The Ultimate Canadian Grocery Savings Guide

How often should you complete a food budget review? : The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 #3 Jan 18-24

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how often should you complete a food budget review(1)how often should you complete a food budget review(1)PROJECT BUDGET CONTROL


Some people spend FAR MORE money on groceries than they need to like one  CBB fan who chopped her $1100 grocery shopping budget to a manageable $600 a month in less than 6 months.

She had to make serious changes but the biggest of all was a review of how much money she was actually spending every month. Without knowing that number she wouldn’t have known just how much she was spending.

Related: How I decreased my grocery budget from $1100 to $600 in 6 months

Understanding food cost can be overwhelming for anyone as I’ve learned from experience over the years. When I moved to Canada I had no idea what the cost of anything was so I had to learn from the ground up.

Last week we talked about how to calculate your monthly grocery costs and today I want to talk about how often you need to review your grocery budget to make sure it still fits with your overall budgeting goals. By know you already know how much your grocery budget should be BUT when should you review that number?

Some people like to review their grocery budget yearly which is what we do in our household although we do track our numbers every month so it’s easy to see if changes are needed. If you are someone who doesn’t budget or doesn’t use such a detailed budget like our excel budget spreadsheet you may not know exactly how much money you are spending every month.

Your grocery budget review is not intended to tap into any overspends it’s also to find out if you are spending less than you have budgeted for which means you have extra money. You may see your bank account increase but you may not depending on how well you are at balancing the money that you have. I’ve lost count how many times someone has said to me that they have more money in the bank than they thought they should have.


Review life events


Your food consumption may go up or down depending on life events that happen some of which may be an emergency and take you by surprise.

Some of these life events may be:

  • Job Loss/Income Cuts
  • Pregnancy/Addition to the family/Adoption
  • Health/Diet Changes
  • Family moving in/Death/Divorce/Relationship breakdown
  • Roommates
  • Raise or Extra Income
  • New Pet/ Death of a pet

Some of you may have experienced some or all the above and you know that costs in your food budget may be affected. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface as there are likely many other life events that could take your budget by storm or ease you into a comfortable one.

If you include everything in your grocery budget and adopt a pet you will find extra expenses that will add to your budget. If you lose a pet because he/she has passed away then you may gain some money in your grocery budget.

When my wife was pregnant we started to buy food products that we didn’t normally buy such as whole wheat crackers and lots of them. After our son was born most of the food he ate was baby food but now that he is eating regular food we may start to see an increase in our food budget over the course of the year.

If you are pregnant and going on maternity leave you are also faced with an income cut until you are back to work which means budget cuts. A great time to review your budget is months in advance so you know how much you can live on.

Related: Surviving on a lower income on maternity leave

Whether you choose to adopt or have family or roommates move in all of these life events can add expenses to your grocery shopping budget. In the event that you lose your job you may not be able to afford those weekly steak dinners any long so it’s important to review your budget and revise accordingly.

An income cut can be just as devastating as losing your job but at least you still have a job. This also means you will have to make budget adjustments until you find another job of comparable income or you earn extra money.

Related: How to earn extra money without going crazy

If your grocery budget is lower than what you would like it to be but all of a sudden your boss calls you in to give you your employment review and then gives you a raise you may choose to increase your grocery budget.

On the other hand if you lose your job like my wife did when we bought our house you may want to review how you can cut costs until you have your bills under control. This is really where our drive for savings and couponing began because without a job and having a new mortgage we were worried. We vowed to never let that happen again.

Lastly if your spouse passes away or your relationship breaks down you no longer need to grocery shop for (insert number of people) and as difficult of a task this may be you must review your grocery budget and meal plan. This may take time to adjust if ever but it’s something that needs to be done because your finances depend on your support.


Too much food


If you find that you have too much food in the house because your freezer, pantry and refrigerator is stocked up you may find that you can adjust your grocery budget to see if you are able to cut back a bit. If you don’t need to tie up money in your overall budget there is no point keeping it in a category when it can be used somewhere else.

If you find many of your products are past their expiry date and not getting eaten up or there are lots of freezer burnt items int he freezer you likely have too much food and could do with buying less, thus spending less money.

You may also notice that food waste has increased because new meals are being prepared and leftovers are untouched. This is a sign of either hating leftovers or too many other delicious options to choose from in the house.

Keeping a pantry and freezer inventory list will help in this department as well. You can download them for free here.


Not spending enough or overspending


If you find that you are overspending it’s important to review your food choices and consider your options. Maybe you can buy in bulk rather than in small quantities if you want to save more money over the long-term. There are many reasons why people overspend when they go grocery shopping so it’s important to reconsider your grocery shopping process in hopes of making positive changes.

If you aren’t spending all of your budgeted grocery money then move that money to another budget category to help pay down debt or save for whatever you’d like rather than having it collect month after month.


Too little food


If your pantry and refrigerator is always bare and the kids are frustrated that there is nothing to eat then maybe you aren’t buying enough food for your grocery shopping period.  A review of your grocery expenses will show that you are buying too little.

In the event that your budget cannot handle an increase going to the local food bank or other community organizations may help to top up those extra products you need until your next shop. If you’re not participating in rewards programs, using coupons and coupon apps like Checkout51 are also great way so to spread your food budget. Know everything there is to know about grocery shopping by reading my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.


Grocery price hikes


Cost of living increases happen every year but there are times when prices go above and beyond what any of us are getting as “raises” in our income if any at all. This means that it’s critical that you review your grocery budget as soon as you realize that prices are getting out of range for you.

The way you can tell is that many of your regular staples are increasing to the point where you struggle to buy them or you shake your head at the price. I know we’ve mashed the subject before but if you are a cauliflower lover and you notice that the cauliflower is no longer $0.99 like in the summer or $2.99 then keep an eye on everything in the produce department.

Food prices are steadily on the rise in Canada and is only bound to get worse before it gets better, if it takes a positive turn. There is only so much food on the reduced racks in the store so it’s critical you give your food budget a second look as soon as possible.


Fans speak up


I asked the fans how often they do a grocery budget review and this is what they had to say…

Mona M- I always adjust my budget to suit our needs. Most of our food is imported from Asia. So our budget can get inflated from time to time.

Christine W- I figure out the budget once a year but things can be changed at any time if need be.

Susan D- My husband keeps buying the sales even if it is not on the grocery list and then he wonders why we spend so much on food each month. Everything else is under control and we live well below our means otherwise so I am picking my battles.

Juanita P-We usually have a weekly set amount that we try to stick to for the year and some months we are over and others we are under. This is the first year that I am tracking my numbers weekly.

Colleen K- I don’t really have a budget. I have an ongoing list that gets added to or crossed off. I try and keep it to around $500/month. I know I could shave a bunch of $ off that but for quite a few years we did without a lot of things so now we are enjoying things a bit more.

Nicola D- All the time. I now shop every two weeks as it works out cheaper. It also depends on my larder/pantry and bulk items which we try and do with price matching with flyers and sales.

Beth-  I adjust my food budget every time I experience a change in income. If I have more income, I tend to stock up on staples for the lean times.

Pam C- Unfortunately it seems that my food budget has to be increased far too often, groceries and eating healthy is so expensive. 

Della F- I have a food budget and I look at it on a yearly basis unless some additional money has been added to my finances. Next year’s budget (2016) will appear to be lower but that’s because the personal necessities are included and I want to break that out and see how much each area is costing me.

Tina V- I don’t really budget but I keep an eye on how much I’m spending per month. There are times when I spend money on items that I want to use for a specific recipe. However, those are the items that tend to go to waste for various reasons. There are times I do splurge though.

Mary C- I do the budget as a whole at year-end. I don’t have any extra money to draw from so it’s simply a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul. I can already tell you that we’ll be sticking with $190 per month in 2016 as well.

Overall, there are no set standards as to when you should or shouldn’t review your grocery budget but in the end if you take the extra time to look into where your money is going every month you will certainly put your money to the best use possible provided you take your finances seriously.

How often do you review your grocery budget?


January Grocery Game Challenge posts 2016


Join in the 2016 Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are the rules to get you started and where you’ll also find a link for the updated 2016 GGC schedule. Please feel free to download, save and even print the schedule so it’s handy. Thanks to Mary for putting this together for us again this year. If you need any help please let me know.

New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only BUT If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10CDN. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.

If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week here for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. This makes posting a bit easier although all you need to do is click on The Grocery Game Challenge on the homepage sidebar and you will see them all.


Free Money Saving Tools 2016


I know I blast you every which way I can on this blog about my free money saving tools and that’s because I want you to take advantage of them being FREE. So many people pay for budgets and tools on the internet to help them save money and honestly you don’t need to. Even a paper and pen will do the trick.

Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!

This is the budget that brought us to debt freedom back in 2013 and now I’m offering to all of you for FREE. We still use this budget every month as it helps us to see our overall financial picture.

2014 Free Money Saving ToolsDon’t pay someone for these services, I’ve done the work for you along with some help from other amazing bloggers.

You can 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 it out!

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.

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. So many free resources at your fingertips.


Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide 2016


the ultimate grocery shopping guide cbbEverything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is packed into this amazing FREE grocery shopping guide that has taken over 4 years to create.

The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is ongoing with new informative money-saving posts added every month.

Even if you don’t live in Canada there are some amazing budget saving tips that will help put you on the path to more savings at the supermarket.

Share this guide with your friends and tell them about Canadian Budget Binder especially if they are struggling with their grocery budget.

The time is NOW to get started saving money on groceries so please enjoy the  many money-saving posts in the The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.


2016 Grocery Shop Results


Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2016: $2820

(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $300/year or $25/month.

Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)

  • Total Grocery Budget for the Month:$235.00
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $235.00
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $50
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 56670
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP)to date $0
  • Shoppers Optimum: Over 700,000 points ( I will update this twice a year)

Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)

  • Snap Groupon to cash out: $40.00
  • Zweet to cash out : $18.25
  • Checkout51 to cash out : $7.00


Grocery Shop This Week


No Frills

  • 1 x Cucumber $1.25 PM Freshco
  • 4 x IOGO Nano $2-$1.00 coupons PM Freshco
  • 4 x Bacon $3 PM Freshco
  • 4 x Redpath Sugar PM Freshco
  • 4 x Armstrong Cheese $2 each

Total Out-of-Pocket: $31.25

Shoppers Drug Mart

  • 4 x Dozen Eggs $2.99

Total Out-of-Pocket: $11.96

Food Basics

  • Milk 2% $3.88 sale
  • Milk Homo $4.97
  • Onions $0.88
  • Red Onion $1.25
  • Spinach $2.99

Total Out-of-Pocket: $13.97


  • 4 x Butter 1lb Sale $2.99 ea
  • Mushrooms $0.99 sale

Total Out-of-Pocket: $12.95


  • 2 x 5pk avocado $2.88 sale
  • Organic spring mix $2.88 sale

Total Out-of-Pocket: $8.64

  • Total to spend this month $235.00
  • Stockpile budget 2016 ($25.00):$0
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $15.88+$7.00=$22.88
  • Total coupons used this week: $4
  • Total coupons used to date: $4
  • Total in-store discounts this week:$128.10
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $128.10
  • Total spent this week: $78.77-$50 Gift Card
  • Total spent so far this month: $185.05=$28.77
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: under
  • Total over/Under spend for the month: N/A so far
  • Total left to spend for the month: $21.18
  • Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

We were kindly given a gift card from our neighbours for watching their house while they were on vacation and were waiting for a stock up sale to use it. This week the butter was on sale so we grabbed a few of them as well as eggs, avocado and bacon all of which are staples in my wife’s Atkins Low Carb High Fat diet. With only a small amount left for the end of the month I’m guessing it will be spent on milk and vegetables.


Canadian Coupons 2016


Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?

We didn’t find any coupons worthy of filling this space for the week. We’ll try again for next week.


Grocery Game Challenge 2016 FAQ’s


  • Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible. The rules have been updated for the 2016 challenge year.
  • Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
  • What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $10 CDN via Paypal if they win. As more people join I will add more money to the gift card or I will split it up and offer 2 prizes every month.
  • 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 but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly  or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it altogether. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
  • Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: No, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year in order to plan accordingly our budget.
  • Do you stockpile food? We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any longer as we found we weren’t eating it fast enough. Stockpiling is still great and just one way to help cut your budget to save money if you do find items that you can buy in bulk at a sale price.
  • Canadian Coupons:Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest  Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
  • Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading with mobile coupon apps being the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site that mailed coupons to households has gotten involved with the addition of a new mobile app joining forces with the many other coupon apps available. If you find an app that I don’t talk about please let me know as they are always being added and I’d like to review them.
  • What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
  • What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
  • What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
  • How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.

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 back in 2012 and is one of the most popular hang out spots for people who want to save money on groceries in Canada.

If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 get ready to examine your grocery budget by learning…

  • Where you are spending money
  • How much money you are spending
  • How much money you are saving every month

If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!

If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email. If I use your topic I will put your name in a draw for a prize at the end of the year.

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 2016!


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