughout the year to earn extra bonus points.

  • The Bay and Macy’s Department stores – I wouldn’t be without those 2 department store cards. Both offer sales daily, weekly and seasonally. And often run extra sales for members offering an additional 20% off purchases.


I’ll be talking more about department store discounts next week so stay tuned!


Feel free to share some of your savvy shopping tips here in comments.



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D.G. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer, who writes from her own life experiences and self-medicates with a daily dose of humor.


  • Sue Dreamwalker

    Great reminders here for frugal buying tips dear Debby.. We have to also remember just how much food waste we contribute to too..
    I was just looking up some facts and figures on the amount of Food waste we in the UK alone throw away in access of 13bn .. While half the world starves.. So I wonder what other countries statistics are compared to ours…
    I thought the retail threw away a lot.. but its household waste that throws over 71% of this figure away.. 🙂

    So pleased we grow a lot and give a lot away when it ripens all together 🙂 xxx

    Sending Love your way Debby.. Big Hugs your way xx

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing Sue. So true there is household waste but that’s a large percentage. I can’t even conceive that. Barely anything goes to waste in my home. We eat our leftovers and ingredients that are on there way to spoiling get thrown into a soup or a stew here. With the price of food I should think everyone should adjust their wastage habits. I wish we lived closer, I’d be thrilled to receive some of your wonderful garden of healthy produce. 🙂 Big hugs to you my friend. xoxo <3

  • Charli Mills

    Shop a co-op! Co-op’s have long lead the way in reducing waste and yet consumers still want those expensive “center of store” packaged items. Buy what is fresh in season; buy in bulk (co-ops​ have the biggest bulk section of legumes, rice, pasta, grains, flours, cereals and items like honey, spices and agave in bulk). You buy what you need and can even bring your own containers. Great post, Debbie!

    • dgkaye

      Hi Charli. Thanks a bunch. You are so right. I haven’t been to a co-op in years. They aren’t conveniently located to where I live, but definitely a great place to shop! 🙂

  • John Maberry

    LOTS of good tips here. Juanita does all the shopping. I think she knows arcane wizardry as the annual food expenses keep dropping as prices keep going up! The biggest thing is buying non-perishable stuff in quantities only on sale; likewise for stuff that can be tossed in the chest freezer. We have the challenge of living in a small town at the end of the distribution chain. Sometimes some things may not appear for weeks. :(.

    BTW: Can’t figure out how I get some of your newest posts (like this one) via email and can access them but if I go to tour site cold, they aren’t there yet. Weird!

    • dgkaye

      Wow, I think you better send the magical Juanita over here pronto, lol. That’s the trick, buy the non-perishables in bulk when on sale and the big freezer is a must. And wow, what’s up with coming to my site and not finding posts? If you land on my blog the 3 most recent posts are showing? Sheesh, I cannot figure out these WP gremlins. I only just resolved that issue I emailed you about yesterday by finding the theme owner. What a job! 🙂

      • John Maberry

        Glad to hear you conquered the gremlins. 🙂 Your posts always show up going directly to the site, just not as fast as links through emails. Tres weird. Maybe a cache issue.

        • dgkaye

          Thanks John. Just got off with my web host and had them tweak a few things and more security, lol. Maybe it will be easier now for you when you visit spontaneously. 🙂 Do keep me posted. 🙂

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    I could probably be better at any kind of shopping, especially as we start REALLY retiring in a few years. Some of your descriptions of prices though, is staggering! Is food that expensive in Canada? I’m fortunate I live in Northern Cal, where I can buy a huge bag of riced cauliflower for $2. My hubby is the frugal one in the family and often finds great deals at Grocery Outlet and I love Costco for certain items!

    • dgkaye

      Yes Terri, it’s expensive here in Toronto. And wow, I’d love to find already riced cauliflower. I tried to rice my own one day and decided I’d rather save my fingers, lol. I like Costco too, but it’s not always cheap. You have some great produce advantages living in California. 🙂

  • Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

    I’ve always been a frugal grocery shopper – learned it from my mother, since she had to feed a family of 7 hefty appetites on an Air Force salary. Most of your tips were a super review for me, since we are of like grocery shopping minds already.

    As for left-overs, I truly don’t understand folks who end up tossing them. I reserve a section of my fridge for them, to remind me to eat again or combine into a new meal. I make “garbage soup” regularly – meaning, anything that *will* end up garbage if I don’t throw it in the soup!

    I joke that I don’t even waste ice, and my freezer is my best friend! I buy frozen veggies and fruit whenever they are on sale. As for crock pots – I doubt there is a size I don’t have – and got all but my first (*many* years ago) as hand-me downs (free!) or at thrift stores or yard sales for $10 or under. Their loss/my gain! Use ’em ALL the time.

    My grocery store has a plan that’s barely worth signing up for, unfortunately. They are generous with the “points” item by item, but you have to amass 1,000 to get a measly $5 off. Nuts! They do, however, mark down meat, produce, etc. once a week – so I always check them out first. Freezing for smoothies is a great idea – especially in the summer. I have to remember that more often – especially for bananas, which seem to ripen the minute I turn my back! I’ve been saving them for GF banana muffins so far.

    I always buy store brands of anything offered. My store (Krogers) will swap it for the brand if you hate it – but I’ve never found much of a difference. I buy “family packs” of whatever’s the best deal on meat, chicken or fish, then take the time to apportion and freeze.

    Thigh quarters (chicken) are almost always a great deal in a 10# bag. I poach a bunch for combo-meals or salads, and freeze much of the meat in addition to the poaching liquid (in smallish baggies – flat – so they thaw in a flash). “Free” bone broth once I remove the meat and throw the bones, skin, etc. back in the pot with celery & a carrot or two. I cool in the fridge and de-fat first – then bag it up. I use the cheaper “storage” bags (quart or sandwich size), then stick them all in a gallon sized freezer ziplock.

    I’ve learned to always be careful about “cost per ounce” too — often the biggest size is cheapest, but sometimes buying several of the smaller is the much better deal – true of every single item in the store. Never assume.

    Oops – this ended up practically longer than your post – lol. I’ll stop now. 🙂
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    • dgkaye

      Wow, this is what I call a wonderful contribution! Thank you so much for sharing your shopping strategy with us Madelyn. You are exceptionally great and have this down to a science. Don’t be surprised when I tell you that many of your practices I do the same, lol.
      I love your ‘fancy’ term for garbage soup, lol. I call them ‘surprise’ soups so my husband can guess what’s in them.
      Love to hear you’re a crockpot person. I have a few myself and my very first one that I received as a Christmas gift when I was 21 living on my own. Man, that thing is an antique now and still cooking!
      And of course those quick ripe bananas have made plenty a yummy banana bread.
      Thanks for chiming in with even more tips. Had I known, we could have collaborated together on this post, lol. 🙂 🙂 xx

  • Jacqui Murray

    What a thorough discussion. When I did the shopping, I bought only sale items. I’d stock up and that’s what we ate. It provided lots of variety, but no one got to pick a favorite meal–unless it was on sale! It worked well for keeping costs down.

    • dgkaye

      We have to do what we have to do Jacqui. Tightening up the budget is good with a few sacrifices to maintain eating healthy while doing so. 🙂

  • elainemansfield

    This is important to so many, but I don’t eat out because of hearing, don’t drink fancy wine, and spend almost nothing on entertainment. I also don’t love any kind of shopping, so don’t spend extra on anything except food. So, I buy organic food mostly (expensive but good for workers, the earth, and me), buy in season and local when possible, and don’t worry about sales or cutting costs on food. Since I don’t eat meat, that eliminates one high cost food, but that’s not why I make that choice. Also grow my own vegetables in the summer which isn’t a bit cost effective when time is considered, but it heals the savage soul.

    • dgkaye

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful healthful plan Elaine. There’s nothing better than growing your own garden of vegetables, having access and knowing what pesticides you didn’t add. 🙂

  • Annika Perry

    We have a huge market twice a week in a town nearby and the fruit and vegetable stalls there are fantastic offering goods at a fraction of the price of the supermarkets and excellent quality. It means of course you buy items in season but that’s no hardship. All supermarkets run card schemes and some are better than others, the one we use works well, sending discounts on items you buy regularly as well as savings such as £ 9 off next shop!! Brilliant…every bit helps.?

    • dgkaye

      That sounds wonderful Annika. In the summertime here there are often roadside stands that open with fresh farmed produce. But other than that, we’d have to drive up north closer to farms to be able to take advantage of such things. Location sure makes a difference. 🙂

  • Christy B

    Debby, this is a great idea for a series! I’m loving part one. It’s very helpful. I use a list to shop and check flyers. I’m on a budget as prices are high all around in Victoria where I live. Much like in Toronto. Great idea you have to buy frozen if the fresh produce isn’t within a reasonable price. I’m also going to look at dating on meat to get those that are cheaper as they are close to expiry and put them in my freezer until I want to eat them. Thank you 🙂 This gal appreciates the tips!

  • robbiesinspiration

    Some lovely tips here, Debby. We don’t have the coupon discount system here in South Africa but we do get similar deals to what you have described above. I think everyone is sensitive to rising prices now as the increases are so huge.

  • Sarah Brentyn

    Our grocery bill… I didn’t think that would be a topic I’d write about in public. 😀 It’s high. Like, yikes, high. But we always make a list so as not to be side-tracked (which I usually am). It’s hardly ever my kids, it’s me. “Ooh! Look at those pomegranates! Ooh! Macaroons! We totally need those!” (I don’t even like macaroons, particularly.) And we try to buy frozen as much as fresh. It just lasts here better and I hate wasting food. Plus, they’re frozen right away usually so all the vitamins and minerals are in there.

    • dgkaye

      Seems you already know the drill Sarah, and yes, it is easy to get sidetracked. Lol, I had to laugh at macaroons, and you don’t even like them. Neither do I! 🙂 <3

  • Liesbet

    These are great tips, Debby. I have been playing with the idea to write a “frugal shopper post” myself and some of your points are on that list I have created. Mark and I eat healthy, but we are not picky when it comes to certain veggies, brands, … so we always look at the prices and buy what is on sale. There seems to be enough choice of products for about anything in Western grocery stores to make this happen, most of the time. We sometimes buy a whole chicken and Mark butchers it to use the parts in different meals and the carcass in a soup. He got good at this on our boat when whole chickens were the only affordable emit to buy. Being on a plant-based diet also makes life cheaper (and maybe better :-)), since (red) meat is expensive, not great for you and bad for the environment. Looking forward to the rest of your series!

    • dgkaye

      Thanks for sharing Liesbet. It sounds like you two are on the right eating path. And for sure, buying a whole chicken is often the cheapest way to go. 🙂

  • Hugh's Views and News

    Does anyone else ever wonder (or is it only me) why they put toilet tissue/rolls on sale? I mean, everyone needs them, don’t they, but I guess if it’s cheaper in one store than another, then you’ll shop in the store that has the lower price? Make sense, although there are some items where quality just has to come first. ?
    Great tips, Debby. I leave the shopping to my partner, but I do love finding a bargain online.
    I’ll be flipping this post to my shopping magazine over on Flipboard.
    Hugs galore. ?

    • dgkaye

      Aw thanks Hugh. I have quite a few of yours flipped on mine too. 🙂 And I’m with you, TP must be great quality, no bargain brands for me, lol. But seriously, it’s expensive because it’s a necessity. From $12.99 to $3.99 you bet I’m stocking up! 🙂 🙂 <3

  • macjam47

    Besides the obvious price increase, many products have a hidden increase. Toilet paper sheets are narrower and the roles are air-puffed making it appear that you are getting the same number of sheets for your money, when you are actually getting smaller sheets and less. Tissues, for example, used a similar strategy. For a box of tissues that contained 65 tissues they flipped-flopped the numbers so you now get 56 tissues for the same price while they tout they’ve kept the price of a box of tissues the same. Toothpaste tubes used to be firm, now the tube is the same size but before you open it, squeeze it and you’ll find it’s got a lot of air. Canned goods sizes? What happened to the 15 oz. (or before that 16 oz.) can? It’s now 14.5 oz. You can look at nearly every product and find similar instances of chicanery.

    • dgkaye

      Oh yes Michelle, you are so right. I wrote an article a few years ago about how much products have shrunk, many bags and cans are smaller and those bags that aren’t smaller are just filled with more air. Have you ever looked in a bags of chips after opening? It’s awful! And I’m glad to learn that you are on top of these things just as I am. 🙂 xx

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