The Grocery Game

Grocery Budget Basics: 5 Must-Read Tips About Your Food Expenses

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5 must read tips about your food expenses canadian budget binder



For anyone considering tackling their food expenses I encourage you to read my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide along your journey starting with the critical budget basics I’ve detailed below.

If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2018 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

With the minimum wage increase to $14 in Canada many shoppers will start to notice food cost increases across the board. Notices are already popping up at fast food restaurants letting customers know that prices are on the rise.

That’s not really any concern to you unless eating out is your thing but certainly means consumers are going to see price hikes everywhere. I’m assuming since you are here to grab hold of your food expenses that eating out is not a top priority on your list. If eating out is the problem then you’ve come to the right place.

Related: Ontario restaurant owner earning less than his employees with minimum wage hike

That being said, your food expenses are still on the rise as Mrs. CBB and I have both noticed more so near the end of 2017. A pack of hotdogs that were $1.99 in the summer are knocking $6 which makes Costco prices seem appealing. Many consumers revel in using any savings platform available but then there are some of you who don’t. -This is part of the problem.

Some business owners are saying that they will be looking for multi-skilled employees that can do more to make up for the minimum wage hike. This means there will be more competition for those jobs you once thought were easy to get hired at. If you have more skills you are now valuable more than ever to employers.

Dan Phillips said a minimum wage hike is forcing him to look at multi-skilled hires that can do more than one job in order to make up for increasing costs.- source

Related: Checklist to Bullet-Proof Your 2018 Grocery Budget

Unfortunately if we want to see our food expenses balance out the manufacturers and grocery stores want us to work for those savings. If you don’t want to put effort into saving money then you pay the ultimate price- more than you should. For those of you who value time income then saving money on food expenses likely won’t be your first priority.

By this I mean if you can be at work or work from home and make $100 an hour you’d rather spend time earning then saving because the earning outweighs the savings. Time is money after all BUT if in your time you’re not earning money then you best be getting to work saving.

In all honesty the only way to really know is to track your earned income time versus the time spent planning your grocery shopping and budget duties to compare. Was it really worth spending your time earning money doing whatever you do vs. spending time to save money at the grocery store.


Living Expenses must be covered first


Food expenses are what I like to call part of your living expenses which means that budgeting for food is not a want it’s a must-have. Creating any budget starts with basic needs such as housing, grocery, utilities, clothing and so on. These are expenses you can’t skip over but you can find ways to save.

For those of you who simply have no money or are very limited in your budget for food there are support systems in place for each community that you can reach out to for help. Talk to your local food bank or community services or even churches who offer programs to help those in need. Even if they don’t help with food but offer free clothing or other necessities this may help you save in one area to have more in another. The key to a good budget is knowing your options.


Grocery shopping sounds like one of the easiest chores to complete on the planet but that’s not what the big problem is for consumers in Canada- it’s the prices. No one I know has ever struggled to find foods that they love at the grocery store. In order to maximize on what you have in your shopping cart in comparison to your grocery budget there are some grocery basics you need to know about.

  1. You Need A Realistic Grocery Budget
  2. You Need A Meal Plan or Simple Grocery List
  3. You Need To Plan For Food Savings
  4. You Need To Know how a grocery store works
  5. You Need To Make Time To Track Everything

Canadian coupon apps for groceries are still popular as are using coupons but besides those grocery savings tools you must consider what you can control if you want to put a stop to over-spending. As you probably already know food waste is a huge problem in Canada and might be harmful to your budget.

If you really want to know how much food is thrown out at your house then track what you toss for a month or two. You might be shocked especially if you have kids. The amount of food we wasted in 2017 on our son saddened us which is why we are making significant changes to the way we feed our child.

I’m curious if this will continue to be a problem when or if consumers realize they can’t afford to let food rot. expire or sit uneaten. If you find that you are throwing out too much food then you need to seriously have a look at your strategy. You may find you aren’t planning meals properly, food habits have changed, diets have changed but your grocery list hasn’t.


The Grocery Basics explained


A realistic grocery budget is a must. If you justify your food expenses by the amount of food people eat in the house then you should consider whether you’re eating too much food. In all honesty most of us do eat more than we need which increases our food costs exponentially.

If for example you have kids who like to tackle a bag of large chips every couple of days and a case of pop a week perhaps setting limits on what you buy and how much they eat is in order. Snacks are one of the top reasons a grocery budget will fail. We simply don’t need them but opt to have them on our grocery list. The better option would be to aim more towards fruits, nuts and vegetables to satisfy snack needs. Consider the nutrient comparison as well. Junk food vs. Healthy food.

Related: How much should my grocery budget be?

I often say track your grocery shopping for 2 months so you get a better idea just how much you are spending. From there you can pick away what you don’t really need and create a realistic food budget. Even if for those first two months you budget too much or too little it’s important to understand the goals of this exercise. You do not by any means need to spend your entire grocery allowance if you don’t need to.

Just because you have $5 left doesn’t mean you should splash out on more food. Put that money to good use whether it be in a savings account or move it to the next month of grocery shopping where money might be tight or you have larger purchases to make.


Keep food shopping simple


Don’t try and complicate grocery shopping, grocery lists, meal plans and the entire budgeting process or you will get overwhelmed and quit. I’ve seen it happen many times over the past 5 years the grocery game has run. If life gets in the way you still need to budget your money. Make budgeting a priority even if it is only a food budget that you are able to manage consistently.

Simple grocery shopping includes a meal plan based around food sales for the week or coupled with sales to bring you the best quality foods to the table. Save in one are to spend more in another is a great way to look at your food shopping expenses.

Have a sit down and write all the staples you use in your house, must-have’s and nice-to-have foods which will become your simple shopping list. You either need to stock-up on these items or keep an eye out for rock-bottom prices so you can stock up.

Adding a new recipe to your meal plan is a great way to change-up the meals or snacks you make but not deviating too much from your grocery list. For example, if you like grilled chicken breasts but really want to try chicken parmigiano you may only need a few extra ingredients to make that happen.

If expensive cuts of meat, seafood or products that you could do without aren’t part of your every day meal plan or included in your budget you risk spending too much. Remember: Save in one area to spend more in another. You don’t have to give up your favourite organic coconut oil but if you can’t afford it cutting back on something else or finding a deal is your ticket to getting what you want.


Food Savings = Planning


Not everyone can walk into a grocery store and walk out richer than they went in, at least not in Canada. We’ve tried and on occasion have managed to get lots of free food using SCOP, rewards points or free product coupons. This just doesn’t happen all the time which makes planning your food savings important.

Starting in February 2018 Shoppers Optimum Points and PC Points will be combined to become PC Plus which will leave us with near 2 million rewards points to spend. Almost all of those points were obtained via sales, loading coupons and points coupons via the computer.

If you truly want to exercise all the areas of saving at the grocery store you might want to invest in couponing, sales flyers, bulk shopping, rewards points and other programs available in your community. A grocery store can easily break your finances if you’re not careful and before you know it you have a house full of food and you’re struggling to pay for other debts.


Know your grocery store


Whether you live in a small community or in a moderate to large city it’s critical you understand the savings options available to you. Not all grocery stores price match for example so if you live in a small town with one or two grocery stores this option may not be part of your savings plan.

Getting to know who works at your favourite grocery stores help when it comes to asking for deals or looking to buy in bulk. You may also know the days and times of the week they mark-down products including pricey cuts of meat. Just after and  before any holiday in Canada we can visit the grocery store at night or early morning and find loads of reduced products. Shh…our little secret.

You can use websites to view every major grocery store in Canada which will give you all the details you need to know about each store. If you don’t find what you are looking for ring them up or ask the next time you are in shopping.


Tracking will give you results


Any time you set goals it’s important to track the success and failures of your journey. Grocery shopping or budgeting in general is no different. If you want solid results with your money then YOU must put in the effort as I explained earlier in this post.

Whether you think you need to track where your food money is going is the difference between paying your mortgage monthly or making extra payments. You do the math and figure out whether it’s worth it to you.

In conclusion:

Don’t overwhelm yourself with budgeting and your food expenses with too many goals this year especially if you are new to using a budget. Rather keep it simple and most of all Plan, Track and Save.

Keep it simple and eventually it will become part of the process that is the norm in your life. After you reach that point you can start adding in more metrics to help you get to the next point of saving even more money.

Discussion: What worries you the most about tracking your food expenses in 2018?


January Grocery Game Challenge


Join in the 2018 Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) but before you do you must read The Grocery Game Challenge Rules and Print the 2018 Schedule. In this section I will post each weeks grocery game challenge blog posts for the month.

New Prize Schedule : See the Grocery Game Rules


Free Money Saving Tools 2018


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 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 created to get us on track working 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 2018


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 6 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.


2018 Grocery Shop Results


Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2018: $3600 or $300/month (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 or that you would like to track on your own)

  • Total Grocery Budget for this Month: $300
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $300
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $0
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 750,000
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
  • Shoppers Optimum: 995,000 points

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

  • Zweet -$0.
  • Checkout51- $0


Our Grocery Shop This Week



  • 2 x Sealtest Milk $4.27 each
  • 2 x large eggs $2.27 each
  • 6 x PC apple Juice Not from Concentrate $10.00
  • 6 x 10% cream $1.99
  • 3x Cream Cheese $2.99

Total Out-of-Pocket $44.10

Note: All totals below already have tax factored into them.

  • Total to spend this month : $300
  • Stockpile budget 2018 : $25.00/month
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $0
  • Total coupons used this week: $0
  • Total coupons used to date: $0
  • Total in-store discounts this week: $0
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $0
  • Total spent this week: $44.10
  • Total spent so far this month: $44.10
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: under
  • Total left to spend for the month: $255.90
  • Total Spent To Date 2018: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $+Feb $+March $ + April $+ May $ + June $+July $+August $+September $+ October $+ November $ + December $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

Since we came home with more food than we brought to the in-laws for the holidays we will stay out of the grocery store as much as possible in January. This will also give us a chance to start eating down our freezer and pantry to get ready for important upcoming sales. This month the focus is grocery basics- nothing more, nothing less. As you can see the few basics in accordance with our lifestyle we did buy cost us close to $50.

Happy Shopping everyone.



Coupons and Coupon Apps


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?

If you notice I’m missing a valuable link please message me and I’ll get it added to the savings list below.

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 2018?

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

If any of the links below don’t open properly please report them to my email address or use comment form.

  • Healthy Essentials Printable Coupons (Johnson and Johnson)
  • Danone Coupons Get up to $25 in coupons
  • 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 2018 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 to reflect changes for the 2018 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 prize payout?- I’ve changed the prize to yearly so I’ll be tracking everyone’s shop and draw accordingly for larger prize payouts.
  • When does the Grocery Game close each month? Ideally you would want to have all your shops in by the end of the month so you can review your month so you make improvements for the next.
  • 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 2014-2017 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.

If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2018 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!  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 2018!


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