Estimated reading time: 13 minutes
It’s no secret that debt is a big problem for many Canadians as it is all over the world.
With high debt loads, some people feel that buying cheap food at their local dollar store is the only way to put food on the table and to balance their grocery budget.
It’s not the only option; let me explain why.
If you go to your local dollar store as we do and buy stuff you know has a price tag that can’t be beat, why would you pay high prices?
We often give up quality and value to find something that will work like a $3 iPod charger instead of buying one at The Source for $29.99 plus tax to do the same thing.
My theory is we could buy ten cheap chargers for the price of one, and so what if it breaks?
Not only can you buy seasonal items and housewares, but almost every dollar store also sells cheap food, although it’s hard for me to make that same comparison for many of the products.
You don’t have to eat unhealthy foods just because you think that’s all you can afford, nor should you.
Cheap Food And End Of The Line Products
I went into Dollarama tonight to buy cheap batteries for our son’s swinging chair, which takes 4 DD batteries as we go through a set every two weeks.
Guess what? The expensive batteries last almost as long, so I tested them out.
We do buy some dollar store items,, but we don’t typically buy cheap food just because it’s a dollar.
I will say that there was a time when they had black tea for a dollar, and when I moved to Canada, I found it.
I’m British, so I drink lots of tea, and always hunt for bargain prices but for the good stuff.
I thought I was getting a great deal, 20 bags for $1, until I learned more about prices on food in Canada.
It was then I had a “dummy” moment because I didn’t take the time to run the numbers.
Buying black tea in bulk was cheaper than to buy those little boxes all the time.
If I had only known, I could have used that extra money to buy other teas, spices, condiments, or more food.
At that point, our grocery adventure began because I was determined to eat well on a limited budget in Canada, but I needed to know my prices.
I’ve been up and down the cheap food aisle at the dollar store, and honestly, there’s not too much that I would buy.
I know that I can save more money buying it at the grocery store.
However, for many people buying cheap food at the Dollar store is a lifeline.
Dollar Store Cheap Food
I always thought that the people who bought the cheap food at the dollar store were people who;
- They thought they were getting a good deal because they didn’t know their prices.
- It was the closest store to home.
- They didn’t make a grocery list.
- Too lazy to cook or didn’t know how.
- They felt that the dollar store was their only option if they were on low income or welfare.
- Super cheap.
When I was standing in line waiting to pay for my batteries there was a couple of students behind me.
One of them said, “I buy cheap food at the Dollar Store so I have enough money to go out with my friends on the weekends”.
Don’t worry, I was thinking the same thing, moron!
Don’t laugh too hard because one guy from Montreal, Jonathon Lemieux lived off of the cheap food at the Dollar Store for 3 years while attending University.
This is what they call, “The Dollar Store Diet” and honestly, it’s not needed.
Although he was at least smart and supplemented with reduced meats and vegetables from the grocery store.
I’m pretty sure he could have made magic happen with the money he spent at the dollar store if he put it to work at the grocery store.
The best of it is he wrote a cookbook just in case someone else wants to follow in his footsteps to create meals from cheap food at the Dollar Store.
Tony Wong a Star reporter, experimented by eating one week from Dollarama and shares his weekly meal plan.
He says that “The Dolllar Store is the graveyard where brands go to die”.
I don’t doubt Tony when he says some food is awful.
Some products are good, but you won’t get the value you would from buying it at other shops such as No Frills. Tony says, “they don’t have a monopoly on value.”
I sure hope that people realize that they can do so much more with their money when buying cheap food.
We have a tight grocery budget and aren’t shy to hit up the reduced rack or scan the shops for marked-down foods.
For a VERY short period, we could use coupons at Dollarama until they closed that money-saving window for people.
Pitfalls Buying Cheap Food At The Dollar Store
One pitfall to buying cheap food at The Dollar Store is you can’t use coupons.
There are also sales, no reduced products, and you don’t have any grocery store perks or rewards.
The best you can do is use a Credit Card with rewards to pay for a purchase.
For those reasons alone you would save more money shopping in a normal grocery store.
We must also be concerned about our health, and although Jonathon said he was fine I’d be worried about too much salt and cholesterol.
Learn About Product Prices
It’s a misconception when we see something for a dollar and think we are getting the best deal when we likely aren’t.
The bottom line is we need to do the math by comparing prices, product weight, quality and value.
Some people might say that buying in bulk might not be smart but I’d rather buy a large bag of dry chickpeas at the grocery store rather than $1.00 cans of chickpeas at The Dollar Store.
One 2kg bag of dry chickpeas for $2.99 can make many cans of chickpeas.
You could easily build a pantry of healthy food items if you buy in bulk when it’s on sale, use coupons, price match, buy reduced items, and do so at each grocery shop.
Sure you might not get loads of variety right away, but over time you will have built up a nice pantry of products.
Another alternative is to visit the local Food Bank to help supplement some of the products you need.
With the money you don’t have to spend put it towards fresh fruits, produce, and meat at the grocery store.
Don’t limit your options because you think only people with money shop at the grocery store.
We are all equal, and if you know your prices, you can make delicious, healthy, cheap meals with the money you have to spend on food.
Needless to say, I was stunned when I overheard the University student at The Dollar Store.
Most items are packaged in such a way so they are affordable i.e.: smaller in size and weight.
Creating inexpensive meals doesn’t mean you have to buy the cheapest food around to stretch your grocery dollar.
Money Saving Meals
Jamie Oliver has a show on the Food Network called “Money Saving Meals” with the theme ‘Shop smart, cook clever, waste less’.
Jamie and his food team can create cheap meals because they know the food in the grocery store and most importantly which offers the most “value” or bang for your buck!
Some of the stats Jamie shares are surreal but true.
Even though the numbers are UK-based I’m certain they are just as high if not higher world-wide.
Almost 40 percent of food ends up in the bin in the UK.
Whether you buy cheap food at The Dollar Store or grocery store and throw it out because you don’t like it or let it expire or rot, it’s costing you even more money!
Buying good, quality food and eating those leftovers will ensure your wallet stays fuller.
The thing is, shopping at The Dollar Store over time may be costlier but that’s the price you will pay if you buy cheap food in small shops.
Dollar Stores Are No Longer Dollar Stores
Another thing to remember some dollar stores aren’t selling product just for a $1.
We see products for $1 plus.
If you have to eat gluten-free or other pricey products for health reasons and you have a limited income, you can forget to buy cheap food at the dollar store.
If you remember, a couple of years ago, I did the Welfare Food Challenge where I proved that you could eat with a low-income grocery budget and still eat cheap meals that were healthy and inexpensive.
I’m someone who can safely say he now knows his prices at the grocery store.
If I had to live on a very limited budget, I could pull off buying healthy food items without breaking the bank.
Discussion: Do you buy cheap food from The Dollar Store? What products have you found that are worth the money?
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month, I will post the line-up for the month each week here in this section for you.
Join the Grocery Game Challenge fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each blog post.
- The 5 most important food shopping features in a store: The Grocery Game Challenge #1 Nov 3-9, 2014
- How to grocery shop like a professional personal shopper: The Grocery Game Challenge #3 Nov 10-16, 2014
Grocery Saving Tips
Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals, and now we are sharing them with you.
I hope you take the time to get back on track and start the savings process in your grocery budget today.
Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list, and much more, all for FREE.
CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet for FREE.
NEW!! You can now download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE!
We use it to budget and, in large part, a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years. Check
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide
Everything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is below, with new information added monthly.
If you are new here and haven’t had a chance to read past posts, grab yourself a beverage, sit down, relax, and enjoy some educational reading material on ways to save money in your grocery budget.
If you missed a Grocery Game Challenge post, some of the most popular posts are listed below, or you can now find the posts listed on their page called The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
Check Out Our Grocery Budget
- 4 x Black Diamond Cheese Bars $4.88-$1.00 coupons $15.52
- Chai Tea Tetley Sale $2.00
Total Out-of-Pocket $17.52- stockpile $2.00 (grocery budget)
- Gatorade powder $5.99 (helps with breastmilk production apparently)
- Selection Pitted Dates $2.79
- 3 x Oasis Juice $0.99 each
- 2x White mushrooms $0.99 each
- Yellow onions $2.00
- Carrots $0.99
- Bananas $1.32
- Broccoli $0.99
- Fresh Ginger $2.06
- Red tomato clusters $2.17
- 2 x tortellini $1.99 each
- Frozen Ferma corn $2.19
- Frozen Ferma Peas $1.99
- 2 x Parmalat @% milk $3.97 each
- 2 x large selection eggs $1.99 each
- 2 x coconut Liberte yogurt (Mmm) $2.88 each
- Bavarian Sandwich bread $2.99 (ouch but it’s good)
- English muffins whole wheat $0.99
Total Out-of-Pocket $53.82
Yearly grocery budget for two: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $240 per year or $20 per month.)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00 or $78.33 per week with potentially one no-shop week or $58.75 for 4 weeks per month. (During the months with 5 weeks, we make it work.)
- Total Budget for November $235.00 This month’s grocery shop leaves us $265.78 over budget!! Our November and December grocery budget total will be $470-$265.78=$204.22 or $102.11 to spend each month to keep us on track for 2014.
- Total Coupons Used this Week: $4.00
- Total Coupons Used to date: $68.19
- Total Discounts this Week: $0
- Total Discounts Used to date: $70.75
- Total Gift Cards Used to date: $33.18
- Total Rewards Points Used: $20.00
- Total Rewards Points Used to date: $40.00
- Stockpile Budget ($20.00): $15.52 Black Diamond Cheese Bars
- Stockpile Budget Used to Date: $20.00+$19.08+$17.94+ $2.06+$20.00+$15.10 + $20.00 (June)+ $22.44 (July) + (August) $8.00+ (September) $0 + October $19.92+November $
- Snap Groupon to date: $19.25
- Zweet to date: $4.00
- Cart Smart to date: $0
- Checkout51 to date: $12.75
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) $2.99
- Total Spent This Week: $55.82
- Total Spent So Far November $36.89+$21.79+$55.82=$114.50-$102.11=$12.39 over budget
- Total Over/Under spend this shop: -$12.39
- Total Over/Under spend for the month: over -$12.39
- Total Left to Spend for the Month: $0
- Total to Carry Over Next Month: -$12.39
- Total Spent To Date This Year: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $242.66+ Feb $191.74+ March $255.82+April $235.07+May $223.62+June $275.37+ July $203.36+ August $228.26+ Sept $272.80+ Oct $451.48+Nov $114.50
Well, the month isn’t over yet, and we’re over budget already.
The good thing is we don’t need anything else for the remainder of the month.
Next week will be a no-shop week, leaving us with an overspend of $12.39 to carry into December.
We will be on vacation 2 weeks into December.
Did you find any coupons?
If so share the details in the comment section of this post where you found it and what the coupon is for with expiry.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first, and if you have any questions, email me or comment on this post with your questions, and someone will answer you as soon as possible.
- Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops only to win a monthly prize. We have fans who post their grocery shop and live worldwide.
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month. You can post your shops all month long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: Yes, our Grocery Budget includes items like shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap, etc. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates, but not so much food anymore. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money.
Over time you will gradually learn where you should and shouldn’t go in the grocery store or at least how to say no, I’m on a budget I need to buy this or that.
You may also substitute items in order to stick to your grocery budget to make it work.
Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do.
This is why the grocery game challenge was created to show you that we are like everyone else and to bring us all together to work as a team to get our budgets on track.
If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2014, get ready to dive deep into your grocery budget and learn where you are spending, how much you are spending, and what you are saving.
Feel free to read all the posts I linked to above, which I feel are relevant to learning about the grocery budget and grocery shopping in general.
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge Canada 2014!