How To Save Money On Your Grocery Bill

114 comments

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Recently, I have received emails from readers asking me tips for saving money on food, especially when buying organic items.

Over the years, I have gradually shifted to buying organic products whenever possible because I believe it is an investment in my health and the environment. Obviously, the downside to buying organic and high-quality foods is often the higher price tag!

But I have a secret-weapon…

I buy in bulk.

Of course, buying in bulk is not really a secret, but it never really sunk in until I opened the bakery. It was my bakery that taught me the beauty of buying in bulk because I was purchasing all of these expensive organic ingredients (Glo Bakery is 100% organic) and I had to find a way to still make a profit at the end of the day.

Along my journey, I also discovered that I could start buying a lot of our household food items in bulk and cut down our grocery bill substantially. My solution is now to buy larger quantities of food and shop less often.

Here are a few of my tips for buying in bulk:

1) Research organic wholesalers in your area.

In the Toronto area, there are a lot of wholesalers, but I zoned in on ones that provide mostly organic, whole foods/nutritious items, and local food options. For example, I wasn’t interested in wholesalers for typical bakery goods like corn syrup or fondant. That narrowed down the list substantially!

I came across a few wholesalers that I now use on a regular basis:

 

2) Seek out a ‘Buying Club’ if you do not own a business in the industry.

One of the first things I noticed about many wholesalers is that many of them require you to have a business in the industry to be able to purchase from them. This wasn’t a problem for me, but it will be a problem if you are simply a ‘regular’ consumer.

But, there is good news!

Some wholesalers, like ONFC, offer what is called a Buying Club.

What is a Buying Club?

Buying Clubs are groups of individuals and/or families who get together to buy directly from the wholesaler. Each member creates an order based on the ONFC Buying Club catalogue, and the club places a collective order to ONFC. We deliver the order to a club member’s home where it is divided into the individual orders. Members then pick-up their orders and pay for their invoices.

The beauty of the buying club is that regular consumers can form small groups and buy in bulk without having to own a business in the industry! I know of a few readers who use this approach and it works well for them.

3) Once you find suitable wholesalers, request the catalogues and start price comparing.

I can’t tell you how many hours I spent doing price comparisons and tedious calculations to find the best bang for my buck. It takes a lot of work, but in the end your wallet will be happy. The only downside is that many of the wholesalers I have come across are still ‘old school’ in the sense that they do not have computerized ordering systems online. This makes for slow ordering procedures and I look forward to the day when wholesalers like ONFC make online ordering possible.

To give you an idea, here are a few prices of some things that I buy in bulk:

  • 11.3kg (25 pounds) Organic Dried Chickpeas = $31.75
  • 11.34kg (25 pounds) Organic Pearled Barley = $22.13
  • 11.34kg (25 pounds) Organic Shredded Coconut = $37.67
  • 10 kg (22 pounds) Organic Peanut Butter = $70.28

 

When I think about how long these items last (grains/beans will last years), I am really amazed by how much money can be saved over time. This has also encouraged me to cut down the amount of canned items I buy because the price difference is also huge when comparing canned goods vs. dried goods.

4) Find out the minimum order for free delivery.

On average, the minimum order for my wholesalers is between $300-500 if you want to quality for FREE DELIVERY. This is why I prefer to order less frequently and in larger quantities, because free delivery is priceless when we are talking about 25-50 pound bags. The time it takes me to drive to my wholesaler (over 1 hour at least) and then load all of the items into my small car is just not worth it. Free delivery is where it’s at!

Ordering less frequently does have a downside though- I need to always be on top of my stock and know what I have available and what I am running out of. Before I place an order, I always do a stock check (for both the bakery and home items).

5) Figure out how you will store the bulk items.

I buy just about everything now in bulk (except for produce, but we’ll be switching to the CSA in the late Spring) and storage can become an issue with so many items. The best way for me to store my food in a safe manner is by using FDA-approved food bins. I buy my food bins from a great packaging company called Uline.

I stack the food bins by category such as grains (oats, couscous, quinoa, barley, amaranth, etc), protein (lentils, chickpeas, beans), dried fruit (dates, apricots, cranberries), nut butters, etc. It works out pretty well for me. I also take a permanent marker and clearly label the top and side of each pail.

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Now let me just say this- Food bins are a real pain in my ass!

And they aren’t always great if you don’t have the storage space. Right now, we are cramming our bins in our laundry room, which isn’t ideal but it works for us now because it is close to the kitchen.

It does not make sense for me to keep my frequently used/personal food items only in a food bin. It just eats up a lot of time going back and forth every day. I like to have my frequently used items handy in jars.

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I prefer not to store them on the counter, so I clear a space in the cabinet to store the jars. I also used a permanent marker on the inside of the lid to write what the product is in case there is a chance I may forget.

6) Recycle the Delivery boxes

There can be a lot of packaging leftover when I have a delivery of food items. Wholesalers will throw a bunch of items into boxes whenever possible so it is easier for the driver to carry. Instead of having a bunch of useless boxes lying around, I now empty out the box immediately and give them back to the driver so they can be re-used in another delivery. This helps cut down on needless waste.

7) Find a CSA or hit up the Farmer’s Market

When the season starts up again, we will be ordering another local CSA share. It is a great way to save money on local, organic produce and it also cuts down on grocery trips too.

8.) Bulk Bins

If you can’t order from a wholesaler, try purchasing food from bulk bins in your grocery store or from bulk food stores like Bulk Barn. Both of these methods are often much cheaper and you can also purchase in the quantity that you desire.

As I typed up this post, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast…made in my kitchen for just pennies a bowl. wlEmoticon thumbsup   How To Save Money On Your Grocery Bill

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Vegan Overnight Oats

Inspired by Live Well 360.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)
  • 1 heaping tbsp carob powder (not the same as cocoa powder- carob is SWEET)
  • 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter

 

Directions: Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl and then whisk in the wet ingredients. Place in fridge for 1 hour or overnight. Enjoy with a spoonful of peanut butter and a drizzle of sweetener.

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We’re off to hunt for a dining room chandelier today. I have discovered that finding a chandelier is not an easy process!

I also appreciate your votes whenever you can, in the Best Health Blog Awards Contest. I am nominated in the Eat Well category. You can vote once a day until March 21st. Thank you in advance!

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{ 114 comments… read them below or add one }

Aleasha March 6, 2011

Do you ever use peanut flour? I just ordered some online but I was wondering if you know a place here in Toronto that sells it?

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Julie @ Lettuce Choose Healthy March 6, 2011

thanks for all the great tips! I definiately need to start buying bulk .. esp oats !

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Kelsey March 6, 2011

LOVE these tips! My goal is to buy more in bulk. And delicious peanut butter cup overnight oats! I made a version of this a while back but I like the addition of carob powder–YUM! I will have to revamp my bowl. :)

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Mary @ Bites and Bliss March 6, 2011

Grea tips! I just went out grocery shopping this morning and probabyl saved close to $50 by combining sales and coupons and then hitting up the reduced produce bin at the farmer’s market! :D

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) March 6, 2011

The Choc PB Cup oats look stellar!

What awesome tips, Angela! Wow, you really took this one to the next level. There are so many similar and related posts that I’ve seen other bloggers do (myself included) about how to save money on groceries but I love your focus on wholesalers and buying in serious bulk.

That is one thing that I just can’t do b/c I have ZERO storage. We have no basements here. My garage is almost “open-air” so I really can’t keep food in it, and I can’t have 5 gallon drums of dry quinoa lining the hallways in my living room but if I DID live in a house with more storage and not in urban San Diego, I would definitely do more of that type of buying b/c you can save TONS of money.

Enjoy your spring time CSA!

I am super spoiled in that in So Cal, everything grows, pretty much year round, so I can find locally grown kale to squash blossoms to cantaloupe year round in the farmers markets and CSAs. I have more produce than I know what to do with…my tip for myself is not buying everything I see and over-buying and letting fresh produce go to waste b/c it all looks so good :)

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Alexa @ Simple Eats March 6, 2011

What great tips! I only wish I had the room to buy more bulk items!

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Sarah @ The Rounded Teaspoon March 6, 2011

I absolutely love your blog. Your pictures are gorgeous, and your recipes accessible. Thank you.
I’ve recently taken to buying almond flour off of Amazon, as I can find really good prices and free 2 -day shipping with my prime account. It’s swell.

Thank you!

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JL goes Vegan March 6, 2011

Really great tips! I try to buy in bulk and store in jars, too (I write on the glass with a sharpie because sometimes I wonder…farro or barley?!) I also, every other week, only allow myself to buy produce because I KNOW that I have plenty of beans and grains! LOL

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Kath (My Funny Little Life) March 6, 2011

Great post, Angela! I also try to buy organic produce as much as I can, but money often doesn’t suffice … Well, someday! ;)

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Morgan @ Life After Bagels March 6, 2011

soooooo I was just about to pick up the phone and order as many buckets of grains as possible when I realized that if you have a problem storing the items in your house, I’ll likely have a problem storing them in my tiny apartment. Brad really shouldn’t leave me alone to my own devices when it comes to meal planning and budgeting, who knows what lengths I’ll go to :)

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Lisa (bakebikeblog) March 6, 2011

Great tips Angela! I too am a big fan of bulk bins!

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Michelle | gold-hearted girl March 6, 2011

I think price comparing is the most useful tool for me in terms of saving money. Lots of times I just don’t know what something (especially in bulk) should cost, so I buy it from the first store I go to. But shopping around can really save a lot! Especially online!

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Michelle @ HER March 6, 2011

Mason Jars are one of the best inventions ever! This is a great post! I will definitely share this with my clients. Thanks!

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Lesley March 6, 2011

Good luck finding the perfect chandelier!! Light fixtures are often the types of items that you have an idea in your head of what you want but then when you look, you wonder if they even make anything like the idea in your head because none seem to be surfacing, haha.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

ahhhh we have not had luck finding a chandelier…who knew they were so expensive too!

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Meredith March 6, 2011

Loved this post! as I was reading I was seriously starting to think of people who could join my buying club when I remembered I live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with a fiance who probably wouldn’t appreciate me replacing all our furniture with bins filled with chickpeas. Dang.

If you’re in Toronto, Groupon had a great deal this week for 50% off of a custom fresh box delivery from front door organics. Definitely worth keeping an eye on that site.

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Paulina (One Smile Ahead) March 6, 2011

I love shopping at my local Sunflower Farmers Market. They have a whole section filled with bulk foods! I was able to get a pound of organic oats for about a buck :D Savings! Your overnight oats look great by the way. I might have that for breakfast tomorrow since I haven’t had them in a long time.

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Kelsey March 6, 2011

Hi!

I read your blog every single day and you have helped me through so muchI just created a blog and was wondering if I could use your recipes under my favorite recipes page?

Thank you,
Kelsey

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

Of course…I just ask that you link to the original recipe. Thanks!

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Jil @ Big City, Lil' Kitchen March 6, 2011

Yes! Even in my little studio I try and buy in bulk – bulk for one, at least. I buy when things are on sale…keep them in the cupboard and then store them appropriately once they are opened. It works pretty well, and I almost always have some sort of grain ready to use.

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Lauren @chigallauren March 6, 2011

I love all your jars, super cute and super organized!

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Traci(faithfulfoodiefashionista) March 6, 2011

What an awesome post….from all the helpful tips to the yummy recipe :) and I Love,love,love the idea you have given me to store my dried beans and such in mason jars.My pantry can be such a mess because a lack of space but this is a great idea! It looks so pretty too.

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Stacy @ LoveDiscoveryGratitude March 6, 2011

I just discovered the magic of buying in bulk! It’s especially amazing for pasta and cereal :D

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Angela (Oh She Glows) March 6, 2011

yeaaa we buy cereal in bulk too :)

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kaila @healthyhelper! March 6, 2011

Congrats on being a finalist! that is so exciting! peanut butter cups are my favorite candy, so this peanut butter cup oatmeal will probably become my new favorite breakfast!

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Moni'sMeals March 6, 2011

amazing tips. I do most of what you do, can be a full-time job at times!

Those oats where made for ME! muhahaha. :)

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Heather (Faces of Beauty) March 6, 2011

ah yes…buying in bulk is a lifesaver for us too! especially with non-perishables; there’s no reason to NOT do it!

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Jenny March 6, 2011

Thanks for sharing, I’ll have to start researching some places here in TN.

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Courtney (Pancakes & Postcards) March 6, 2011

awesome post! I’m only one, so I never think about buying in bulk, but then when I think about things like beans and rice and stuff that I can keep for a LONG time, it just makes so much more sense! I’m motivated now. :)

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Jenn March 6, 2011

I buy my food grade buckets from the bulk barn. They sell them for extremely cheap (I think I paid about $2 for my last one). The buckets come from the liquid items the sell like molasses and corn syrup so they are definitely great for storing food!

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chelsey @ clean eating chelsey March 6, 2011

Great tips! Unfortunately my little home has no stoarge space for things like that!!

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Emma (Namaste Everyday) March 6, 2011

YAAAAAAAAAAY is all I have to say to this post. I’ve learned so much, and I can’t wait to have a stable life (I’m in New Zealand for 5 months) so that I can begin this process for real :) Thanks again Ange!

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Ash March 6, 2011

This post came just in time as I was just wondering about how to save money on buying organic. I love the bulk bins! I can buy as little or as much as i need.

Just wondering…have you used raw cacao powder?
Do you know the differences, particularly in taste between cocoa powder, cacao powder, and carob powder?

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Ash March 7, 2011

can anyone provide their input? lol.

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Hannah March 6, 2011

This is almost exactly my breakfast (which I have most mornings) except I add chopped up Lindt 85% chocolate on top. Sure, some people say that means it’s more like dessert than breakfast, but I say meals are just social constructions anyway ;)

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Zestful Lou March 6, 2011

Great organizational ideas! I love the jars!! I always save the jars when I finish jam or when I get a ‘cookie in a jar’ gift for the holidays, so none of my jars match like yours, but it does make me feel resourceful!

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Tracy @ Commit To Fit March 6, 2011

Fantastic post and great tips to help me start buying more organic! Thanks so much for sharing :)

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Roz March 7, 2011

great tips, thanks Angela. We have NO storage, so couldn’t buy in large quantities, but I can and will use some of your other tips. Hope you’ve had a good weekend.

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Justeen @ Blissful Baking March 7, 2011

Those are some really helpful tips!
Your chocolate peanut butter cup overnight oats look delish!

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Casey Thomas March 7, 2011

This is such a great, useful post Angela. All of your tips are excellent.
I eat almost entirly produce so local farmer’s market trips every week are essential for my wallet!

Another tip/suggestion I have for your readers is to look at their emotional eating and shopping habits as SO many of my clients have high expenditure because they are choosing their items for emotional reasons. Deciding to look at what’s going on behind your actions can really start to slowly move you away from emotional eating (when it’s an ongoing problem not just an occasional thing!) and then your grocery bill tends to decline too!

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Ellie@fitforthesoul March 7, 2011

Great suggestions Angela! This is so cool~But then, something like that WOUlD have to be held off till I’m married or something :P My parents would NOT appreciate all the bins. They’re already overwhelmed with my products in the fridge hahaha.

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Marit March 7, 2011

I love the idea of buying in bulk and buying organic.
I do as far as my storage closet will allow…
I too have similar jars but i have a tiny kitchen with next to no spare worktops once the coffemachine and the breadbin have been installed…

Organic is a fantastic way to save your body and the soil from harmful chemicals but i am really concerned about the transport-miles.
It’s not good for the earth
I mean… How can i justify spending money on organic stuff that has been grown in Kenya in Africa, transported by plane to USA for treatment/packaging then sent to Germany for European labeling before it reaches Norway and is transported by lorry to Trondheim where i live?
Yes, i did track the production-line once… and i was shocked.
E.G. we get fresh organic Canadian sweetcorn in my local shop. I tracked it once.
Grown in Canada, sent to USA for Packing/processing, sent to Canada for labeling, sent to Holland for re-labeling and European testing of quality, sent to Sweden for Scandinavian re-labeling, sent to Denmark for distribution, sent to Norway for further distribution…
Surely all that transportation nullifies the organic plus-points?
and surely that sweetcorn no longer qualifies for the “fresh” label?

So i no longer buy organic unless it has a “short mileage”. I generally try to make sure all my groceries are short mileage. (as short as possible…)
I prefer organic but if i can get local produce (dry goods and fresh) i will buy that rather than the South Africa-grown “organic” alternative on the shelf next to it…

I have 100% understanding for the fact that we who live in arctic climes have to import certain products, but why can’t they make the transport a bit less chaotic?
Oranges from Spain could go straight here without stopping in 5 different countries. Norway even imports grains that we grow ourselves, but the stuff we grow is sent to southern Europe… where is the sense in that?
it does make me a bit angry i must admit…
It just seems a bit pointless…

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Sabrina @ Radioactive Runner March 7, 2011

Thanks for a great read… very informative. I like to buy it bulk too.. but have never really thought of buying produce the way you mentioned…definitely going to look into it! I loveee the Bulk Barn because it allows me to try new things without having to buy a big bag first (and then maybe finding out I don’t like it)…. so little at a time, to make sure I like it.

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Richelle March 7, 2011

Thanks for the great tips! I live in a smaller town that doesn’t have a lot of options as far as bulk and organic produce. Our farmers market is very limited too. I think I will have to buy more bulk when I am in the city, but as far as produce I’m not sure. I looked for CSA’s in our area, but the closest was a 2 hour drive to the city with a mid-week pick up. Maybe I need to move.

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