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5 Grocery-Saving Secrets from Food Professionals

Male-presenting adult in background with female-presenting child in foreground at the grocery store. Adult is pushing a red cart filled with produce while the child smiles at the camera

One of the fastest ways to trim the family budget is to cut back at the grocery store. Sure, if kids ate all their dang food, or if weeknight dinners weren’t such a last-minute rush, families would automatically spend less.

But the fact remains that we do toss a lot of money into the compost bin. A 2023 release from the National Zero Waste Council says the average Canadian family throws away $1,300 of edible food per year, or the equivalent of 4.5 meals every week. But don’t let this figure make you feel bad—it highlights how overworked, overtired, and in need of help parents really are.

Short of sending food professionals into your homes, we asked around for grocery-saving tips from experts who work with food every day. Here is some of their best advice:

1. Shop the frozen aisle for meat

Take a second look at proteins that are frozen. That way, you’re only defrosting exactly what you need, which can help reduce food waste and money. Another option is to use lower-priced proteins more often, such as extra lean ground beef instead of other cuts of beef. It’s delicious, and can be easily transformed into a number of different meals including chili, smash burgers and meatballs.
—Steve McGoey, Director of Culinary Development,

2. Choose potted herbs over packaged

Instead of purchasing a small plastic packet of herbs, consider buying a full plant. Some grocery stores sell potted herbs right in their produce section. For a similar price as packaged, you can grow that herb for multiple meals instead of just one. Parsley and basil, for example, will thrive in a sunny window. And when the warm weather arrives, the sky’s the limit on what you can grow outside, even if your growing space is small. If you do purchase fresh herbs, but can’t use them all before they rot, freeze them into ice cube trays in water or olive oil to use at a later date for soups and stews.
—Tara Nolan, author and co-owner of

3. Reuse, repurpose, transform

Here are some of our strategies for less food waste:

  • Dried beans can be used as pie weights
  • Citrus peels can be used with vinegar to make a cheap home-made cleaning product
  • Crushed eggshells can be added to your garden as added calcium to help your plants thrive
  • Kitchen scraps (onion, carrot, garlic peels, mushroom stems) can all be saved toward a homemade stock
  • Leftovers can always be repurposed to make a new recipe. Trending right now are Cacio e Pepe Fritters by using leftover Cacio e Pepe (a humble Roman pasta dish that literally means “cheese and pepper”) and adding a few more ingredients to create crispy, pasta fritters.
  • Day-old rice makes fried rice
  • Day-old bread can be croutons, bread pudding, or stuffing

Also, make sure your freezer and fridge is organized and labelled so everything is visible and nothing goes to waste. And ensure your pantry is organized, too, so you don’t mistakenly buy food that you already had on-hand.
—Adrienne Panis and Sanaa Ahsanuddin, Senior Test Kitchen Specialists, The Hot Plate

4. Take advantage of rewards programs

We recently signed up for a movie rewards card that also earns points at some major grocery stores. It’s made a positive impact on our shopping. We recently purchased grass-fed butter for $2.99—the same bricks of butter that we’ve seen for $8 to $12 elsewhere! For free signup, and if you’re open to getting the weekly offers (based on purchases), the deals can be advantageous for anyone with a family to feed, or who has to make tough choices about what they can and cannot put in their weekly basket.
—Mary Luz Mejia, freelance food and travel journalist

5. Eat more plants, and stick to a plan

Eat half as much meat. Dried beans, for example, are a little more time-consuming than just opening a can, but they’re much more budget-friendly. Plus, once cooked, they freeze beautifully. You can easily make one giant batch, freeze it in smaller portions, and have delicious, money-saving beans for weeks to come.

And make a basic meal plan and stick to it. I meal plan three or four nights per week, then eat leftovers or easy back-pocket dinners (e.g., something from the freezer) on the other nights. This has made a HUGE difference and we waste so much less now. Also, consider changing supermarkets. I switched to one of the national discount grocery chains and I see about a 25 per cent reduction on my weekly bills.
—Claire Tansey, food expert and author of Dinner, Uncomplicated

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