The Frugal Canadian

A frugal spender seeks to find new ways to save money and increase her net worth.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Keeping my Grocery Bill Low

So what exactly am I eating? Some of you had made comments about Kraft Dinner and surviving off crackers and water. While I do enjoy the occasional box of Kraft Dinner, I eat at most 2 boxes a month. Also, I eat it because I like it not because it’s cheap. I will fully admit, I definitely don’t eat the most well balanced diet, but I think I do reasonably well.

Some highlights
- Water – I buy 18.9L jugs of water from a local water store at a price of $3.50 per jug. It usually lasts me on average 3 weeks. The same jug at Dominion costs $10 and if you buy individual water bottles the cost is far greater. I was given a water cooler as a gift about 3 years ago and it has really made a difference. I rarely buy bottled water and instead use a Nalgene bottle for travelling/at the gym or other sports activities
- I don't eat meat. While I do eat fish and eggs and other dairy, the price of a block of tofu at $3.29(which generally gives me at least 4 servings) is a lot cheaper than buying chicken, steak or other meat products. Some would argue that produce can be quite expensive but if I stick to in season produce, my costs are generally reasonable.
- I make bulk purchases at Price Choppers and No Frills. I rarely shop at more expensive stores such as Loblaws and due to proximity I often make smaller purchases at Dominion. Unfortunately I do not live close to a Price Choppers or No Frills, otherwise these would be the only stores I were to visit regularly.
- Friday nights I generally eat out with friends. As I’ve disclosed in the past, I consider these costs to be entertainment costs
- Normally one day on the weekend, I’ll visit my family or inlaws for a family meal. I’ve learned not to eat breakfast from past experience since the amount of food that is put on my plate is absolutely insane. I always take home at least one plate of food as leftovers and I generally don’t need another meal for the day. This is a great way to save on some expenses and also win some points with family members.
- This month, I had some friends over for dinner which added to my grocery bill. I served them a spring mix salad, veggie and regular hamburgers and Peach Melba as dessert with a side of ice cream. Liquor costs are not included in groceries but rather included in entertainment costs.
- I generally hit the discounted produce area in the more expensive grocery stores for some items. I started doing this a few months ago when I was shopping for eggplant to make a stirfry. The only eggplant they had was in the clearance section. For non-premium produce, I was able to get 2 eggplants for $1 and 4 small zucchinis for $2! (They were a little seedy). They also have bruised apples/oranges which I steer clear of although they could be great for baking.
- I have a vegetable garden on my balcony which provides me with green beans, snow peas, tomatoes and peppers throughout the summer months. The initial cost of this was probably quite high. I’ve had it for about 4 years and probably spent close to $50 buying soil, pots and seeds. I didn’t have any costs this year associated with the garden since I’ve had leftover seeds from the last year.

Some typical meals that I’ve eaten this month with the estimated cost

- No name Cheerios with milk or Bagel with Butter; Estimated Value = $0.50
- Tetley Tea – $0.034 a cup (I buy when on sale)

- Pita Pizza(pita, cheese, mushrooms, green peppers, tomatoes, pineapple) - $3
- Soup and Salad - $3
- Kraft Dinner - $0.50
- Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Veggies - $1.50
- Tofu Nuggets with Salad - $2
- Eggs/Omelettes with Hashbrowns - $2
- Family Leftovers – free :)
- Veggie Burger - $3
- Yogurt – generally every day - $0.40
- Fruit – one piece generally every day - $0.50


- Probably my worst meal on the day. Friday night I eat out, one weekend night I’m at a family members. 2 nights a week I play rec sports and usually don’t have time to eat before the game. After the game, I generally resort to a snack such as toast with peanut butter, frozen pizzas or a piece of fruit or some cheese and crackers.
- Meals I’ve had this past month are:

Tuna Casserole(can of tuna, 2 cups pasta, mushroom soup mix, frozen peas, 1 cup shredded cheese) - $5 for 4 servings
Falafel with couscous and side of veggies - $5 for 4 servings
Veggie Chili(ground tofu, kidney beans, chili mix and can of tomatoes) - $8 for 6 servings
Veggie Stirfry with block tofu, green beans, , mushrooms served with potatoes and yams - $6 for 4 servings
Frozen Pizza – Equality brand - $1.27
Cheese and Crackers - $4 (an expensive item contrary to most people’s belief)


I buy milk in bags and generally buy Skim Fine Filtered milk at a cost of $4.49. It’s a bit more expensive than regular bagged milk but it has a much longer expiration date and 3 bags lasts me 3 weeks. I should drink a lot more milk than I do but mostly I put milk on my cereal for breakfast.

Juices or Punch– I always buy frozen juice/drinks from concentrate no name for about 0.60 a can unless a really good sale is on. While I’d love to buy Tropicana orange juice, the cost is outrageous compared to a can of concentrate orange juice which can range from $0.99 to $1.39. If for some reason, I can’t find juice on sale, I don’t buy it that week. The exception is V8 which I buy on occasion. I generally can’t stand the taste but it’s a good source of veggies/fruit.

Sodas – I used to buy a case of month but I stopped. It’s now too pricey for me to justify buying on a regular basis, not to mention unhealthy.

Below is a summary of my last 2 grocery bills which I started tracking early in the month when readers expressed an interest. It doesn’t reconcile in total my September grocery bill because I didn’t save all my receipts. I think it is a good representation of my eating habits.

Grocery Item Cost Servings Venue
Frozen Drinks 0.57 8 Price Choppers
No Name Cheerios - double bag 5.29 4 weeks Price Choppers
Primo Pasta 0.97 8 Price Choppers
Kraft Dinner 0.97 2 Price Choppers
Hashbrowns 1.17 8 Price Choppers
Orange Juice - Frozen 1.37 8 Price Choppers
Hamburger Buns 1.89 8 Price Choppers
Crackers 3.94 12 Price Choppers
Pancake Mix 2.17 10 Price Choppers
Tuna 2.47 2 Price Choppers
Mushroom Soup 1.23 2 Price Choppers
Bagels 2.69 6 Price Choppers
Butter 2.77 4 weeks Price Choppers
V8 Juice 3.27 6 Price Choppers
Cheese - 560 grams 5.99 10 Price Choppers
Yoplait Yogurt 6.47 16 Price Choppers
Frozen Pizza 6.97 2 Price Choppers
Mushrooms 0.88 6 Price Choppers
Fresh Cranberries 1.47 4 Price Choppers
Potatoes 1.28 4 Price Choppers
Yams 0.97 4 Price Choppers
Onions 0.45 3 Price Choppers
Oranges 1.5 3 Price Choppers
Apples 1.75 5 Price Choppers
Trail Mix 2.99 6 Price Choppers
Tomato Soup 0.57 2 Price Choppers
Kidney Beans 0.99 3 Dominion
Kidney Beans 0.99 3 Dominion
1 lb Ground Tofu 3.99 6 Dominion
Chili Mix 1.49 6 Dominion
1 lb Ground Tofu 3.99 6 Dominion
Baby Carrots 1.69 8 Dominion
Can of Tomatoes 1.29 6 Dominion
Mushrooms 2.49 6 Dominion
Bagels 1.99 5 Dominion
Frozen Veggie Pizza $1.27 1 Dominion
Omega 3 Eggs 3.29 6 Dominion
Skim Milk Natrel Fine Filtered $4.49 3 weeks Dominion
Multi Grain Bread 2.49 6 Dominion


At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there,
while I won't spend $2.49 for multigrain bread at dominion, I will, however spend the $1.99 that it costs e to buy Tropicana OJ instead of the frozen concentrate stuff. So I guess in the end it all evens out.

Btw, here's a cost savings tip: For those that aren't picky about eating different kinds of foods - try buying only things that are on sale at a store. It's amazing how you can stretch your money when you do this. Of course I'm not suggesting that you buy chips when they are only on sale but there are plenty of healthy options.

For example when chicken breast was on sale, I ate chicken every day. It tastes good to me but you know what made it taste better? The knowledge that I'm saving money. That left a good taste in my mouth


At 5:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im impressed. To eat nutritionally is difficult on a limited budget. And food is one of the variable expenses that we still have control over. I do find that fast food however cheap just isnt worth my health. Did you see the documentary on Mickey D's? I also try to eat fresh fruit and veggies seasonally. Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

Another frugal canadian

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Pepper said...

I spent around $30 over the same period, including household stuff like cleaning supplies. The tofu looks extremely expensive; try buying it at an Asian grocery store. I also save a lot by making my own pancake mix, cooking dried beans instead of buying cans, and by making soy milk from beans instead of buying dairy.

At 10:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great info for a fellow Torontonian who's realized she needs to be way more frugal in her food budgeting! I rarely keep track of the $ spent on basic items as I have eaten out lots up until now, which makes it a bit of a head-scratcher to plan a weekly/monthly grocery budget. Thanks for taking the time to track this and sharing.


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