grocery shopping

The Bank of Canada says that food price increases will likely outpace inflation. This is mainly due to supply disruptions and higher commodity and energy prices. Canadians may have to change their habits and make different choices that are more affordable. 

Today’s podcast looks at ways to prepare and make adjustments for food price increases. Licensed Insolvency Trustee, Derek Chase discusses creative ways to grocery shop within a budget. Other topics covered are:

  • Online apps for food that is nearing their expiry dates
  • Importance of knowing how much you are spending on food each month
  • Grocery store loyalty credit cards offering points 
  • When to shop to take advantage of markdowns
  • Seeking help when your debt load is increasing paying basic expenses

Licensed Insolvency Trustees are federally regulated and approved by the Canadian government. Speaking with an LIT ensures that you are getting the best qualified advice and support creating a workable budget.

Wayne Kay  0:03  

Welcome to another edition of the Debt Matters podcast where we help Canadians find solutions to their debts with Licensed Insolvency Trustees from across Canada. My name is Wayne Kay and in today’s show, we’re going to be talking about grocery shopping, understanding your budget and expenses, and talking about the cost of food, etc. 

Joining me today, Derek Chase from Derek Chase and Associates, Licensed Insolvency Trustee serving Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast, and BC North Coast. Derek, thanks for being here.

Derek Chase  0:33  

Thanks very much, Wayne, really looking forward to it.

Wayne Kay  0:36  

Now, I don’t know about you but this is something that’s my job –  to push the cart when we go grocery shopping. Have you been in the grocery store lately?

Derek Chase  0:46  

I have indeed. Yes, I’ve walked that walk just like you have.

Wayne Kay  0:51  

And I’ll tell you, it’s happening, where I’m saying, what how much? That’s what we get and we’ve had to change our shopping habits for sure.

Derek Chase  1:01  

Yes, it’s a timely topic. With the rate of inflation over the last while it’s really been eye popping at the grocery store and making it even more important to focus on that topic – as a big factor in your monthly expenses and your monthly budget planning.

Wayne Kay  1:16  

There’s some things I mean, you have to have. You can’t be not buying milk, if you have young kids or what have you. So you can understand that this would be very tight for people. So when we talk about food and money, what’s your advice?

Derek Chase  1:34  

Well, my advice is that I don’t think people realize how big a portion of their monthly expenses, the cost of food is – and dining and just eating is. When I talk to people on a regular basis, and we do financial counseling, where we’re talking about their monthly expenses – people can very quickly, very accurately identify the cost of their housing, whether that’s rent payment or mortgage payment. They can very accurately get their vehicle loan payments. But after that, it gets pretty foggy pretty fast as to what the other expenses are. 

I think that’s really dangerous when – especially when it comes to your cost of food because it can really run away from you. And I think people can remember some of their bigger shopping trips during the month, but you tend to forget some of the smaller ones. And when you go around and add all those things together, by the end of the month – that could be potentially your second or third highest expense in the month. So it is well deserving of your time to put some energy into keeping those costs as low as you can.

Wayne Kay  2:54  

And so these days, and pretty much everybody’s got online banking, so it’s super easy to go on, and add up those transactions for the last few months.

Derek Chase  3:04  

Yes, absolutely. It’s not hard to do. And it’s a little bit spooky that some of the online banking accounts know what type of expense it is. And even if you’re getting groceries from a place that might not be a major grocery chain, the online banking tends to be able to identify it as grocery. But you’re right, it’s a wonderful spot to be able to quickly summarize how much you’re spending on groceries.

Wayne Kay  3:31  

Because I’ve been behind some people and maybe they have big families. But if I ever saw when we get into the triple digits, my heart starts pounding. I’m like, Oh my gosh, we have got to cut back on something because I can’t be spending $100 on groceries. But if you have a family of four, and you’re doing it once a week, that’s pretty much the norm these days, I think.

Derek Chase  3:53  

I would agree. And it can be somewhat startling when you have only a couple bags of groceries and it’s like you say approaching $100. You have to really start questioning what you’re putting in there and, and trying to figure out creative ways to make it less. Whether that’s changing the types of things that you’re eating or changing when you’re buying things. 

You have to just really look and try to find some ideas about how to make it a little bit less. And we’re not talking about a huge amount less. But if you can make some changes to make it 10,15 20% less then it’s well worth your time.

Wayne Kay  4:36  

And what about where to shop as well. Because you mentioned some of the places – some are chains that we all shop at but sometimes there’s maybe specialty stores where we may go to buy certain things, which is fine if you have the money for it. But if you’re on a limited budget, which is what we’re talking about, I guess you’d have to be aware of that, wouldn’t you?

Derek Chase  4:59  

I do think there are different grocery chains that have different price points for sure. And I know it’s becoming a little more popular to be able to get a no name type brand or some produce that isn’t looking exactly perfect. It’s got some sort of little blemish on it that allows you to get it at a lower price. But it’s still fine, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just not maybe visually appealing. So it’s those types of things that can make a difference over time. And instead of just going for the absolute premium product each and every time – you make a decision.

Wayne Kay  5:39  

And let’s talk about some ways that you can save money, because I think I’m pretty good at this. And you’re probably great at that as well. And how can you reduce that grocery bill? I guess a lot of things I actually won’t buy unless they’re on sale.

Derek Chase  5:57  

Yes, it’s great to look for things that are on sale, and really be aware of the prices as they vary over time. I think the time tested truths for keeping your grocery bill in check is to plan it a little bit before you go. So you end up going with a list and you know what types of things that you want to get.

We always like to try and plan to make a little bigger batch of whatever we’re making so that we can have that carry over for a day or maybe a little bit more – or maybe put some of it in the freezer so that we can pull it out later. That’s a good way to do some bulk purchasing. I think that’s really good. 

I certainly see a lot of coupons available, which is a bit more time intensive. But that’s also a very good way to drop your expenses. One strategy that we’ve always kind of enjoyed is to go either super early in the morning or quite late at night. We find there is an advantage in those time frames to get our groceries. There’s very few people in the store. There’s less of a frenzy of buying. And also things are marked down often in the morning or at night. You’re able to get that choice of the 30% off maybe before the crowds are there taking it away. 

Wayne Kay  7:21  

I didn’t know that. I like that idea. I will go sometimes when there’s less people and I enjoy that. But that’s a good strategy.

Derek Chase  7:30  

Yes, I had a friend of mine that said, he would even ask – if you notice the date was coming soon on the product, you would ask – Can we mark this down? And often the answer was yes. Yes. We’ll put a sticker on that for you. 

Wayne Kay  7:45  

That’s funny. And there’s no harm in that.

Derek Chase  7:48  

No, all they can do is say no. Nothing wrong with that. And, I was just reading an article about the amount of food waste in Canada. And it’s huge – the amount of food that is thrown out either by grocery stores or restaurants. And even though they do often support charities, and with that, there’s still some that are thrown out. 

There are different apps starting to be developed where you can be notified if things are going to be thrown out and go and purchase them at a significantly discounted value. And it’s important to note that it’s not taking away from food going to the different charities. But it’s a good way to be given an alert or a notice that there’s some groceries available at a steeply discounted price, that are likely perfectly fine but starting to get close to those best before dates.

Wayne Kay  8:44  

You’re going to laugh, but I was strutting around like a peacock so proud of myself because I bought some milk. It was two days from expiry but it was on a super clearance of 97 cents. So I thought Oh, I have got to buy this because if you were to just buy one little shot of milk, it could cost 97 cents. It ended up lasting me six days of cereal. And I was shocked. But wow, this is the best deal ever. Everyday I had to smell it and taste it and say it’s perfectly fine. So it was one of my best purchases in the last month.

Derek Chase  9:20  

Oh good for you. It was a good get. It is kind of fun to find those things that are really low. They sometimes use loss leaders and you go – How can it be that low? And you know, you get a few of them and it makes you feel pretty good.

Wayne Kay  9:34  

Yes. Why is it important to really understand the cost of food?

Derek Chase  9:39  

Well, I think if you don’t – it’s because it’s a bigger expense in your overall month. If you’re not on top of that it can really push you into a deficit. You say well, why are we in debt or why are we having to put this on our credit card or go into a negative. It just has the ability to jump up very quickly by several $100 or more per month that you wouldn’t necessarily have to spend. 

And so if you’re not on top of that – it’s one you can be on top of without a tremendous amount of energy. And if you choose not to, then there can be some bad consequences. I think that it goes hand in hand with eating out and getting fast food and that sort of thing. If you were to buy your lunch every day, instead of planning ahead and making a sandwich, I mean, that’s a big difference when you look at it over the course of a month.

Wayne Kay  10:41  

Yes, absolutely. Well, talking about that, what if you have to go in debt for food, which some people do?

Derek Chase  10:49  

Well, at the end of the day, you have got to do what you have got to do. In my opinion, there’s a difference between using credit to get food versus, versus using credit to go on a holiday. And you have to eat, you have got to do that. And sometimes there’s no choice.  

I would say that, like you say, you have got to live. So those are hard choices. But I think as part of the overall monthly budget, and the overall monthly expenses, I just see that there’s room to make that number move one way or the other, depending on how much attention you’re putting towards it. And that’s what I think is important.

Wayne Kay  11:29  

I guess if it gets to that point where you’re finding that you are going into debt, just to eat and cover the basic expenses, that’s when it’s worth a conversation with you, or any of the Licensed Insolvency Trustees across the country. Because I imagine that’s really not a good thing, not a good place to be.

Derek Chase  11:49  

No, you can certainly put it on, say a credit card, so long as you’re paying off your credit card in full each month. But if you’re in a setting where you’re running a deficit each month, and your credit card bills are getting larger, your debts are getting larger – then absolutely, it’s well worth a conversation with a Trustee. And just to find out how you might reorganize your finances, reorganize your budget. If your debts are such that it’s too difficult to change the momentum, then there are some formal government of Canada options that can be useful in helping break that momentum.

Wayne Kay  12:23  

Now, when you talk about actually using your credit cards for groceries, there’s a lot of stores that actually have special cards, where you get bonus points for using their card. When you’re doing credit counseling sessions, is this a strategy that you often tell people to use? Or is it better just to pay cash?

Derek Chase  12:46  

Oh, definitely. It’s great to take advantage of points. And the stores love it, because they have your loyalty. But I think the key there is, if you’re paying off that credit card each month, then that’s really the bottom line. But definitely take advantage of points for whatever you’re buying. Because you can often use those to get a discount on things or free things. Yes, I think that’s great.

Wayne Kay  13:12  

Free food, we like free food, especially when you get all these points. And a lot of the places actually have cards, you don’t have to pay. You don’t have to have a credit card to get a specific card for it. And they start collecting points, which is pretty good. Also, I think we should mention, we didn’t mention this when it came to saving money – don’t just buy everything in one store.

Derek Chase  13:34  

Yes, that’s what I’ve heard over the years. And that takes probably even more energy because you really have to scope out where the different good deals are, and then make the effort to plan that trip and drive there and get in another checkout line. 

And you know, it’s a bit more required to do that. Is it worth it to save $2? Probably not, but if it’s going to save you more, you have to value your time and effort there. But yes, I think it’s a matter of how much it’s going to save you as to whether that sort of shopping at different stores, just to get the lowest price for a specific product is worth it.

Wayne Kay  14:22  

Right. I’ve heard some people say, Well, I spent $8 in gas to save 55 cents. Yes, that’s true. But if you are going through the flyers, and you’re looking at where the best deals are – because oftentimes one store will have a super deal happening where other stores don’t, and you can get more stuff at one place. It’s worth checking out. 

I know around here, some of my friends will send me a text and say, okay, there are roasts on sale at such and such a place – there’s a clearance on. It’s amazing how many people will share that kind of information.

Derek Chase  14:56  

Well, yes, that’s a good example of just, in general, networking. Having that circle of friends that will watch out for one another and pass that information along. That’s a great resource. And I certainly would encourage that because it’s just the bottom line. It’s information and that’s going to help you make better choices with your food budget. 

Wayne Kay  15:20  

And if you can save money, it’s all good. All right, final words of advice for when it comes to food, money and budgeting.

Derek Chase  15:27  

I think it’s an area of your budget that has the capacity to be too high. And you don’t want that. So it’s a good spot to spend some energy to insure that it’s as low as possible. And it’s a battle but it’s a battle that can be won. So it’s a good one to take on. 

Wayne Kay  15:47  

Absolutely. I agree with you, Derek, thank you very much for the information today.

Derek Chase  15:51  

My pleasure, Wayne.

Wayne Kay  15:52  

My guest today Derek Chase from Derek Chase and Associates, Licensed Insolvency Trustee and if you want to get to take part in one of those free consultations, you can do so by going to the website 

And that’s it for another edition of the Debt Matters podcast. We always ask you to subscribe if you have not done so. Subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcasts from so you don’t miss any episodes. And if you want more information, you can always check out our website at Thanks very much for listening.

About Derek Chase

Derek Chase is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee in British Columbia. He has been helping individuals and corporations restructure their debt since 1997. His areas of practice include personal and corporate insolvency including Consumer Proposals and Bankruptcy. The best part of his work is to be able to witness lives change for the better when the heavy burden of unmanageable debt is lifted.  

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