Grocery Shopping (on a budget) 101

One of the many things that comes with adulting is buying groceries on your own and it can get very overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! University is overwhelming and expensive enough already, so save yourself some stress and a few dollars with these easy tips:

1. Never go shopping hungry!

Going to the grocery hungry is asking for impulse purchases and brain fog. You’ll be tempted to buy more than you need, and probably forget a few things on your list while you’re at. Grab a snack before going and you’ll thank yourself later.

2. Price Match

Lots of stores offer price matching, where you compare prices on certain items from another store if they offer a lower price. It’s actually really easy if you have a smart phone. Try a grocery app like FLIPP, which allows you to search for sales and easily compare deals at different stores.

3. Plan Ahead

Knowing what you’re making for the upcoming week will help you streamline your grocery list and make the experience much more efficient. Look at flyers before making a plan to take advantage of seasonal foods or in store deals.

shopping lis

4. No name brands

In store brands, also known as no name brands, often offer the exact same product at a much lower price. Skip the logo and save yourself money on the foods you enjoy most!

5. Check the best before date!

best before dateThere have been several times I’ve forgotten to check the dates of bread or milk, and it goes bad within a couple of days! Make sure you check to have the furthest date if you’re planning to eat that food all week long. If you know you’ll finish everything soon, or are cooking up a certain dish tonight, you can also look for reduced pricing on foods nearing their ‘best before’ date.  

6. Buy frozen produce.

Frozen veggies and fruits are a great alternative when they’re not in season or too expensive. They’re just as nutritious as the fresh version, and last much longer!

7. Track your wallet

Making a budget and tracking your wallet can help you plan accordingly and create a weekly or monthly grocery target. You can use a journal, online app or excel to organize yourself financially. The best part? If you come in under budget at the end of the month you can use that money to treat yourself!

8. Reduce Food Waste

By wasting less food, you will buy less! If you do have anything in your fridge that’s about to spoil, make friends with your freezer. A quick google search will show you lots of ways to preserve or freeze almost anything, from grated cheese and fresh produce to leftovers from dinner.

9. Compare unit prices

This requires a bit of math, but to compare which 2 items have better value, divide the price by the amount. With a lower unit price, it’s a better buy! Sometimes a unit price will be displayed below the main price but in case it isn’t the formula is Price/Unit measure.

Here’s an example with canned tuna:

Item Price/Amount

Unit Price

$3.25 for 170g

325 cents/170g = 1.9 cents for 1 gram

$4.50 for 250g

450 cents/250g = 1.8 cents for 1 gram

You’re paying less per each unit of canned tuna with the 250g can therefore its better value!

Eating well doesn’t need to break the bank. There are plenty of ways to still eat delicious and satisfying food on a budget, and with these tips, your wallet and health won’t be compromised. If you have more questions on grocery shopping or choosing foods in the grocery store contact our UW Registered Dietitian Nicole Pin!

Consider this!

Just as there is reusable totes/shopping bags to carry your groceries, there are also reusable produce bags available! It’ll help reduce the amount of plastic that is thrown into the garbage, and minimize plastic consumption. Consider purchasing these for your next grocery trip! 

Happy Eating! 


20 ways to save money on groceries. (2018). Retrieved from

How to eat well on a budget. (2018). Retrieved from