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Ottawa man saving big at grocery story, sharing on Reddit

Donovan Burey says he doesn’t mind waking up at 5 a.m. every Wednesday in order to sift through grocery store coupons online.

“It dates back from a long time ago with my parents. They had this philosophy of ‘buy it if it’s on sale, stock up on it if it’s on sale, always cook fresh,’” he told CTV News Ottawa in an interview.

He searches digital coupons and flyers on apps like Flipp, a compilation of latest sales from stores across North America.

But Burey doesn’t keep the deals to himself. He makes a detailed Excel spreadsheet with categories including items, stores, best deals and a comment or two for colour.

He then takes his lists, and posts it on Reddit under Ottawa’s subcategory. The posts have skyrocketed in popularity — a go-to for those on a budget.

The idea to post started mid October last year.

“I just felt it, it was really just an off-the-cuff thing, I thought ‘hey, there are a couple of stores near me, these are good deals, I like to cook,’ so I figured I would share it, and then all of sudden the comments kept coming in,” said Burey.

Burey adds more people started to request he include even more grocery stores in his posts.

Eventually, he ended up making a massive list, including major grocery stores across the city, such as Metro, Loblaws, Farm Boy, Food Basic, as well as smaller stores like Adonis on St. Laurent Boulevard.

He says the comments have been “tremendous,” noting the some comments were from other provinces.

“Food is very expensive, and I think that is why the posts have gained so much traction,” he added.

“Thanks again for another weekly round up. This has become one of my must read Wednesday posts,”a Reddit reader wrote.

Burey suggests people do their research before any trip to the store and be willing to make stops at a few places.

“There was one Christmas batch of stuff that I bought. It was $178 but I saved $80-90 on it, any other day I would have been spending $270 on that same bill. That’s just one trip,” he explained.

Burey says this week’s top deal includes a sale on beef.

His posts come at a time when consumers are spending more than ever before at the grocery store.

Grocery prices are expected to climb again this year. But there is some relief in sight, they are not expected to rise as steeply as preview years.

The 2024 edition of Canada’s Food Price Report forecasts food prices will rise by 2.5 to 4.5 per cent next year.

For a family of four, the total grocery bill for the year is expected to be $16,297.20 – up $701.79 from last year, the annual report prepared by the University of Guelph, Dalhousie University, University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan said.

“The work that Donovan is doing wouldn’t have worked 2-3 years ago, people didn’t take the time to go to 2-3 stores, now they see the benefit. The work that Donovan is doing will help people because people are keen to visit more than one store. If there is a deal, a significant deal, they will go to that store, even if they don’t know that store at all.” Sylvain Charlebois, one of the authors of the publication and director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab said.

According to the Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index, prices for food increase 4.7 per cent in November. Prices for meat increased at a faster pace on a year-over-year basis in November compared with October.

Meanwhile, Charlebois says “keep in mind, grocers have noticed that we aren’t as loyal as we used to be.”

According to Charlebois, things are “much calmer now,” which could result in more deals and, potentially, some price wars between the big grocers.

Over the next year, Charlebois believes grocery stores will be offering more incentives to consumers like loyalty programs and deals to entice people.

“To me the red flag was Costco. Costco was supposed to raise its membership fee by $10 by Dec. 1, (but) they never did, because they want to keep their membership. What I am hearing in the industry is that a lot of grocers are trying to make sure that people understand how attractive their loyalty program is,” , Charlebois said.

One of the tactics used is selling items at a loss, which brings the customer through the grocer’s doors, but then the store would increase the prices for other items, hoping the consumer will buy those as well, he explained.

“Grocers will want us back and probably offer us more loss leaders and rebates and that could lead to some price wars especially at the centre of the store,” said Charlebois.

As for Burey, he says he will continue his posts.

“I really enjoy it, when I find the tips and tricks, I like to put them out there,’ he said.

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