Here’s how to price match groceries in Canada

Grocery prices continue to pinch Canadians’ wallets, which is why some have started hunting for deals through flyers and phone apps to get the most bang for their buck.

In July, headline inflation rose, but grocery prices came down slightly, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) report from Statistics Canada. However, year-over-year, food prices are still high and out of reach for many.

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Many have turned to food banks to help feed their families during the cost-of-living crisis.

Meanwhile, some Canadians have taken it upon themselves to play a “scavenger hunt” through flyers to find the best deals, using coupons or price matching to lower their bills.

Price matching is when a customer shows a lower competitor price for the same item at a grocery store and receives that item for the lower price.

HOW TO PRICE MATCH

Kat Cassidy, a Canadian couponer, runs multiple social media accounts under the handle “living on a loonie.” She said she “fell into” the side hustle of content creation after she started sharing tips on couponing and price matching online.

“I was just a university student who was couponing, trying to save money. I had two part-time jobs (and) went to school full-time,” Cassidy told CTVNews.ca in an interview. “I just felt like the extreme costs of university as well as living were just taking all of my money, and I had no money left over for the joys.”

Looking for another way to save besides budgeting, Cassidy picked up a coupon at her local grocery store, which piqued her curiosity. After that, she started researching online for couponing tips and tricks.

“I found that there was a lot of U.S.-based couponing stuff, but not a lot of Canadians (sharing their couponing stories),” she said. “So I thought that I would just kind of start posting my experience and see if it would help anyone.”

Cassidy uses both coupons and price matching at her local grocery store to save $50 to $100 each trip.

In Canada, she said the Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, Giant Tiger, Freshco, Maxi, IGA and Save On Foods, among others, will allow customers to match the prices of items sold by their competitors.

Each store does have its own policy, so some will allow price matching, whereas others may only offer it against certain competitors.”The thing with price matching that makes it a little bit tricky is that it’s a store-by-store basis because most of these stores that are price matching are franchise, so they are independently owned,” Cassidy said. “So they kind of make the rules up, if you will.”

This is why it’s important to “familiarize yourself” with the local stores, she said.

Using paper flyers, or the Flipp app, an online catalogue of flyers, Cassidy will search for the items she needs that are on sale and will begin creating a grocery list.

If she needs crackers but her local No Frills is offering a higher price than at the local Food Basics, she can price match the item at No Frills for the Food Basics cost, without going to two different stores.

“Make sure that wherever you’re price matching, you have the exact product,” she said. “You’re going to want to make sure you have the same weight, the same item (and) the same brand.”

To make it easier for the cashier, Cassidy puts the items she wants to price match at the end of the conveyor belt, which also helps keep her organized.

“I feel like people try to do too much at once or they’re just disorganized and they get to the cash (register) and they feel a little bit of anxiety come through and that’s why people don’t like it,” she said. “I always like to say try price matching just one item your first time … and build yourself up from there.”

Over the years, many say the rules and where to price match have made saving money harder.

“I’ve noticed it’s not the same, less coupons, more rules at stores … Some stores don’t price match, so it’s basically a game on what to get where, in order to save,” Suzette Bellemore, commented on a post in the Extreme Couponing Canada Facebook page.

‘I SOLD SOMETHING I REALLY LOVED’

Sarah Coleman’s top tip for price matching is to do it with honesty.

“When you’re price matching, don’t try to sneak one through, you’re gonna ruin it for everybody by doing that,” she told CTVNews.ca in an interview.

She’s seen people deliberately go to the cashier that seems the youngest to try and save a few extra dollars. Leading with “integrity,” she said, makes sure the program continues for everyone.

Another tip is using a calculator while walking around a store to figure out the best deals, she said.

Coleman promotes her tricks on her Facebook page “Counting on a Change.” She got into price matching and couponing after her family became food insecure in 2009, when her husband lost his job. 

“I have to admit I never once looked at the price of groceries ever,” she said of her shopping habits before the layoff.

Sarah Coleman and her family in October 2022. (Contributed)

Coleman said her husband got another job shortly after his severance pay ran out after he was laid off, but it was significantly less than what he was making before.

For a few years, she said her family of six used credit cards and cash advances and even refinanced the mortgage on their home before she decided things needed to change.

One night, after much thought, she listed a prized possession for sale — a collectable porcelain doll.

“I sold something that I really loved and they brought me 20 bucks,” Coleman recalled. “I went and bought groceries with it.”

Years later, when Coleman’s family got back on their feet, she said her daughter surprised her with the same doll.

Having been directly impacted by food insecurity, Coleman said she wants to share her story and help others who are in the same position she used to be in. She also works as a manager of operations at her local food bank in St. Thomas, Ont., where she regularly organizes workshops on couponing and price matching.

Ultimately, Coleman said she wants to Canadians to know how much price matching can make a difference.

“It took me about two hours and I saved $180 in that two hours, so that’s $90 an hour,” she said. “So for people to say, ‘Oh, it’s not worth the time.’ I’m like, ‘When have you earned $90 an hour?’”