The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

How To Hire The Right Caterer For Your Next Event : The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 #2 Sept 12-18




I’m a guy who loves to cook but for smaller crowds. If you asked me to cater an event there’s no way I’d keep up because I simply can’t handle the stress of knowing I might mess up.

This is where hiring a caterer comes in handy. The catering business is a big business all over the world because food is love and when there is a special event the caterer is there to ease the stress of the day. Catering is a hard-core business with competition fighting for top spot to take charge of your event.

Over the last month I’ve received 2 emails from fans asking me about budgets and catering events they were planning so I thought I would address how to hire the right caterer and some budgeting tips.

There are two types of caterers

  1. In-house or On Premises Catering (Food is prepared in-house)
  2. Off-Premises Catering (Food is brought in)

The only reason catering may not be an option for your event is because of a low-budget or availability. Catering comes with a price tag similar to getting restaurant service or fast-food.

You get what you pay for and the same goes in the catering world even though most catering companies will work with any budget. You can’t expect top of the line when you don’t have much money to work with. Some catering companies only work with certain budgets as well so that’s important to keep in mind and certainly a question to ask when doing your research.

If you want 5 star you’ll get 5 star with a price tag although many catering companies are willing to work with just about any budget so always look around before deciding not to use a caterer.


Who uses a caterer?


Many of you may be familiar with enjoying a food buffet, family style or table service by a caterer from attending a wedding. Whether a caterer is a new small business or a large established caterer that has yielded excellent reviews, years of service and a clientele you must always do your homework.

The ideal caterer for your event depends on asking the right questions and finding out all the answers ahead of time.

Some of the most common events where a caterer may be needed are:

  • Christmas Parties and other holiday events
  • Christenings and other Religious celebrations
  • Baby Shower, Birth celebration
  • Bridal Shower, Wedding, Anniversary
  • Funeral /Bereavement
  • Convention centers, Concert halls, Outdoor events
  • Birthday, In-home dinner for a special event
  • Special event such as a community event, Gala, Parade
  • Work Event, Office Function, volunteers, special events, Training seminars,
  • General Meetings, Hospitals, College, Universities and  other educational institutes
  • Retirement homes, Nursing Homes and other medical facilities and so on.


How to find a caterer


Word of mouth is a great way to hear about caterers in your area as well recommendations from venues that don’t have an in-house caterer or chef’s kitchen. You can also check the Yellow page, print advertising, online sources and forums.

Just recently a friend of the family in the UK decided they wanted to get married in Sydney, Australia which is where many British tend to vacation or move because of the lovely weather and lower prices.

A few of my cousins, aunt and uncle live in Australia and were helping them out to find a venue to hold the outdoor event which is appropriate given the gorgeous weather this time of year.

Catering differs significantly depending on where you are located world-wide especially when it comes to traditions and social norms. Since I have limited experience with the catering industry I did my homework to see what information I could up with that would give you the kick-start you need to hire a caterer for your event.

Locally in the Greater Toronto area I sourced a budget-friendly caterer at a wedding hall that would feed guests a full sit-down meal for $12 a plate with dessert. The cost of $800 for the hall was extra as would be the open or cash bar, bartender service and table linens, decorations, and center-pieces. That was on the lower-end for an event budget but affordable for many people.

On the higher-end I talked to another local Toronto company who caterers events at many venues in the area. They charge $150-$300 a plate which includes a highly regarded chef, dessert service, full-service, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, Dinner beverages alcohol and non-alcohol, interactive food stations, bar/bartender, linens, Hors d’oeuvre, night buffet.

Since our friend has planned a summer wedding next year and the event will be outdoors they were talking about hiring a caterer to feed upwards of 300 guests.

Should you cater your own event?

Even if you wanted to try and put a team of volunteers together of friends and family to caterer the event to keep budget costs lower keep in mind that they will likely be part of your special day.

You don’t want your guests sweating and racing around trying to sort the food out when they should be enjoying the wedding. If your event is small this budget-friendly option would be more fitting with as much pre-planning as possible.

With the availability of the internet you can easily read reviews, source the best catering companies in your local area or find a caterer outside of country especially if it’s for an event you’ll be flying in to attend but are in charge of organizing.

If you are in Canada and plan to have your wedding in Sydney, Australia like our friend you could plan your event online with help from a well-known caterer. A reputable caterer or any other caterer that offers you as much front-end service as possible being out of country is well-worth the investigation.

So, I did just that.

A quick online search not only revealed that Flavors caters every event I listed above but their event services are top-notch. Their motto is “Creative event catering at an affordable price” which is what caught my attention of course and because they cater to all budgets.

What I believe every good caterer should have is a printable menu and prices ranging from the budget-friendly, the in-between and high-end indulgences. There should be no hidden costs or fees when it comes to catering because your caterer should know what they will be charging in advance and be upfront with you.

Not only will Flavors mail you an event info kit but you can read reviews right on their blog. If you are planning a wedding overseas it’s important to ask all the right questions and leave enough time to ensure mail or other vital information for your event can get to you in a speedy fashion.

Some catering websites such as Flavors Catering offer online customer support with Live CHAT availability which is a serious plus in my books. I even tested it out and had a chat with a lovely customer support employee who answered all of my questions which was pretty cool. Sorry for wasting your time but I needed to find out for myself.

You may think you are being a nuisance asking too many questions but any caterer no matter if the event is big or small SHOULD want to make it as magical as you’d like it to be. That means fulfilling as many of your requests as possible with-in reason.

If you are looking at a caterer that is in another city, province or out of country to plan your event you can even ask for feedback on social media which is always a great indicator of what the company is like.


Creating a budget to cater your event


If you are planning to have a caterer for an event and you know the date of your event it’s important to complete a budget and start saving for the event.

You can do this by creating a projected expenses account and saving every month up until the event. Some of your hires may require a deposit which you will need up front so you will have to have some money saved before you start saving for everything else.

Related: How to set up projected expenses for your budget

With your projected expenses account this will help you to have the money ready by the time the event hire needs to be paid. Alternatively you can save in advance even two years before the event if you know an approximate date.

For events such as a birthday, anniversary or other functions that may not be as large make sure your budget can handle the caterer fees. Catering is never to be expected as a frugal way to go about feeding your crowd but what it does do is save you time, stress and keeps everyone fed and happy. This is worth the expenses you will pay especially if you find a quality caterer.

If you will be self-catering your event you can start purchasing any non-perishables or other products that you can freeze as they go on sale and once you know how many guests you will have. Doing this will save you money if you are working with a smaller budget or simply don’t care to have your event catered in.


Questions you MUST ask your caterer


Here are a few common questions I’d want to know answers to from an event caterer. A list of specific questions will almost always be personalized according to your event details.

  • What is the average cost of an event with x amount of guests?
  • Does the caterer have any other events that day?
  • Can you please give me client references?
  • Could you please explain to me how you source your food and do you accommodate dietary needs of the guests? Do you use any frozen products? Are the baked goods made fresh in-house?
  • Do you have a liquor license and do you have a bar area or set-up? If yes, what are the costs? Can we bring our own liquor in? Do you have a bartender? Can we get more than 1 bartender? Costs?
  • Do you need a deposit? If yes, how much?
  • Can we do menu tasting? If not then ask the client references to describe their full-experience with the food tasting, service etc.
  • Do you have photos of your food or a video of food presentations or a tour of your facility that I can watch?
  • Will you provide a wedding cake or do I need to cater that into the event? If not what desserts will you offer my guests?
  • Will the event be fully staffed, serviced and outfit the event with chairs, center-pieces, napkins etc? Is that extra?
  • What will your wait and bartender staff wear?
  • When does the final draft of the menu have to be submitted before it can no longer be changed?
  • What are your cancellation or postponement policies?
  • Where is the food prepared?
  • How much will a dessert table cost?

These are just a few questions I came up with although over at they have come up with a list of every question you will need to ask your caterer.


How to save money using a caterer


  • Find a site where you can bring a caterer in
  • Have your reception in the afternoon instead of the evening
  • Have your reception or wedding during the week
  • Buy your own liquor and provide bartending services if allowed
  • Forget the meal and go with a dessert menu/reception with finger foods
  • Always negotiate prices
  • Try different cuisines from around the world instead of traditional
  • Stick to less expensive cuts of meat, poultry or fish
  • Forget the package deals unless it’s a price you can’t turn down
  • Serve what’s in season for your meal

The above are only a few secrets to saving money with a caterer and I’m sure there are many more out there so snoop around, ask questions and always negotiate!


Your catered meal is never complete without gratuity or a tip plus a thank-you. Behind the scenes a team is working very hard to make sure your event goes off without a glitch.


Whether you choose to add a tip or a gratuity is factored into the final bill based on overall costs you should always leave something for the team who made it all happen.

Have you ever used a caterer in or out of country? If yes, how did you save up for your budgeted expenses? Did you save enough? Any tips for someone looking to hire a caterer? Please leave 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.

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: 314,000
  • 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


Food Basics

  • 2 x avocado bags $3.98 each
  • 2 x seedless cucumber $0.88 each
  • 2 x 2% Milk Sealtest $4.27 each
  • 1 x coconut Astro Yogurt $1.99
  • 4 Royal Gala Apples $0.88
  • 4 x whipping cream 35% $2.49 each

Total Out-of-Pocket $31.09


  • Ground Pork $3.95 +800 PC Points
  • Medium Ground Beef Family Packs Sale $7.87, $7.72, $7.77, $7.78
  • 4 x Whiskey Bacon $7.99-50%
  • Cremini Mushrooms 1kg 3.99-50%
  • PC Argula $5.49-50% +600 PC Points
  • Pork Rinds $1.99
  • 2 x Goldfish $1.67 bag each
  • 7 x $3.99 Schneider’s Bacon -50% $27.93-50%=$14.00
  • 2 x dozen eggs $2.49 each

Total Out-of-Pocket $77.66

Bulk Barn

  • Almond Flour $10.47-$3.00= $7.47

Total Out-of-Pocket $7.47

  • 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:$32.00
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $482.34
  • Total spent this week: $116.22
  • 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: $52.13
  • 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)

So, hmm, we spent lots this past week. I had to add in the bacon we found on sale after last weeks GGC post went up plus the bacon we found this week. The beef was too good of a deal to pass up. My wife eats lots of bacon, beef, eggs, cheese and uses whipping cream in her coffee so we picked up what we could on sale.

The almond flour is always pricey but she needs it to make her waffles, low-carb bread and other treats. We have some coconut flour left for now but that’s not too expensive. The next couple of weeks will be super tight with milk and eggs being our most important items. We do have over $1000 in Optimum points to use or just over $300 in PC points. Phew… but if we can save them for Christmas we’ll be happy!!


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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