As Canada’s inflation rate soars, nearing a 40-year high, some shoppers are doing everything they can to save on essentials.
According to Statistics Canada, inflation has risen to 7.7 per cent, the highest it has been since 1983. Food price increases in May exceed the general rate of inflation: fats and oils are up 30 per cent, fresh vegetables are up 10.3 per cent, fish is up 11.7 per cent, and meat is up 9 per cent.
“The rise is significant but also quite violent,” Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and food policy at Dalhousie University, told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
And while Canadian grocery companies post massive earnings, two “extreme couponers” are offering Canadian shoppers advice on how to keep some of that money in their own pockets.
Kathleen Cassidy, who runs a couponing advice account called “Living on a Loonie” on both Instagram and TikTok, says her combined 397,000 social media followers are interested in learning more about how to buy more with less. Her accounts compile lists of eligible coupons and noteworthy sales for shoppers to use to save money, as well as other tips and tricks on how to get the most bang for your buck.
“I think over the last few months, and even years, we’ve definitely seen couponing become a lot more popular,” Cassidy told CTV News Channel on Wednesday. “I think you’re seeing a lot more videos on TikTok of people just trying to feed their families, and their grocery budget isn’t cutting it anymore.”
Using what she’s learned about couponing, Cassidy said she’s saved thousands of dollars on groceries over the past few years.
Another Canadian couponer, Leanne Matthewson, says in 2021 she saved around $10,000 on groceries using a combination of couponing, cash back apps and loyalty programs. In 2016, she joined a Facebook group and website called the Canadian Savings Group, which teaches Canadians how to find coupons and use them.
“They have been instrumental in helping me keep my grocery bill low,” Matthewson told CTV News Channel on Wednesday of the group.
HOW TO START COUPONING
Getting started will take shoppers no further than their local grocery store, or even just their cell phone.
“You start in stores, start online on your phone using cash backs apps because then you start learning how to price match,” Matthewson said. “If you’re going to do one thing to help yourself save money, use your apps like Flipp and Reebee. That will give you a price match, and that right there is the beginnings of saving money.”
Price matching is a program run by some stores that allows shoppers to pay the same price on an item listed at another store if they can show a flyer.
This can often be used in combination with coupons, which can sometimes be found in-store on the shelf near the item itself.
On her social media channels, Cassidy also recommends a holistic approach to saving on everyday items.
“I think couponing encompasses a lot of different aspects in Canada,” she said. This includes using cash back apps and apps that help you price match to get the best deal; finding what items are on sale and combining those with eligible coupons from your store’s shelves, website or flyers; signing up for your favourite stores’ loyalty programs; and making use of what you already have at home.
“I look at the grocery store I shop at, what is on sale that week, and I kind of build my meal plan around that, plus what I already have at home in the freezer or pantry,” Cassidy said. “And that really helps me focus down on what I need to buy, and save money in the long run.”
But Matthewson also warned couponing rookies about getting too excited about a coupon deal.
“When you first start couponing, you want to find all the products you can that are on sale, whether you may use them or not,” she said. “And you may go overboard and buy 50 or 60 toothpastes or toothbrushes.”
But Matthewson added that if shoppers find themselves with that kind of a windfall, those products could go to those in need.
“You can donate that stuff. You’re not going to use it,” she said.
Cassidy donates what she can to community fridges and foodbanks in need.
And while couponing does require time and effort, both couponers said it’s worth it.
When she was raising her baby, Matthewson said she would spend the time she was awake in the middle of the night couponing. At first she said it took hours to find coupons, organize them and then plan her shopping trips, but with lots of practice and experience she now spends less than two hours per week on couponing.
In her work educating others on how to coupon online, Cassidy said she thinks people are starting to see that time spent trying to save money at the grocery store pays off – literally.
“I think especially since the pandemic, and now with this inflation, there’s a lot of people who in the past would have not wanted to spend that kind of time and effort on couponing, but are really seeing how valuable it can be now,” she said.