Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Saving money on groceries

I was trying to explain the different ways I save money to some friends and thought it would be a good idea to write it all out. 

I will start with Air Miles.

This is a program that allows you to collect for cash rewards or dream rewards.  You can set your preference to the desired percentage.  I used to have 100% go to dream rewards but since I only use it for flights and right now, I can't travel, I decided to switch to 60% cash, 40% dream.  Here is how I collect:

BMO Air Miles Mastercard gives 1 air mile for every $20 spent in a month.  They also match the miles you earn at a partner.  For instance, if I spend $20 at Shell I'll get 1 air mile plus 1 bonus air mile.  I put everything on my mastercard and pay it off monthly so that I don't have to pay interest.

Redeeming cash miles is easy.  I tend to hold onto points until there is an special offer.  Example:  Metro occasionally offers "redeem 95 miles, get 25 miles".  So I will redeem 95 miles, which equals $10, and they will give me 25 miles. 

Two or three times a year Sobey's will have a "spend $150 on a Sobey's gift card, get 150 air miles".  I rarely shop at Sobey's because they are so over priced but I do shop at FreshCo.  So not only do I get roughly $15 in air miles (equals approximately $15) but I can shop at a store that is much cheaper than Sobey's and also price matches. 

Rexall/PharmaPlus seems to be a good place to earn Air Miles as they frequently have "spend $50, get 100 air miles".  Know your prices and make sure you spend the $50 after coupons if you're using them!

The other thing with Air Miles is they have 3 levels based on how many miles you collect in a given year:  Blue, Gold and Onyx.  If you get up to 1,000 miles in a given year, you get Blue.  Between 1,000-5,999, Gold, 6,000 and above, Onyx.  The biggest perks for Gold and Onyx are that you can get discounts on flights and merchandise.  Right now you can get some flights for 30% off with Gold, 40% with Onyx.

Air miles also gives bonus miles throughout the year so make sure to check their website. 

My favourite program through Air Miles is Shop the block.  They have run this for the past couple of years and the rules change but basically, you shop at certain partners at certain times within a specified period and you get bonus miles.  In 2018 you could get 300, 1000 or 2000 points if you shopped at 3, 5 or 7 partners.  It's tricky though!  For one, make sure you're buying things you need because if you mess up, you could lose points.  The offers are for specific stores, sometimes you need to have them scan a bar code on the coupon provided on the app, other times you don't need a bar code, and others you need the cashier to put in a PLU manually.  Read the details!  They also are specific to certain dates so plan everything out before you start.

On to PC Optimum!  In February/2018 Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart merged their respective points programs.  I love this program!  Basically, when you buy items at Shoppers, Loblaws, No Frills or any of the other stores under their umbrella, it can trigger points in subsequent weeks.  For example, I buy free range eggs and every couple of weeks I have a points offer for free range eggs.  This won't work for every item you buy but it's pretty cool to get points on things you do buy.  Note that you have to manually sign into your account every week in order for the offers to load.

If I happen to have enough eggs I can swipe the offer forward to the next week.  You can do this with up to 4 offers a week.

If there is more than one person in your household, I recommend you get two separate accounts.  I do all the shopping for my mom and myself and because we have 2 cards, we get separate offers.  Frequently, we'll get the same offers (eggs!) and I'll use one and swipe the other to the following week, since we don't usually get the same offers on back to back weeks on one card.

Once you get 10,000 points you can redeem for $10 with a few exclusions like wine and beer.  You also don't get points on wine and beer. 

I find I get the bulk of my points through Shoppers since they have "spend $50 get 10,000 points" or something similar.  Sometimes it equals 33% off.  Just know your prices because if you're spending full price, it might not be a deal but if you're buying things that are on sale and have a long shelf life and even better, if you have coupons, it makes a huge difference.  Just keep in mind that with a deal like that, if you're using coupons you have to pay $50 after coupons have been redeemed. 

Price matching:  this is a great way to save money.  The expensive stores like Metro, Sobey's and Loblaws don't allow price matching but No Frills, FreshCo and some others do.  Most of them have limits on how many items they'll match and they also only match with certain stores so make sure you're aware of this.  I love to price match because I can just shop at one store.  While I don't get points of any kind from FreshCo, I can use the cards I bought at Sobey's.  At No Frills, I can get PC Optimum points.

You can price match two ways:  With paper weekly flyers or with and app.  I used to use paper but now that I have the Flipp app, I don't need them.  I still haven't learned everything it does but this is basically how it works.  You enter your postal code and it brings out all the flyers in your area, and it's not just for groceries, it's for electronics, clothing and other things.  Not only can you see the flyers on your phone but you can select certain items from certain stores and add them to your list.  The other excellent feature allows you to search for a specific item.  Example:  pet food.  I enter the name of the pet food I buy and it will come up in every flyer.  The end date is listed, as well as the price.  This helps me immensely and it also allows me to buy the item when I get PC Optimum points.  If I don't see a price I like and I have a points offer, I have the option to to swipe it forward to the next week.

One more thing with the Flipp app:  I still look at the flyers because they might have a deal that doesn't show up when you search for a specific product.  Example:  this week if you spend $15 on pet food, you get 3,000 points.  Because this offer covers many different types of pet food, it won't show up.  So if I type "friskies" in the search feature, it won't show up on sale in the flyer, yet if I spend $15 on items that include Friskies and a bunch of other foods, I'll get 3,000 points.

When I shop at a store that price matches, I just show them the price on the flyer and they match it.

I find that the night before a new flyer takes place is the best time to buy food.  I buy meat for my mom and my cat and certain stores will mark down meats due to needing space in the bunker for the next week's specials.  I picked up a bunch of meat for my mom in early December because they were bringing in turkeys and ham, not because the expiry date is close but due to space limitations.  Loblaws tends to mark down 50% while FreshCo marks down by 30-50%.  Add to that, you may have a points offer at Loblaws or you can use your gift card at FreshCo which makes it an even better deal.

Canadian Tire and Mark's have a "triangle" program that has replaced Canadian Tire money.  You have to log into your account to activate deals.

I find out about a lot of deals on and  Both have forums where people can post deals.  I also love the "brag" section where people write about the things they bought and the deals they got. 

I almost forgot about coupons!  I don't use a ton of them because it seems that ever since the Extreme Couponing show on TLC came out, the value of coupons has shrunk.  However, I still use them and I find that most of the expensive stores carry them but you can redeem them at the less expensive stores.

There are a few other programs and apps that people use like Checkout 51 and ebates.  I don't use either but they are another option.

I think that's it.  If you just take a bit of time once a week, preferably a day or two before new flyer prices take place, you can really save a lot of money.  Go through your pantry and the flyers and see what you can save on!


  1. :) I also find if you shop same store all the time, the rotating sales, items will come
    Up eventually...... when peanut butter is on sale I buy like 6-8 they have a year expiry. And canned tuna. And dish soap etc. just buy the sale items in bulk. And if at same store it rotates throughout the year. Never buy more then 1 year worth.