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Dining on a dollar: how to beat inflation in Canada

Tips any student can use to save


One of the dominant news stories in Canada this year has been inflation. Compared to last year, prices have gone up for most products in Canada – especially groceries. The price rise has been steep and fast, leaving many students worried about how to afford the basic necessities. 

While inflation has started to come down from its peak earlier in the year, it’s still noticeable when you go shopping. Here are five ways to fight inflation.

Buy in bulk 

The first thing anyone will tell you about buying in bulk: do it at Costco. However, some students get nervous about paying for a membership ($60/year), and they’re often hard to get to without a car. Still, there are ways of buying in bulk at your regular grocery store; it’s as simple as choosing the bigger bag over the smaller one.  

For smoothies and breakfasts, look at the bottom shelf of the freezer for large bags of frozen fruit and vegetables. For meals, buy a whole chicken, then carve it into lunch- or dinner-sized portions. Remember that many ingredients have a long shelf-life, so even if you only need one cup of sugar today, you’ll save money if you buy a lot more and save it.  

Don’t pay extra for brand names 

No matter what you need at the pharmacy or grocery store – vinegar, headache medication, or dish soap – you usually do not need to pay extra for the recognizable brand name. Look for Kirkland products at Costco, Life or Equate products at the pharmacy and No Name, Compliments or Selection products at the grocery store. You get basically the same thing at a slight discount.  

Pay attention to the unit price 

One of the ways companies are trying to keep profits up is by offering smaller sizes of old products. This is called “shrinkflation,” and while it can be hard to find bigger sizes if they’re discontinued, there’s at least a way to know whether your costs are going up. Price labels usually have a “unit price,” which displays the cost of food per 100 grams – this can tell you if you’re over- or under-paying for something.  

Respect the ugly food 

Inflation and Canada’s food waste problem have drawn attention to two problems: throwing out food right after its best-before date, and throwing out food because it looks kind of gross. If you shop right, you can actually use these trends to your advantage.  

In the produce and bakery sections of most grocery stores, you’ll find items that are either expiring soon or just look a little weird – at a serious discount (sometimes 50% off). There’s nothing wrong with these items, so you should take advantage of their pricing and pick them up.  

Be flexible 

If you decide on Sunday what you’ll eat all week, but the ingredients are very expensive, don’t stick too rigidly to your plan. If you shop based on what’s available and what’s on sale, instead of what you really want, you’ll save a lot more money. 

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