I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time grocery shopping. And I mean, a lot of time. I set a weekly grocery budget and treat it like a game trying to stay under that amount each week. I also happen to really love budgeting.
Did you know, the average Canadian household spends $8,500 at the grocery store each year, with each trip averaging 32 minutes? Considering they average 1.29 trips a week, that’s about $88 a trip on groceries.
If you’re looking to level-up your grocery shopping game, you’ve come to the right place. Check out our top tips and tricks for making grocery shopping a bit easier on yourself.
1. Have a plan
Failing to plan is planning to fail, am I right? The grocery store can be overwhelming to the untrained eye (Lights! Colours! Smells! Music!), especially if you have an unhappy toddler sitting in the cart. Do yourself a solid and create a plan before you go to the store.
What exactly do you need to plan? Let’s break it down.
Plan how much you’ll spend on groceries
We’re all about saving money here at Moola… it’s kind of our thing.
Create a weekly or monthly grocery budget for yourself to avoid overspending at the store. This budget should be separate and distinct from your eating out budget.
Whether you choose to create a monthly or weekly grocery budget is really up to you. There are definitely pros and cons to both ways of doing it:
Monthly Grocery Budget
Having a monthly budget can be helpful because it gives you a bit more flexibility with your spending. Maybe last week you had to stock up on pantry staples and spent a bit more than usual at the store. You compensate for it by spending a little less this week. As long as it stays within your monthly budget, it’s okay. This is a good option if you feel like you’ve already got a pretty good handle on your finances.
Weekly Grocery Budget
Maybe you do better with micromanaging your budget and that’s okay. Try dividing your monthly food budget by 4 to give you a weekly budget. Most people go to the grocery store once a week, so you can think of your weekly grocery budget as how much you can spend each trip. This gives you a little less flexibility, but lots of control over managing your money.
Plan what you’ll buy — I always try to have a plan for what I’m going to buy before I go. This is usually in the form of a list I’ve scribbled out for myself, and over the years, my lists have become a lot more sophisticated.
Plan where you’ll go — If you shop at multiple stores like me, then you’ll want to plan where you’ll go first before hand. For me, that usually means going to the place where I get a lot of frozen food last (Costco), and going to where I’ll get my dry goods first. It may also be helpful to keep a cooler bag in your car to keep perishables from spoiling, depending on how long you’ll be out for.
How long you’ll be there — If time limits stress you out then by all means, stay in the store as long as you like. I find that planning just how long I’ll be in the store however helps me stay on track and not dilly dally. It can also help you stick to your budget. If you give yourself 30 minutes to shop, then you’re more likely to follow your list and buy exactly what you need, rather than wander around and see what speaks to you.
2. Don’t shop hungry
One study showed that when you go to the store hungry, you’re more likely to choose high-calorie foods and make impulsive buys.
I know I definitely throw one too many bars of dark chocolate in to my basket when I’m feeling peckish.
The same can be said for kids – make sure your little ones are happily fed before forcing them on a grocery store trip. Or better yet, have some snacks in hand ready to give them when they start begging for the cereal on the shelf.
Many grocery stores have even started offering fresh fruit like bananas and oranges for free that you can give to your kids while you shop. While the free cookie in the bakery is always a good backup, start with the fruit. That makes everyone’s life a bit easier.
3. Shop the sales
Before you head out to do your weekly grocery shopping, be sure to check their fliers.
Stores will advertise their deals of the week, sometimes even including exclusive door buster deals that aren’t otherwise advertised.
Checking the fliers online and in store will ensure you’re the first to know about any sales. It will also help you plan your shopping easier because you’ll be able to see what store has what on sale.
This can save you loads of time when you do your shopping.
4. Do your grocery shopping on the weekdays or mornings
There is nothing more anxiety-inducing than a crowded grocery store, am I right? Navigating a cart through the grocery store at 12 pm on a Sunday is enough to make a grown man cry, not to mention a small child.
If you can swing it, try to do your grocery shopping first thing in the morning on a weekday. Studies have found the best time to shop is Monday – Thursday, as long as you go early or midday. Not only does this option give you the least crowded grocery store, it also gives you access to the freshest produce.
When I was in college, my favorite time to shop was on Wednesday mornings. The kale was never picked over and all of the aisles were fully stocked.
Other good times to grocery shop are late at night (think 9 or 10 pm) or as soon as the store opens on the weekend. Rumor has it, you can be in and out of Costco with a full cart in 20 minutes if you go as soon as it opens on Saturday morning.
5. Choose the line with the least amount of people
One line has 6 people in it, but each person only has a few of items.
Another line has 2 people in it, but they both have full carts.
Which line do you choose?
According to science, you should probably choose the one with the least amount of people.
That’s because it takes people a minute or two to say hello, hand over their rewards card, pack up, and pay for their items. In contrast, ringing up an item only takes a couple of seconds.
If you’re really short on time, take the counterintuitive option and choose the line with the full cart. You’ll only save yourself a minute or two, but sometimes, that’s all you need.
Some other interesting line tidbits to keep in mind? Choose lines to the left (most people veer right) and avoid lines where the cashier is obstructed by view.
6. Go by yourself
While it may be more fun to grocery shop with a friend, it’s probably going to slow you down. Grocery shopping by yourself is the best way to ensure your time and money are spent as best they can.
A few things happen when we grocery shop with others, say a partner, a friend, or a child:
- We get distracted easier: It’s hard to pay attention to buying what you need when there’s a screaming child next to you. If you can swing it, keep the little one at home while you shop in order to help keep you on track. Otherwise, it would be good to time your trip around nap time or first thing in the morning, before the kids are cranky and tired from a long day.
- We encourage spending in each other: I don’t know about you, but my friends are really big in to the “treat yourself” notion. Want those cookies from the bakery? Treat yourself! Having this kind of energy around can make sticking to a budget near next to impossible.
- We waste more time: Shopping with my partner always meant talking about the food we saw, planning what we were going to eat that week, and then wandering back through the aisles to pick up things we forgot because we were talking. Tell your significant other to stay at home this time and let you do the shopping. That way, everyone wins.
Make your trip to the grocery store an act of self care and go at it alone. Chances are, you’ll get twice as much done in half the amount of time.
7. Order your groceries online
If I still haven’t convinced you that grocery shopping can be a good time, then try ordering your groceries online. You can pick up your groceries in store or get them delivered right to your house.
For those new to meal kits, it’s easy.
- Simply choose from a weekly menu of recipes
- Fresh produce and ingredients get delivered to your door
- You cook tasty and healthy meals at home
Right now through Moola, you can save 5% on food delivery and meal kits services like Spud, HelloFresh, Chef’s Plate, and more.
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be hard
With a solid plan, a solo trip, and a few strategic choices, grocery shopping can be as easy as freshly baked apple pie from the bakery. You may even find yourself looking forward to those Saturday morning grocery runs.
You can also check out Moola for gift card deals to grocery stores to help you budget better.
Also, be sure to read all about how you can save money online shopping to save a few extra bucks on grocery shopping.