The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

5 Cheap Lunch Ideas To Get You Through The Week : The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 #1 Sept 5-11




You don’t need to eat steak and mushrooms for lunch nor do you have to create an elaborate spread to bring with you wherever you travel for the day.

There are plenty of cheap lunch ideas that are delicious, filling and will cost you less than what you’ll pay at those money-making fast-food industry giants.

One of the biggest reasons some people spend less on groceries is because they are eating out and making excuses why they can’t eat at home. If someone tells me they spend $100 a month on groceries such as I often ask how much they spend eating out.

The reason is because we forget about those expenses BUT they are still part of your food budget because you are replacing the grocery store or farmers market for fast-food or restaurant options.

If you tell me that you have an eating out budget I’d say good for you, however if your goal is to save money you could consider getting rid of or limiting the amount of money you spend on eating out, unless of course you can afford it. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if money was no object to you, right?

Everyone is tired after a long day at work, long week at work or just a busy day and eating out might be worth it to you. It becomes a problem when eating out becomes a habit.

A top budget killer when it comes to food is lunch time.

Whether you are at the office, school or on a road-trip it’s very easy to say yes to a co-worker, friend or fellow student who invites you out to lunch rather than sitting in to eat the lunch you prepared.

I wrote back many years ago where I compared the expenses of two co-workers who eat out for lunch and buy coffee instead of packing it at home for work. The dollar amounts were staggering and even costlier today because prices haven’t dropped they’ve only increased where income levels have stayed stagnant with little to no hike.

What’s intriguing about eating lunch is that there are people who can do without lunch and have a snack and others who must have a large meal. It really depends on the individual however no matter the situation if you are buying lunch often be prepared that your end of month budget will show a hefty amount in your eating out category.

Best of it is, most people still grocery shop as if they are eating lunch or dinner at home and not eating out. This only leads to excess food, food waste and spending more money than needed if the food is not eaten.

Below are 3 areas, (work, lunch and road trips) to consider where lunch expenses can get out of hand if you are not prepared. I share some of the lessons we’ve learned but we are also sensitive to the fact that you don’t always have to brown bag it everywhere you go.

Balance is key and I’ll tell you how we do it.

First off something I wish I did back in school even though I was frugal-minded was create a budget and allow myself a weekly allowance like I do today. The allowance has been far easier to splurge when I want to because we have the money set aside. If I want to grab a coffee or a case of beer for the month I have the cash to do so.

You will also want to know how much your grocery budget should be. This way you know how much you can spend and what products you can save on to splurge on others. This way helps keeps you out of fast-food joints, cafeterias and restaurants for lunch.


Work lunch


If you’re not eating the lunch you bring along with you to work then you are either

  1. Eating your lunch out by yourself or with your co-workers
  2. Wasting food because you secretly toss your lunch in the garbage
  3. Eating too much because you don’t want to bring your lunch back home so you eat it along with eating out.

If I come home from work with my lunch container still filled with food the first thing my wife says to me is, “You didn’t eat your lunch?” My response to her would typically be;

  • There was a staff party (Bring home any leftovers if you can)
  • Free Food was ordered in
  • I didn’t have time to eat lunch
  • I wasn’t in the mood to eat lunch
  • We went out for lunch (hardly ever but it happens)

Guess what I get to eat for dinner? There is no food waste in our house but sometimes at work there are situations where you get to enjoy free food instead of eating the lunch you brought from home.

Related: The costs of eating out vs. eating in

Don’t throw it away because you don’t want to face your spouse or partner who will ask questions. Just be truthful and hope he/she didn’t cook dinner by the time you get home otherwise you know what you’re having for lunch tomorrow.


Road Trip Lunch


Just this past week our family along with friends went on a couple of road trips to African Lion Safari and Canada’s Wonderland. There are two place that I have never visited before in my 9 years living in Canada.

Related: 10 Ways to trim expenses on travel food

If we didn’t have our boy I probably would never had made my way to either of these entertainment facilities which not only cost a fortune to get into but the food prices are outrageous. I’m not talking a bit steep I’m talking you’re paying at least double or triple the costs of what you would eating out compared to a traditional restaurant or fast-food joint.

eating at canadas wonderland

At Canada’s Wonderland we packed a cooler full of snacks and beverages thankfully as beverage prices were through the roof. There are however water stations around the park that you can fill up your water bottle, if you brought one or to have a quick sip.

We didn’t pack lunch as thought we’d forget about being frugal for the day and splurge on eating out. Boy did we take that up the budget. 

  • A large pizza $30
  • Subway Subs 2 Foot-longs $28
  • Chicken Strips and Fries $14.99
  • Bottle of water $3.49

My son and I ended up splitting the chicken and chips although I ate the majority as he was too tired and all he wanted was his milk. It hurt to pay that price but we should have known better because we were warned.

My wife has been many times and said to me that prices were costly. Although you can pack a lunch and eat it outside of the park at your vehicle or designated areas for many it’s easier just to grab something in the park.

Ah-ha, that’s the only way they will make money on food is if they don’t allow it in the park. Not everyone has the will-power to walk back to their vehicle to get a lunch they packed so they splurge, kind of what we did. We just didn’t think that they were going to burn a hole in our pockets that deep.

Live and learn however you don’t ALWAYS have to be frugal. In this case we were half-frugal on our adventure.

Related: 15 Easy Lunch Sandwiches for under $2

African Lion Safari was as pricey for food where we paid $7.99 for a foot-long hot-dog which was amazingly delicious. I could have easily had 2 of them. The burger was around the same price but that’s all we bought. We weren’t interesting in the deep-fried Mars Bars and other sweet treats they had because it was too bloody expensive.

The only smart saver on our road trip adventures was my wife who packed herself a lunch because she eats a low-carb high-fat diet. Back at the vehicle she was munching on homemade low-carb bread with mozzarella cheese, low-carb Keto Brownies, sausage, almonds, pickles and other bits. Smart women!

Next road-trip to any adventure park or tour we WILL bring a cooler with a full lunch included however if there are special treats to try we will experience them.

At Wonderland the Funnel Cake and Beavertails are a must try treat for just about anyone. Just have a look at the photo above and you’ll see how amazing a funnel cake is topped with a massive amount of soft-serve ice-cream and fresh strawberries.

Fun Fact: Almost 250,000 Funnel Cakes are consumed every season, which is equal to the length of Leviathan’s track 29 times.

If eating inside Wonderland is what you plan to do and you are a season pass holder consider the dining plans they offer. You may save yourself some cash!


School Lunch


The little kids aren’t as bad with spending money at school for lunch as high school, College or University students are. On occasion elementary schools will hold a hot-dog or pizza day lunch or have bake sales but bringing a lunch and snacks is typical.

Older students have the tendency to dump their lunch that was made by their parents for cafeteria food, fast-food or just junk from the corner shop. It’s easier for students to run up to Tim Hortons to grab coffee, bagel and a muffin than it is to bring it from home for some reason.

When I went to school I always brought my coffee brewed from home and snacks. I didn’t often eat a full lunch at school but when I did I’d bring a sandwich and fruit from home. Once in a while I’d go up to Tim Hortons for a coffee and muffin but not often like some of my classmates who ate out every day.


Don’t be the person who stores a prepared lunch in your locker to rot in place of eating out. Stop bringing a lunch if you can’t control your fast-food urges and stop food waste. You will pay for this habit in the long-run.


I’m not one that MUST eat out to get through the day. Typically I will eat a decent breakfast that will hold me over and leave the house armed with healthy snacks like fruit, nuts and homemade goodies (not always healthy though but darn good).

Related: How to budget when you go to College or University

If you want to make it through High School, College or University with as little debt as possible then pack a lunch. Stop saying YES to your friends who want to eat out all the time. Don’t be lazy and not prepare any thing for lunch.

Think ahead about what you need to bring with you before you leave in the morning. Studying, school, partying and working is NOT an excuse to spend money you don’t need to be spending by eating out every day.

If you live off-campus and you are in a new city that is big, keep in mind that grocery shopping is equally important so do your research.

Related: Big City Savings Tips For Grocery Shopping

Ideally thinking about your lunch for the week could be done on a Sunday where you create a lunch menu, grocery list and then grocery shop.

If you don’t have the food in the house then you won’t take it and opt to buying it on the run. Trust me those little expenses all add up and when you’re in school you don’t need added expenses.


Cheap Lunch Ideas


Some of my favourite lunch ideas are cheap lunch ideas because I don’t see the need to fill up on pricey foods when I can make good food for a fraction of the cost of eating out.

These are only a few cheap lunch ideas that I am bringing to the lunch table so please share what you like to bring in the comment section of this post to help others out who aren’t sure what to make. Sometimes it’s the small ideas that mean the most to those who are learning how to be frugal-minded consumers.

Enjoying a balanced lunch is important so pack what you love to eat. Grocery shopping and saving money on foods and snacks is the first way to bring your cheap lunch ideas to life.

Related: How to grocery shop to create cheap recipes

Learning how to cook or bake is essential money savers so don’t be shy and experiment in the kitchen. Taking a few hours out on a Sunday or when you aren’t busy to prepare food for the week even if it’s a batch of your favourite squares to pack for snacks will save you in the long-run.

Related: How to Grocery Shop

Remember that almost every educational and work facility has a microwave to warm up your lunch. In the event that this is not an option you can still pack leftovers from home that are as good to eat cold.

Always bring water with you wherever you go. This is a MUST for everyone.

  1. Homemade Cheddar Chive Biscuits filled with more cheese and filling of choice, hard-boiled eggs on a garden salad with side container of dressing, yogurt cup with a bag of nuts and raisins to snack on or a fruit.
  2. Pulled Pork on a Bun with cut up vegetables, homemade granola bar and fruit.
  3. Pizza Buns and egg salad or tuna salad on the side with cut up vegetables and fruit with homemade fudgy brownies.
  4. Meatball Sub or Meatballs in sauce with a homemade buttered bap on the side or homemade chili. Homemade nuts and bolts for a snack, fruit.
  5. Homemade or store-bought Pita bread stuffed with vegetables, cream cheese, dressing, lunch meat, egg salad, tuna salad or any other filling of your choice. Pair this with fresh fruit or a fruit cup and you have a lunch fit for a King or Queen.

In addition to the above you could add white or brown rice, couscous, quinoa, hemp hearts, chia seeds to spruce up your meal and snacks a notch as well. Keep an eye out for sales and stock up when products are cheap.

The above is just a sample of cheap lunch ideas however if you have a look at our free recipe index on Canadian Budget Binder you will find loads of frugal recipes that will bring happiness to your tummy and your bank account.

If I were to snoop in your lunch bag what cheap lunch ideas would I find? Share your comments below.


September Grocery Game Challenge


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.

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 $10 Canadian. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.

Congratulations to Ballot #8 Mary!!! You won the August Grocery Game Challenge!

If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week below for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. Alternatively, just click on the “Grocery Game Challenge” tab on the blog side-bar to see past posts.

September Grocery Game Posts


Free Money Saving Tools 2016


You WILL want to check this out!

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-$40.93=$194.07
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $194.07
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $60
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 294,000
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
  • Shoppers Optimum: Just under 850,000 Optimum points  (I will update this twice a year)

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

  • Zweet to cash out : $18.25
  • Checkout51 to cash out : $22.00


Our Grocery Shop This Week


Since the grocery store was closed on Monday the below figures may be off as I am estimating from previous shops for weighed produce. The rest is from the sales flyer. I will adjust by adding anything extra we buy such as reduced meat, fish or produce for next weeks shop.

Food Basics

  • 1kg Icing Sugar $1.99
  • 2 x 2% Milk Sealtest $4.27 each
  • 4 x whipping cream 35% $2.49 each
  • 2 x 10% cream $2.49 each
  • Bananas $1.87
  • 10lb potatoes $1.98
  • 2 x Allen’s Apple Juice No Sugar added $0.88
  • 4 x Black Diamond Mozzarella cheese bars $3.99 400-450g $15.96
  • 2 x 5 or 6 pk bag avocados $2.99 each
  • Broccoli $0.99
  • Cucumber $0.99

Total Out-of-Pocket $46.46


  • 6 x bacon 500g PC Sale $3.99 each stockpile $23.94
  • Large cauliflower $2.49
  • 4 tomatoes $.99
  • 4 dozen eggs large $2.49 each
  • Romaine lettuce $1.49

Total Out-of-Pocket $14.93

  • Total to spend this month : $235.00-$5.23 overage from August= $229.77
  • Stockpile budget 2016 : $25.00
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $23.94
  • Total coupons used this week: $0
  • Total coupons used to date: $15.36
  • Total in-store discounts this week:$0
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $450.34
  • Total spent this week: $61.39
  • Total spent so far this month: $61.39
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: over
  • Total over/Under spend for the month: $n/a
  • Total left to spend for the month: $168.38
  • Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $252.95 + Feb $249.46 + March $211.11 + April $248.11 + May $279.07 + June $231.96 + July $244.40 + Aug $201.30+ Sept $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

Since Back To School sales are hot right now we thought we would stock up on some of the essentials while we could. We’d like to see the cream cheese go on sale for $1.99 so we can buy a few of those but for now eggs and bacon are the products of choice. As mentioned we will add anything else we purchase or price adjustments to next weeks shop. – Mr.CBB


Coupons and Coupon Apps 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?

Sign up for the Nielsen Canada Home Scan Program and you can earn rewards points fast to redeem for awesome products or gift cards. I did this in the UK and loved it!!

Where can I find Canadian Coupons 2016?

Plus check out these other hidden areas online to get more coupons!!

  • Healthy Essentials Printable Coupons (Johnson and Johnson)
  • Clorox Coupons Sign up to print coupons in the Clorox family which include Greenworks, Glad etc.
  • Kraft Canada Sign up and receive recipes and coupons by email
  • Printable Smart Source Coupons
  • Walmart Canada Printable Coupons
  • Proctor and Gamble PandG Sign up for printable coupons
  • Hidden Coupon Portals You Should know about – I found this over at Save a Loonie and you’ll want to sign up for notifications and check out the site so you get notified every time a hidden coupon is available from, Brandsaver, Smart Source etc.


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 Know what stores accept coupons?:  If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
  • 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 look at 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!

Please Note: Some of the links in the body of the blog post are affiliate links which means I may get paid if you buy something from Amazon. The items I’ve chosen are products we use at home or similar to.


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