Author Topic: Grocery Expenses - Canada  (Read 11744 times)

EarthshipSandra

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Darfield, BC Canada
    • The Darfield Earthship
Grocery Expenses - Canada
« on: January 31, 2016, 04:05:37 PM »
Husband and I have been reading from the beginning of MMM blog and have been slamming into (quite frequently) the grocery expenses of MMM and the Mrs. 

More than a year ago we knuckled down and began tracking everything (again) and looked at our grocery bills. We thought we'd be able to reduce our monthly grocery expenses but we haven't managed to - although we were rockstars in other areas! We eat about a 50% organic diet and almost no processed food. We average $1138 per month for a family of five (with three teenagers). That does not include the amount we grow and raise (both veggies and chicken). It does not include eating out, either, which we track separately.

We keep harping back to the $3,855 (from what I recall)  annual bill for the MMM family of 3 and have silently (and separately) been wracking our brains about how to do this...or even how to come close to doing this in Canada.

Our 1138 monthly bill for five people equals $13,656 per year, or $2,731.20 per person per year. MMM's number is $1285 per person per year (2011 numbers). Ours is more than double!  (And that doesn't count the 75 chickens we raise organically to put in the freezer every year, nor the 1,000 pounds of produce that goes in the freezer and canning shelves.)

Having lived in the US for a year in the late 90s I do know that food costs can be far less south of the border, but I'm stymied by how we can reduce further.

In the last few days we have started an excel spreadsheet to further breakdown our grocery bills into categories, price per unit on different products, etc. To date we have been tracking in Quickbooks, because we own it for our businesses. 

Any other Canadians have numbers to share/compare?


okits

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8909
  • Location: Canada
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2016, 10:34:01 PM »
I don't have numbers for you but can sympathize.  Food in Canada costs more (never mind the horrifying prices those in remote locations pay!)

The low-hanging fruit (which you may do already but worth mentioning):

- waste nothing
- buy in bulk
- inexpensive options (like beans for protein)
- make your own/DIY
- eat seasonal/sale items
- buy from discount/ethnic groceries that have lower prices
- restrict consumption of expensive and treat items
- food with near-expiry/scratch-and-dent discounts
- "lower-grade" produce (like the small/medium-sized apples in bags vs. the large, loose ones on display)
- use points/loyalty programs to get free items and deals

I attempt (or have attempted) all of the above.  What I haven't tried yet are either eating less (for the sole purpose of cutting our food bill) or trying to get my hands on expired grocery items the store is throwing out (dumpster diving).  Both of those could make a decent dent in your food costs if you're willing and able.

Good for you on the chickens and vegetables.  Is there a chance your kids eat an abnormally large amount of food, even for teenagers?  That could also be a factor.

swick

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2884
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2016, 08:37:33 AM »
*waves from the Kootenay's*

I think a contributing factor might be lack of shopping options in your area. I've been to the Save-on, if that is your only option, I can see how things add up! A run into the city every month or two might bet some real savings.  (I use to live in Northern BC, it was the only way to make it possible)

You are also in a pretty good area for farming/bartering, have you had a chance to make friends with your neighbours?  Do you, or maybe the kids? have any skills/labour you could trade for some other forms of protein or other food stuffs your neighbours might be growing?

Do you have any allergies or food issues in your family that would disallow using more beans/grains?

It might be worth it to find out if there is a local buying co-op or where your neighbours get their bulk ingredients from. I get a fair amount of stuff from www.omfoods.com Even with shipping, it use to be worth it to order vs buying in store.
 There might be something more local to you as well.

Honestly, for the area and the number of mouths you have to feed and the area, your grocery budget doesn't seem that out of wack.  It seems like you need to do the fine tuning and see where your money is going. It helps to estimate the yearly expense of the items you use a lot. That is an easy way to see if it is worth it to you. 

Another idea, anyone in your family interested in taking up hunting?

Retire-Canada

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6752
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #3 on: February 01, 2016, 08:50:59 AM »
Any other Canadians have numbers to share/compare?

2 sporty adults [eat probably 1.5 times amount that of sedentary people] in Victoria + a cat that eats premium food & litter = $800/month last year on average. We are looking like $700/month in Jan 2016 and I'm hoping to hit $600/month for the year.

I know I can go below $600/month, but as a full-time working person with the desire to do more outdoors recreaction in their free time I am only willing to spend a limited amount of my non-working time optimizing food costs. As I downshift to part-time and then to full-FIRE I expect I'll be able to keep reducing food costs by trading time once I have lots of free time.

I should note these costs include all items bought at grocery store which include:

- cleaning supplies
- batteries
- toiletries
- TP & paper towels
- laundry supplies
- food
- cat supplies
« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 09:17:44 AM by Retire-Canada »

Zikoris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3487
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Vancouver, BC
  • Vancouverstachian
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2016, 09:04:15 AM »
What the heck are you guys eating? I'm trying to picture what someone would buy that could possibly cost so much. Daily steak and salmon, in addition to a bowl of breakfast caviar? Or does the amount include paying a chef to cook for you?

We're a Vancouver couple who spends $230/month, and a chunk of that is toilet paper and cleaning supplies. And that's without doing anything that's any sort of work, like couponing or price matching or whatever. I think anything over $300 for a couple is spendy. Over $400 is insane unless you live in the arctic.

snacky

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9613
  • Location: Hoth
  • Forum Dignitary
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2016, 09:10:18 AM »
the rising cost of food is just killing me. my food costs, in spite of my best efforts and a reduction in meat & fresh foods, has gone way up. I think that comparing budgets with an American family is just not realistic.

also beans. eat more beans.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 10774
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2016, 09:13:02 AM »
another pair of "sporty adults" (to borrow Retire-Canada's term) here.  Lately prices for many things have skyrocketted as the loonie has moved lower against the $USD.  STill, we're managing to keep our food budget under $400 following most of the strategies okits mentioned, especially the "waste nothing, buy in bulk, inexpensive options and DIY".

I'll add one more - we actively seek out super low-cost meals and make them in bulk (for example: we might make enough for two dinners + two lunches for each of us).  Our latest was a homemade pasta with a tomato-vodka-cream sauce.  Estimated we spent about $7 for 8 servings.  Homemade pizza is another favorite, and it costs ~$0.40 in dough, $1 in sauce (canned tomatoes simmered down with a bit of spices), $2 in cheese and $1-2 in assorted toppings. Curries can be delicious and cheap with frozen veggies, a can of coconut milk, curry powder and rice.  We bake bread continuously (~$0.50/loaf vs $3-4 for store bought with preservatives).  Pancakes, waffles etc are cheap breakfast options, as is cereal. 

While tedious, if you calculate what each meal costs per person you'll quickly figure out which meals are both tasty and cheap, and which ones wind up breaking the budget.  Often you find out that the expensive options cost more not because they taste better, but because they have specialty or high-cost ingredients, and/or the 'convienience factor'. 

Google "family meals under $10" and you'll find some spectacular recipes. 

When comparing numbers against MMM don't forget that $1USD = $1.40CAD right now.  You can't compare costs 1:1.

swick

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2884
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2016, 09:13:49 AM »
I also read an article on CBC yesterday that said that the price for CDN grown carrots has risen over 18% in the past two weeks. I think we'll all have to get creative!

Retire-Canada

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6752
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2016, 09:20:33 AM »
What the heck are you guys eating? I'm trying to picture what someone would buy that could possibly cost so much. Daily steak and salmon, in addition to a bowl of breakfast caviar? Or does the amount include paying a chef to cook for you?

My numbers include everything that comes from the grocery store not just food. Nothing would motivate me to go through grocery store receipts line by line to break out just food so that's as accurate as I can get.

We definitely eat more quantity that normal in direct relation to hours of exercise we do. We also feed our cat high end food.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14042
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2016, 09:21:15 AM »
Eat more processed food (usually quite cheap per calorie, so you can save a lot of money without really sacrificing health in a meaningful way), and stop buying organic.

MustachianPhD

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2016, 09:46:11 AM »
We also find groceries unbelievably expensive - and we don't incorporate very much organic. Our family consists of two adults and a toddler, and we spend at least $800/month. This includes all things that are sold at a grocery store like toilet paper, cleaning products, etc. We buy most items at the ethnic grocery stores where prices are lower, but we still can't get our costs down. We eat meat fewer than 5 times a month, relying mostly on beans for our protein (dried beans, even cheaper than canned beans).

We do eat huge amounts of fresh vegetables and fruit, though, and this is where it gets very difficult to keep costs down. $3 for a cucumber some weeks, which the three of us can easily eat in one sitting. It's crazy! Anything healthy, like nuts and avocado, just costs a fortune.

I've only been to the USA twice, but each time I was floored by how much cheaper food is down there.

Retire-Canada

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6752
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2016, 09:50:34 AM »
Eat more processed food (usually quite cheap per calorie, so you can save a lot of money without really sacrificing health in a meaningful way), and stop buying organic.

I don't need everything to be organic, but I won't eat processed foods to save money. If you really think that's a smart move for your health I would suggest re-evaluating what's in factory food products.

If you said eat bulk beans, rice, pasta and lentils to get cheaper calories that would be sensible.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 10774
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2016, 10:06:40 AM »
Eat more processed food (usually quite cheap per calorie, so you can save a lot of money without really sacrificing health in a meaningful way), and stop buying organic.
I'm confused by this too.  We build many of our meals around root veggies and frozen veggies (many we freeze up ourselves), rice, dried beans, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, steel-cut oats and a couple other pantry staples. 

when I think "processed food" I think of things like twinkies and "shelf-stable" foodstuffs that typically have a lot of sodium and preservatives in them.  IME those things also tend to be more expensive.  So...I'm guessing we are defining things a bit differently?


jambongris

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 234
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2016, 10:08:58 AM »
In 2015, with two adults and a toddler, we average $533 a month on groceries (this does not include toiletries or cleaning supplies). That figure includes plenty of unnecessary and non-frugal indulgences so I'm sure we could have been well below $500 if we tried harder.

GuitarStv

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 14042
  • Age: 38
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2016, 10:12:49 AM »
Eat more processed food (usually quite cheap per calorie, so you can save a lot of money without really sacrificing health in a meaningful way), and stop buying organic.
I'm confused by this too.  We build many of our meals around root veggies and frozen veggies (many we freeze up ourselves), rice, dried beans, canned tomatoes, coconut milk, steel-cut oats and a couple other pantry staples. 

when I think "processed food" I think of things like twinkies and "shelf-stable" foodstuffs that typically have a lot of sodium and preservatives in them.  IME those things also tend to be more expensive.  So...I'm guessing we are defining things a bit differently?

I was thinking more along the lines of prepared grains and bread . . . which are processed.  Not so much the twinkies.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 10774
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2016, 10:17:32 AM »

I was thinking more along the lines of prepared grains and bread . . . which are processed.  Not so much the twinkies.
Gotcha.  Yes, prepared grains and bread undergo processing, and are a core part of our meals (especially our home-baked bread)
As is often the case, disagreements frequently arise when two sides simply don't agree with the terminology.

Retire-Canada

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6752
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2016, 10:19:40 AM »
I was thinking more along the lines of prepared grains and bread . . . which are processed.  Not so much the twinkies.

Got it. That wasn't clear to me.

Kaspian

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1536
  • Location: Canada
    • My Necronomicon of Badassity
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2016, 10:30:12 AM »
I think you're doing about as well as can be expected in the grocery category, to tell the truth.  I spend on average $190-210 on groceries for ONE person while shopping at the "cheap" (Food Basics) grocery store.  I eat relatively healthy as well.  Make stews, spaghetti sauces, tacos, soups, etc., go a little futher by adding a small handful of red lentils or rice.

I'm also aware (according to some charts) that the area I live in Northern Ontario has possibly the highest grocery cost in all of North America.  :(

Cookie78

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1893
  • Location: Canada
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2016, 10:43:06 AM »
Last year my food (including restaurants and hunting tags) expenses were on average $150/month. Throughout the year I worked successfully on decreasing it. I didn't buy ANY groceries or eat at any restaurants between Sept 20 and Jan 10.  I'm hoping this year I can average $75/month.

Things that helped:
Hunting
Gardening
My dad's garden
Spending Christmas at my mom's
Making do with what is in the cupboards

TravelJunkyQC

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 467
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Québec City, Canada
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2016, 10:47:58 AM »
Also contributing as part of a two-sporty-adult household. We average 500$ a month, although this includes all toilettries and medication (when applicable), alcohol, and eating out (on the rare occasions it happens). I'm guessing in terms of pure grocery food, we're around 400$ a month - and my partner is a 6 foot 2, hardcore carnivore that will tolerate vegetarian meals maybe once a week (he gets hungry after 30 minutes if he eats tofu). Luckily, he comes from a family of fisherman and hunters, so we occasionally get some cheap/free protein.

Costco runs every two months, Super C and a bulk-buy fruits and vegetable store for weekly runs. Tofu/bean-meat 50-50 mixes, very small meat portions for me, and an abundance of rice, fish and salad make for reasonable expenditures. And although I don't coupon, I comparison shop quite agressively (luckily, the three stores can easily be hit in one outing as they are within 2 km of eachother).

Jon_Snow

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3137
  • Location: An Island in the Salish Sea (or Baja)
  • In Baja....there is no kale.
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2016, 11:10:22 AM »
It has taken a bit of doing, but I've got our grocery bill averaging around $300 most months.. I find that with ample time (FIRE'd) to shop strategically and to stock our pantry to the brim with such frugal staples and meal building blocks as brown rice, lentils, chick peas etc I find myself mostly hitting the store for protein sources and fresh fruits and veggies. Stocking up on heavily discounted items, something I never did before, is now an essential strategy.

In the summer months most of our protein is from what we obtain from the sea, and tons of vegetables from our garden. I know last year, we averaged around $100 from the grocery store in the months of July and August. That was a wonderful eye-opener.


GreenQueen

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 79
  • Location: Up North
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2016, 11:18:18 AM »
I moved to Montreal from California, and food prices here, as well as scarcity of organic and bulk options, remain a struggle for me.

How we save the most money: crockpot and bulk dried beans. For the colder months, we typically make two massive stews, soups, etc in the crockpot per week and eat them until they're gone. Having delicious, healthy food always ready to heat and eat avoids superfluous shopping trips. Dried beans can be soaked overnight and cooked in the crockpot...great for hummus, salad toppers, and the above-mentioned stews.

We still spend a bit too much on groceries but this has helped a lot.

everinprogress

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 47
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2016, 11:28:59 AM »
Working on keeping it down, but currently spending about 700-800 a month, including groceries and personal care items, for two adults and a toddler, and a baby who doesn't eat anything yet, but gets vitamin D, occasional tylenol, creams ect. Not looking forward to when the little guys are teenages, their dad has a crazy metabolism and eats more than most people without gaining weight, even when not especially active. When DH is more active, he is probably close to eating for two. We do tend to have friends over rather than go out to eat, and this brings our numbers up a bit, but is still cheaper than going out, and way easier with the kids

EarthshipSandra

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Darfield, BC Canada
    • The Darfield Earthship
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2016, 11:32:48 AM »
Thanks for the replies...

We are one hour drive from Kamloops so we have access to Costco, Superstore, Safeway, Save On, etc. However, my cost analysis was generally that Costco (with planning and in bulk) is our best option. This factors in the impossibility of me hitting more than two stores (generally Costco and Superstore if I need something not available at Costco). I'm usually doing client work on these trips so don't have time for more than two store stops generally at the end of the day. I once tried the strategy of finding loss leaders at all the stores and trying to shop and menu plan that way, but it was a bust, since a lot of loss leaders were either processed or out of stock by the time I hit the store, never mind the store-hopping, which actually does cost me fuel as it makes no sense to switch over to waste veggie oil for store hopping.

In terms of processed food...we will not compromise on this. Our youngest daughter is the most health conscious of us all and we have been long advocates of the 5 ingredient rule and the "if-I-can't-pronounce-it-I-don't-eat-it".  It's not as hard as one might think since we are all relatively happy to spend time cooking whole foods.  We live in a ranching area so in the past have traded for meats...but beef skyrocketed the last year and we have limited ourselves to our own chickens and to vegetarian meals. We are a mostly gluten-free household so very little in the way of processed carbs (the bread/grains). We haven't purchased boxed cereals in 18 years...oatmeal and grain-like breakfasts...as well as eggs from the neighbours.  My son was a hunter but last year decided he'd had enough.  We are almost fully sugar free (added sugar) in the house so no expensive, sweet treats.

We have a perennial food forest and annual food production areas on our property...we are in Phase one of Zone One of our permaculture plan. We mostly eat from the front yard (in terms of veggies) from June to September. My plan this spring is to target more of the veggies we end up buying over winter and make sure we plant more of those.

We are conscious of waste...has anybody seen the documentary "Just Eat It? A food Waste Story"? by Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer...streams free on Knowledge Network. They are acquaintances of ours through our mutual interests in re-use/recylcing (they also made a doc called The Clean Bin Project and we live in a house made out of recycled materials so that's how we met). I have been toying with a foray into dumpster diving based on my conversations with Grant and Jenny...really worth a watch...they are pretty funny, too so it's an entertaining documentary.

Long winded way of saying that while we could be better with food waste, we are probably better than most.

Only cleaning supplies I use are water and vinegar...the odd "bad" chemical cleaner for something drastic but maybe once in 2 or three years. We do buy toilet paper, but that is not part of the grocery bill.  All other "household" items are outside of the grocery itemization into their own categories.

I'm heartened that a few of you don't find it totally out of whack, although I do think we could do better.  Our teens are 15,16,17 and our son is the 16 year old.  My husband is a triathlete but I don't find he eats more than our son. I am very active as well, but I would say I don't eat more than normal as I tend toward weight gain so I'm pretty careful to keep things reasonable.  We're essentially $227.60 each a month for groceries and a few of you seem to be at that spot too.

I'm suspicious that when we take a micro look at our grocery expenses we will see we are spending more on out of season veggies and fruit. I do can and dry a lot, but we like the variety that fresh fruit and vegetables bring to our diet. And my kids munch like crazy on veggies, especially the girls.  Although we stick to our home-grown chicken for protein, I have just recently started to lean toward more beans (again)...we are big humous consumers (homemade) but I've just recently gone back to rehydrating chickpeas again instead of the more convenient (and expensive) canned version.  I'm making more bean soups and we are going to add another one or two vegetarian options to the week.

If we buckle down and pay attention (some more) to all areas all of you have pointed out, I bet we could reduce further. While I THINK we are pretty good in most areas, I've found that if I actually say, "what if I'm not doing as well as I think I am?" that I find some more room....hence the micro look at the bills. Will post more when I have some results. Thanks again.

TrMama

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3022
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2016, 11:57:18 AM »

We eat about a 50% organic diet and almost no processed food. We average $1138 per month for a family of five (with three teenagers). That does not include the amount we grow and raise (both veggies and chicken).

We keep harping back to the $3,855 (from what I recall)  annual bill for the MMM family of 3 and have silently (and separately) been wracking our brains about how to do this...or even how to come close to doing this in Canada.

Our 1138 monthly bill for five people equals $13,656 per year, or $2,731.20 per person per year. MMM's number is $1285 per person per year (2011 numbers). Ours is more than double!  (And that doesn't count the 75 chickens we raise organically to put in the freezer every year, nor the 1,000 pounds of produce that goes in the freezer and canning shelves.)

There are a couple of big problems with the comparisons you're trying to make.

1. You're comparing 2015 costs to 2011 costs. There's been inflation over those 4 years. I'm sure even MMM is spending more on food than in 2011.

2. I'm pretty sure MMM doesn't buy much organic food. If he did, I'm sure his bill would be higher.

3. US food prices do not compare to Canadian food prices. It's apples and oranges (pun intended).

4. MMM lives in a fairly densely populated area with grocery competition. You live in a small, remote town with little competition.

Frankly, given all the factors working against you, I think you're doing just fine at $1100/mo. We've spent $600/mo for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids, although DH often eats at work, which helps the grocery bill. I'm expecting our grocery costs to skyrocket this year since my youngest has been diagnosed with a whack of food allergies, plus the increased produce costs due to the low dollar.

Retire-Canada

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6752
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #25 on: February 01, 2016, 12:06:29 PM »

2. I'm pretty sure MMM doesn't buy much organic food. If he did, I'm sure his bill would be higher.

I don't know how strict the MMM family are, but there are numerous anecdotal references to eating organic food items in the blog.

nereo

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 10774
  • Location: Just south of Canada
    • Here's how you can support science today:
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #26 on: February 01, 2016, 12:12:26 PM »

2. I'm pretty sure MMM doesn't buy much organic food. If he did, I'm sure his bill would be higher.

I don't know how strict the MMM family are, but there are numerous anecdotal references to eating organic food items in the blog.
Yup.  Here's a blurb from Mrs. MM's blog (which she doesn't seem to post much on):
Quote
We don’t buy everything organic all the time, as you can see.  Our son eats mostly organic food though.  We also purchase food (like almonds and coffee) in bulk at Costco.  Finally, we have friends that purchase large amount of organic grass fed beef as well as organic eggs from local farmers, so we buy from them when they have things in stock.

so - not everything organic, but certainly a fair bit.

daverobev

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3376
  • Location: France
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #27 on: February 01, 2016, 12:43:46 PM »
Organic is horrendously expensive in Canada, that's just the way it is - coming from the UK it was a shock.

Compare our local No Frills to Metro, No Frills doesn't really do organic at all. Metro is the "nicer" supermarket - and pretty much everything is 20% more expensive than No Frills to begin with, and organic has another 30% premium over that.

For example, a box of "Cream of Wheat" is $3 at No Frills, $4 at Metro.

Every so often I go to a larger No Frills, where you can get organic for a lot more products than at my local one - but even so, organic bananas are $1/lb vs 60c/lb for non.

This is a low population density, huge, inclement country. The CBC said something like 80% of Canada's food is imported!!

Eat neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes, in Scottish) through the winter - grow them yourself - eat seasonally. Eat lentils and cabbage.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6865
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #28 on: February 01, 2016, 01:25:17 PM »
the rising cost of food is just killing me. my food costs, in spite of my best efforts and a reduction in meat & fresh foods, has gone way up. I think that comparing budgets with an American family is just not realistic.

also beans. eat more beans.
Not just Americans.  I mean, even within the US costs vary widely.

# of mouths to feed (and the teenager-ness) of them
location
particular diet eaten (meat vs beans vs bread vs low carb vs allergeis)

These three things heavily impact your costs.  I shop around a LOT.  I came out at about $425 in Jan (family of 4, and my boys get lunch at school/daycare, that's not included), but that required 19 different grocery stops.  (Not 19 different stores, 19 different stops at various stores).  This is to get the best prices.

So that needs to be factored in also. Some people "shop around" and others SHOP AROUND.  I can shop around on my lunch break at work.

I watched "Just Eat It" (I'm in California so I paid to rent it), great movie.

I believe MMM's food costs for 2014 were around $7k.
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/01/16/exposed-the-mmm-familys-2014-spending/
« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 01:32:35 PM by mm1970 »

elaine amj

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3116
  • Location: Ontario
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #29 on: February 01, 2016, 02:07:49 PM »
@EarthshipSandra Superstore price matches - and mine has been price matching from my flyer app on my smartphone. We used to spend about $10-$20 a month there. Now it is more like $40-$50 a week.

We've downloaded reebee, a flyer app. It has helped SO much! I also have learned to menu plan around the sales each week. This has made the most difference e.g. Last week zucchini was expensive, so we didn't buy any despite my current zucchini obsession. This week, I found zucchini on sale in an ethnic market, so we bought some.

When I shop in the US, I use flipp (they are also good in Canada, but do not cover one of my regular stores). When I searched last Saturday, I was excited to see chicken thighs on sale for US$0.59/lb at Aldi's. I kept scrolling though, and found it for $0.39 at a small local chain.

We are 2 adults, 2 teens (who don't eat that much yet though) and currently average about CDN$600/month. Including all lunches (eating out about 1-2x a month). Trying very hard to get it down to $500/month. I think that is doable - if I can control my impulse to stock up whenever there is a deal. The problem I am having is that now that I am looking, there is ALWAYS an awesome deal somewhere.

Also, local meat markets often have the best prices on meat. e.g. my local meat market typically has ground meat for $3.99-$4.99/lb. But about every other week, one type of ground meat will be on sale for $1.99/lb. I've been stocking up whenever I see meat at $1.99/lb or less. I rarely buy meat from Food Basics/Freshco anymore because their prices rarely compare.

I am also doing stuff now like reducing food waste (putting tiny amounts into the freezer whereas before I would have tossed them out. EVERYTHING gets labeled with masking tape LOL! I will also make my own if it's cheaper. I make my own yogurt now (thanks Instant Pot) and it will save me 50% - when comparing to store bought on sale. I tried my own granola - but supplies from Bulk Barn were pricey and the taste was only ok. I am going back to store bought after I finish the batch I made.

All that said, we don't eat organic - and I know that makes a big difference in costs.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2016, 02:13:36 PM by elaine amj »

Rightflyer

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 380
  • Location: Cotswolds
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #30 on: February 01, 2016, 02:45:42 PM »
Two active adults here. We averaged $350 a month in 2015. That's only food...no other supplies or booze. We do eat well with some sort of animal protein every night and lobster/seafood/steak etc whenever we desire (usually steak once a week and lobster/seafood every weekend when in season.)

Our food budget reduction tactics:
 
1) Price matching at No Frills
2) Buying in season
3) Filling the freezer during sales
4) Growing a large vegetable garden
5) Preserving (canning, freezing etc)
6) Bartering/selling excess produce
7) Being highly flexible and trying new things (What?... Nigerian swamp beans are 10 cents a pound! Get 50 lbs. We'll figure our what to do with them later!)

Our most effective saving strategy though would be defined by what we don't buy. (Pop, snacks, bread, processed items, prepared meals, frozen meals etc).

Hope that helps.




backyardfeast

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 899
  • Location: Vancouver Island, BC
    • My journal
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #31 on: February 01, 2016, 03:25:54 PM »
Hi, OP, from another foodie homesteader in BC!

We produce a lot of our own fruits and veggies and keep chicken for meat and eggs as well.  For 2 of us, I think we average $250-350/mo in luxurious groceries, and then maybe another $100/mo at Costco, and then we also probably spend another $400-500/year in bulk food supplies (salmon that we freeze, a friend's canned fresh and smoked tuna, beans and other pantry supplies).  So I think you are correct, that $225 or so per person per month  for active adults and teens is actually not bad.  Zikoris and others who are getting closer to $150 per person are usually in larger cities with a wide variety of cheaper shopping options like ethnic grocery stores.

I would say, though, that in my experience, there are still things we can do to *optimize* our spending, but at this stage, it's really about optimizing what you're eating to match your desired spending goals.  To bring grocery costs down, we all really only have a few options:  1) grow/produce more of the food you eat; 2) spend less per item for the food you're already eating; 3) eat foods that cost less.

It sounds like you've probably optimized #2 for your options and lifestyle.  So that leaves 1 and 2.  My suggestion would be to really make sure you are eating the food you have produced and are producing the food that you're going to eat.  About this time each year, for instance, Erica at NWEdible (she's on these forums and also has a great website if you google) does an "eat down your larder" challenge to clear out the stores from last season and get ready for the season to come.  I know intellectually that I could live happily on our stores and garden for months at a time if I had to...but I know I don't have to, so off to the store for that avocado and lettuce I go! :)  It can be useful to really force yourself to eat out of the pantry and freezer and find recipes that work for the ingredients you have, if only for a month or two.

Next, it was incredibly helpful to me to take stock of what we are actually eating over the course of a week (including snacks, drinks and all meals), and price those out.  This really helped me to see that our meal costs varied widely, from almost free to really expensive.  Now I'm in a much better position to make sure that we eat more of the cheap meals and fewer of the expensive ones.  It also showed me just how much we would save, for instance, if we started making our own bread again or whether I should find a cheaper substitute for x ingredient.

Do investigate big bulk buying, too, as someone else suggested.  We have a bulk foods store in our area that lets customers piggy back on there wholesale order once each year.  We've bought grains, beans, nuts, etc through them at huge discounts in multi-year quantities.  We keep these in airtight buckets and won't have to replace them for some time.  The key, though, is to buy those things that you know that you'll go through--nothing worse than having emergency foods that you never eat!

The last thing to do when you take stock of what you're actually eating is to re-plan your garden with those foods in mind.  After a number of years at this, I still tweak regularly, of course.  But this is the data you need to decide that yes, it is worth buying a dehydrator to dry apples for snacks so you don't have to buy dried cranberries for the winter, or how many pints of tomato sauce need to be put up each year.  The more you are conscious of your food production and storage as the major planning of your food supply, the better.  Sharon Astyk's book, Independence Days, is quite good for tips on this, if you haven't read her stuff already.

Having done these things, the biggest gain we have gotten is that we simply are hardly in grocery stores, and this has removed a huge amount of our impulse buying, which was a big weakness.

All that said, even having done all these things, we still spend pretty close to what you are! :)  And that is ok with us.  We know that we are living an incredibly luxurious food life, and we are totally ok with that.  BUT, we also now understand that this is luxury, and there are many things we could cut and still have happy, healthy diets.  I think all families should get to a balance that is right for them, but it's really nice to know you are making the conscious choice to spend a little more, rather than just always feeling inadequate for staying on budget.

Good luck!

JAYSLOL

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1219
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #32 on: February 01, 2016, 04:02:36 PM »
Hello from the Okanagan!  We tracked spending all last year and averaged around $675 a month for two active adults and a toddler (also includes some cleaning supplies, baby stuff, maybe $50/month).  Even though food prices are on the rise, we are on track to keep to under $600/month this year by buying a little smarter.  We shop pretty much exclusively at Superstore (and Costco once a month or so).  I can imagine it is much harder with the size of your family and living in your area with a lack of large grocery store chains competing.  Do you run into Kamloops often?  We have had some luck growing food in the last few years and will try to keep increasing what we grow to decrease our costs as much as we can.

CanuckStache

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 110
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #33 on: February 01, 2016, 04:20:41 PM »
Hi From Vancouver Island -

The price of food is definitely gone up. Our local "Thrifty Foods" (anything but thrifty!) has gotten to be quite pricey.

That being said, some creativity goes a long way. For example - I bought a whole frozen wild sockeye salmon the other day for about $15. Full salmon - meaning yes it had bones, and fins, etc.

I cut off the fins and 'undesirable' bits and set them aside in the fridge. Then, I took stuffed the salmon with rice, mushrooms, and onions. BBQ'd and served at a small dinner party we had - 7 adults total.

That salmon, combined with a couple side dishes (nothing fancy...a salad, and quinoa) managed to feed all 7 people no problem.

And we only ate one side of the salmon! So we basically had a whole salmon fillet leftover. What I did was remove the meat, and then took all the bones, fins, etc and made a stock, which I then turned into a chowder.

That fed 3 more adults another two full meals - and was freaking fantastic.

I loosely based it on this recipe:
http://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/chowder-means-salmon-in-our-neck-of-the-woods/

I added a couple can's of corn, and basically made it a double batch. So good.

So for say $20 or so ($15 for the fish, $5 for filler for chowder) we got a LOT of mileage out of that - and it was all super delicious.

EarthshipSandra

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Darfield, BC Canada
    • The Darfield Earthship
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #34 on: February 01, 2016, 04:31:09 PM »

There are a couple of big problems with the comparisons you're trying to make.

1. You're comparing 2015 costs to 2011 costs. There's been inflation over those 4 years. I'm sure even MMM is spending more on food than in 2011.

2. I'm pretty sure MMM doesn't buy much organic food. If he did, I'm sure his bill would be higher.

3. US food prices do not compare to Canadian food prices. It's apples and oranges (pun intended).

4. MMM lives in a fairly densely populated area with grocery competition. You live in a small, remote town with little competition.

Frankly, given all the factors working against you, I think you're doing just fine at $1100/mo. We've spent $600/mo for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids, although DH often eats at work, which helps the grocery bill. I'm expecting our grocery costs to skyrocket this year since my youngest has been diagnosed with a whack of food allergies, plus the increased produce costs due to the low dollar.

Yes, I do note the year discrepancy for sure. MMM's first discussion of food was early in the blog in 2011 which is where I pulled his numbers from. As for organic, MMM and family does eat fairly organically. I think I read that Mrs. MMM has some dietary restrictions and I thought I noted that they do buy a lot of organic and gluten free food items. As for the differences US/Canada...yup, lived in San Francisco for a year...there is definitely a difference. I shop in a city of 100,000 so we do get quite a good selection. Nothing like when I lived in Toronto...we lived close to Kensington Market...truly a wonderful place to shop!  I think as you've noted though...that many of these things do get stacked up and make it harder...I'm determined to bring it down, though!  I'm hoping there is more discussion on his blog about food as I'm only through to July 2011 and there are many years to catch up on!

TrMama

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3022
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #35 on: February 01, 2016, 04:59:38 PM »

There are a couple of big problems with the comparisons you're trying to make.

1. You're comparing 2015 costs to 2011 costs. There's been inflation over those 4 years. I'm sure even MMM is spending more on food than in 2011.

2. I'm pretty sure MMM doesn't buy much organic food. If he did, I'm sure his bill would be higher.

3. US food prices do not compare to Canadian food prices. It's apples and oranges (pun intended).

4. MMM lives in a fairly densely populated area with grocery competition. You live in a small, remote town with little competition.

Frankly, given all the factors working against you, I think you're doing just fine at $1100/mo. We've spent $600/mo for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids, although DH often eats at work, which helps the grocery bill. I'm expecting our grocery costs to skyrocket this year since my youngest has been diagnosed with a whack of food allergies, plus the increased produce costs due to the low dollar.

Yes, I do note the year discrepancy for sure. MMM's first discussion of food was early in the blog in 2011 which is where I pulled his numbers from. As for organic, MMM and family does eat fairly organically. I think I read that Mrs. MMM has some dietary restrictions and I thought I noted that they do buy a lot of organic and gluten free food items. As for the differences US/Canada...yup, lived in San Francisco for a year...there is definitely a difference. I shop in a city of 100,000 so we do get quite a good selection. Nothing like when I lived in Toronto...we lived close to Kensington Market...truly a wonderful place to shop!  I think as you've noted though...that many of these things do get stacked up and make it harder...I'm determined to bring it down, though!  I'm hoping there is more discussion on his blog about food as I'm only through to July 2011 and there are many years to catch up on!

So it seems I was wrong about the organics. Thanks to everyone for pointing that out.

*Spoiler* If you skip ahead to the link mm1970 posted, you'll see the MMM family spent $6984 and $6593 on food in 2013 and 2014, respectively. That comes out to $2566 and $2197 per person per year on food. Not too far from where you are now. *

KMMK

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1472
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Edmonton, AB, Canada
    • Meena Kestirke Insurance
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #36 on: February 01, 2016, 07:36:46 PM »
Hi Sandra! I remember you from the SL forums. I loved learning about your earthship.

I'm currently in Yellowknife and my partner and I spend around $600-700 together on grocery store food. However, we aren't that budget conscious; we buy what we want. He eats a lot of meat, we both eat a lot of fresh fruit, and me a lot of fresh vegetables. In Winnipeg when I was single I could get away with $200 a month. But I find I'm spendier when in a relationship - it makes me more likely to buy fancier treat food, and influence each other to spend more money. We only eat out about once a month as restaurants here seem quite a bit more expensive than grocery stores (relative to Winnipeg). The fanciest home-cooked meal is still a lot cheaper than eating out.

I wish I could do more gardening, but that's not going to happen this year. Hopefully in the future. (There was a recent post on my FB feed about growing microgreens indoors, which I'd love to do once I move into a more permanent house.) I would not mind at all if my boyfriend wanted to do some hunting to reduce his food costs. I think we should learn how to fish. I'm pescatarian and fish is insanely expensive here; I don't eat that much.

So I look at your $200 per person and that seems reasonable to me. Of course it depends on the big picture - if you have other lower expenses and are saving enough money and are eating healthy I think those are the important things.

MMMdude

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 322
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #37 on: February 01, 2016, 10:33:46 PM »
Just some random thoughts

-In my opinion organic is not worth it in either taste or health benefits
-Ditch Costco.  I've been tracking  my costs for over 10 years and noticed a huge reduction when we ditched our Costco membership
-Try to shop mainly at Loblaws/No Frills/Superstore (all the same company).  I have found they are consistently the lowest priced in Western Canada.  Make sure to sign up for PC Points.  Also we can usually snag something at 50% off at No Frills for stuff expiring in a day or two
-Download Flipp ap on your phone.  Has every single flyer updated daily.  It's easy to see when a recurring thing goes on sale and then time to stock up
-Really know your prices for everything.  If chicken isn't on sale that week, buy the ground beef that is or whatever.  Example near me is bread on sale at bakery for $1.67 per loaf all the time - can't beat that price anywhere so worth the stop on the way home from work
 

Stashing Swiss-style

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 413
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #38 on: February 02, 2016, 05:32:17 AM »
I think you're grocery bill is pretty OK (teenagers can eat!!!) - you eat really well and good, healthy food is worth spending money on.  I live in Switzerland where food is really expensive, but I was surprised how expensive Canada can be (we spent 3 weeks in Montreal last summer).  I have reduced our grocery bill a lot by simply buying less of everything - when we run out of apples, we eat pears, when we run out of tomatoes, we eat something else!  I realised that I was spending a lot of money because I always had a bit of everything - it's not necessary.  I look at the total number of meals I'm providing (eg 6 breakfasts 7 times per week, 6 dinners 7 times per week, x number of lunches etc) and divide my bill by the # of meals (try it, it might make you feel better!)   I take a packed lunch to work and I encourage the kids to take picnics to school (the school provides an excellent hot meal every day but at CHF8.5 per meal, it's expensive). 

EcoCanuck

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 39
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #39 on: February 02, 2016, 06:49:58 AM »
Lived in TO for a few years. Our strategy for 2 people (pre-MMM) was the following:
Budget of $500.
Mix of processed and fresh.
Worked sales as hard as we could.

Points:
We shopped at two locations (due to location/convenience): Shoppers (processed) and Metro (fresh). We would bulk buy processed items at shoppers (coffee, soup, mixes, pop, etc) during their 3x points events (or whatever they had) and then we would use those points during the increase value points cash in times and these would typically happen every 3-6 week cycles. We purchased everything with our Air Miles credit card so we would get points at shoppers as well as points for Air Miles. Air Miles would also then send us "bonus points" for items that we regularly purchased at Metro - we would only use these for our staples and if there was a sale as well and avoided the desire to "earn more points" if it didn't save us money. We used our CC for all the purchases that we could and then cashed in the Air Miles at Metro for $25/$50 gift cards. We probably chopped off $75-$125/m off of our grocery bill with this strategy.

We were also willing to try different food, recipes, etc depending on what we were able to get on sale.

Good luck!

Kaspian

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1536
  • Location: Canada
    • My Necronomicon of Badassity
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #40 on: February 02, 2016, 10:26:17 AM »
we have been long advocates of the 5 ingredient rule and the "if-I-can't-pronounce-it-I-don't-eat-it".

Hahaha..  This rule has always confused me.  So, following the logic, scientists can eat just about any old crap and they'll be fine?  Just because one can't pronounce something, doesn't means it's unhealthy.  I never know how to say "açaí berry".

Retire-Canada

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6752
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #41 on: February 02, 2016, 10:44:56 AM »

Stasher

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2014
  • Age: 45
  • Location: Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island
  • Power through Positivity
    • Mindful Explorer
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #42 on: February 02, 2016, 03:45:58 PM »
My numbers include everything that comes from the grocery store not just food. Nothing would motivate me to go through grocery store receipts line by line to break out just food so that's as accurate as I can get.

We definitely eat more quantity that normal in direct relation to hours of exercise we do. We also feed our cat high end food.

I'm bang on with RC and also with his budget

$700 per month
Family of 4 and we are extremely active = I eat a bunch :)
2 adults
2 teens
1 cat
1 dog
I put everything under the Food:Groceries category in Mint because I can't be bothered to just sort out food from everything from Walmart to CrappyTire to the grocery store. The only thing that we don't include in our monthly number here is anything from Rexal or Pharmasave as I drop that in the "Pharmacy" category on mint.

The SINGLE biggest way to save money is limit your meat purchases. We basically buy ZERO red meat and that saves us so much money. We limit chicken and very little pork (only ham roasts) , occasional fish. We use quinoa, lentils, beans and tuna in the majority of our recipes that are cheap alternatives while tasting great. I buy the huge bags (10kg) of Jasmine rice and use that as our base for pretty much everything.

We don't buy any junk food and have zero pop or drinks in the house, coffee and teas for me (I do enjoy Strongbow ciders though) . The luxury item is Almond milk for the wife and Soy milk for my daughter. We only buy milk for cooking and the kids cereal , of which I swear corn pops is my #1 expense but they are teens and are bottomless pits. All our treats are from baking natural sugar free gluten free muffins and squares as well as energy balls/squares.


Jon_Snow

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3137
  • Location: An Island in the Salish Sea (or Baja)
  • In Baja....there is no kale.
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #43 on: February 02, 2016, 08:58:13 PM »
It was 10% off day at Safeway today so I walked over to do some shopping, the first grocery trip of the month. A helpful strategy to avoid buying too much in a single trip is to WALK. It forces you to buy only as much as you can carry home...for me, this is around $80 worth. This SHOULD last us till the middle of the month. I have plans to make some big batches of soup which lasts us a while, even when I freeze half of it....we eat a lot of fruits and veggies (which are still comparatively cheap, and the $7 cauliflower heads seem to be gone) and I get most of my protein from whey powder, which I buy in bulk, large quantities...so we don't buy much meat at all, except for chicken on occasion...very little red meat. The real key for us is to have a pantry full of (mostly dried) staples that provide the basis for so many great, healthy meals. And there is only two of us. :)

Looking at the month ahead, I'd say a stretch goal might be $250 in groceries. I am finding that now with the TIME to plan meals and shop strategically...well, it has made a massive difference in our food budget.

WakaG

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 4
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #44 on: February 03, 2016, 03:38:46 PM »
Another hello from the Okanagan! I was going to ask if you were shopping at the smaller places (Littlefort/Barrier) but you do make the drive to Costco so...

I think you are doing really well all things considering- we are 5 ppl with 2 teenagers and budget $250 a week for food. However, we also have no qualms about a midweek run to the store because we are out of milk so that could be closer to $300 a week.  You can't even really compare ON to BC prices  - we moved from there a yr and a half ago - then we were closer to $200/$225 a week. Mind you the kids were smaller as well.

I'd say keep doing what you're doing...and they'll move out soon, right :)?

EarthshipSandra

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Darfield, BC Canada
    • The Darfield Earthship
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #45 on: February 03, 2016, 04:07:35 PM »
we have been long advocates of the 5 ingredient rule and the "if-I-can't-pronounce-it-I-don't-eat-it".

Hahaha..  This rule has always confused me.  So, following the logic, scientists can eat just about any old crap and they'll be fine?  Just because one can't pronounce something, doesn't means it's unhealthy.  I never know how to say "açaí berry".

Well, yes, if you take it literally, which I'm hoping most people wouldn't do, don't you? ...but if you look at most processed foods, there isn't just one thing you can't pronounce, there are 10+ that are unpronounceable and not immediately recognizable as an ingredient we could reasonably assume should be in our food...I guess if I wanted to be exact I would say, "I stick to no more than five ingredients and I have to know what each one is and its effect on my health before I stick it in my maw."  :)

EarthshipSandra

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Darfield, BC Canada
    • The Darfield Earthship
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #46 on: February 03, 2016, 04:14:13 PM »
Hi, OP, from another foodie homesteader in BC!

We produce a lot of our own fruits and veggies and keep chicken for meat and eggs as well.  For 2 of us, I think we average $250-350/mo in luxurious groceries, and then maybe another $100/mo at Costco, and then we also probably spend another $400-500/year in bulk food supplies (salmon that we freeze, a friend's canned fresh and smoked tuna, beans and other pantry supplies).  So I think you are correct, that $225 or so per person per month  for active adults and teens is actually not bad.  Zikoris and others who are getting closer to $150 per person are usually in larger cities with a wide variety of cheaper shopping options like ethnic grocery stores.

I would say, though, that in my experience, there are still things we can do to *optimize* our spending, but at this stage, it's really about optimizing what you're eating to match your desired spending goals.  To bring grocery costs down, we all really only have a few options:  1) grow/produce more of the food you eat; 2) spend less per item for the food you're already eating; 3) eat foods that cost less.

It sounds like you've probably optimized #2 for your options and lifestyle.  So that leaves 1 and 2.  My suggestion would be to really make sure you are eating the food you have produced and are producing the food that you're going to eat.  About this time each year, for instance, Erica at NWEdible (she's on these forums and also has a great website if you google) does an "eat down your larder" challenge to clear out the stores from last season and get ready for the season to come.  I know intellectually that I could live happily on our stores and garden for months at a time if I had to...but I know I don't have to, so off to the store for that avocado and lettuce I go! :)  It can be useful to really force yourself to eat out of the pantry and freezer and find recipes that work for the ingredients you have, if only for a month or two.

Next, it was incredibly helpful to me to take stock of what we are actually eating over the course of a week (including snacks, drinks and all meals), and price those out.  This really helped me to see that our meal costs varied widely, from almost free to really expensive.  Now I'm in a much better position to make sure that we eat more of the cheap meals and fewer of the expensive ones.  It also showed me just how much we would save, for instance, if we started making our own bread again or whether I should find a cheaper substitute for x ingredient.

Do investigate big bulk buying, too, as someone else suggested.  We have a bulk foods store in our area that lets customers piggy back on there wholesale order once each year.  We've bought grains, beans, nuts, etc through them at huge discounts in multi-year quantities.  We keep these in airtight buckets and won't have to replace them for some time.  The key, though, is to buy those things that you know that you'll go through--nothing worse than having emergency foods that you never eat!

The last thing to do when you take stock of what you're actually eating is to re-plan your garden with those foods in mind.  After a number of years at this, I still tweak regularly, of course.  But this is the data you need to decide that yes, it is worth buying a dehydrator to dry apples for snacks so you don't have to buy dried cranberries for the winter, or how many pints of tomato sauce need to be put up each year.  The more you are conscious of your food production and storage as the major planning of your food supply, the better.  Sharon Astyk's book, Independence Days, is quite good for tips on this, if you haven't read her stuff already.

Having done these things, the biggest gain we have gotten is that we simply are hardly in grocery stores, and this has removed a huge amount of our impulse buying, which was a big weakness.

All that said, even having done all these things, we still spend pretty close to what you are! :)  And that is ok with us.  We know that we are living an incredibly luxurious food life, and we are totally ok with that.  BUT, we also now understand that this is luxury, and there are many things we could cut and still have happy, healthy diets.  I think all families should get to a balance that is right for them, but it's really nice to know you are making the conscious choice to spend a little more, rather than just always feeling inadequate for staying on budget.

Good luck!

Hey, we have lots of foodie friends on the Island too...Ann and Gord Baird, the Robinsons...so many!

Thanks for your comments. We do much of what you list and every year I plant more of what we actually eat instead of getting all misty-eyed over the specialty items.  There are so many recurring themes in our quest for less expensive food (as Canadians).  Much to mull over.

EarthshipSandra

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Darfield, BC Canada
    • The Darfield Earthship
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #47 on: February 03, 2016, 04:16:51 PM »
@EarthshipSandra Superstore price matches - and mine has been price matching from my flyer app on my smartphone. We used to spend about $10-$20 a month there. Now it is more like $40-$50 a week.

We've downloaded reebee, a flyer app. It has helped SO much! I also have learned to menu plan around the sales each week. This has made the most difference e.g. Last week zucchini was expensive, so we didn't buy any despite my current zucchini obsession. This week, I found zucchini on sale in an ethnic market, so we bought some.

When I shop in the US, I use flipp (they are also good in Canada, but do not cover one of my regular stores). When I searched last Saturday, I was excited to see chicken thighs on sale for US$0.59/lb at Aldi's. I kept scrolling though, and found it for $0.39 at a small local chain.

We are 2 adults, 2 teens (who don't eat that much yet though) and currently average about CDN$600/month. Including all lunches (eating out about 1-2x a month). Trying very hard to get it down to $500/month. I think that is doable - if I can control my impulse to stock up whenever there is a deal. The problem I am having is that now that I am looking, there is ALWAYS an awesome deal somewhere.

Also, local meat markets often have the best prices on meat. e.g. my local meat market typically has ground meat for $3.99-$4.99/lb. But about every other week, one type of ground meat will be on sale for $1.99/lb. I've been stocking up whenever I see meat at $1.99/lb or less. I rarely buy meat from Food Basics/Freshco anymore because their prices rarely compare.

I am also doing stuff now like reducing food waste (putting tiny amounts into the freezer whereas before I would have tossed them out. EVERYTHING gets labeled with masking tape LOL! I will also make my own if it's cheaper. I make my own yogurt now (thanks Instant Pot) and it will save me 50% - when comparing to store bought on sale. I tried my own granola - but supplies from Bulk Barn were pricey and the taste was only ok. I am going back to store bought after I finish the batch I made.

All that said, we don't eat organic - and I know that makes a big difference in costs.

I did not know Superstore price matches. I will have to look into that. A friend recently mentioned flipp but I used it a few years ago and did not find it helpful for what we actually bought. I will have to look into it again. Thx.

EarthshipSandra

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Darfield, BC Canada
    • The Darfield Earthship
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #48 on: February 03, 2016, 04:19:07 PM »
Hello from the Okanagan!  We tracked spending all last year and averaged around $675 a month for two active adults and a toddler (also includes some cleaning supplies, baby stuff, maybe $50/month).  Even though food prices are on the rise, we are on track to keep to under $600/month this year by buying a little smarter.  We shop pretty much exclusively at Superstore (and Costco once a month or so).  I can imagine it is much harder with the size of your family and living in your area with a lack of large grocery store chains competing.  Do you run into Kamloops often?  We have had some luck growing food in the last few years and will try to keep increasing what we grow to decrease our costs as much as we can.

Yes, we work part time in Kamloops, made possible by veggie-oil powered vehicles. When we owned a CRV and had to pay for fuel, we had to be much choosier about our trips (we still are but not paying for fuel helps us be less restrictive, unfortunately).

EarthshipSandra

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 25
  • Age: 52
  • Location: Darfield, BC Canada
    • The Darfield Earthship
Re: Grocery Expenses - Canada
« Reply #49 on: February 03, 2016, 04:22:55 PM »
Hi Sandra! I remember you from the SL forums. I loved learning about your earthship.

I'm currently in Yellowknife and my partner and I spend around $600-700 together on grocery store food. However, we aren't that budget conscious; we buy what we want. He eats a lot of meat, we both eat a lot of fresh fruit, and me a lot of fresh vegetables. In Winnipeg when I was single I could get away with $200 a month. But I find I'm spendier when in a relationship - it makes me more likely to buy fancier treat food, and influence each other to spend more money. We only eat out about once a month as restaurants here seem quite a bit more expensive than grocery stores (relative to Winnipeg). The fanciest home-cooked meal is still a lot cheaper than eating out.

I wish I could do more gardening, but that's not going to happen this year. Hopefully in the future. (There was a recent post on my FB feed about growing microgreens indoors, which I'd love to do once I move into a more permanent house.) I would not mind at all if my boyfriend wanted to do some hunting to reduce his food costs. I think we should learn how to fish. I'm pescatarian and fish is insanely expensive here; I don't eat that much.

So I look at your $200 per person and that seems reasonable to me. Of course it depends on the big picture - if you have other lower expenses and are saving enough money and are eating healthy I think those are the important things.

Wow, I loved that forum...do you remember Stella123? She had the blog Sunnyside something?  We still keep in touch via FB. Would I recognize your user name from that forum? Because of our house I realize I'm more recognizable(and the fact I always include it in my user names everywhere) but I love to connect with people again from the past!  Yellowknife. I had a friend who lived there and worked for the CBC for quite a while. We are currently all about permaculture...they talk a lot about microgreens, aquaponics, cold weather greenhouses, etc. Neat stuff...lots of people in northern latitudes growing delicious food!