The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

The Grocery Game Challenge #13 March 25- 31,2013- How To Grocery Shop


How To Grocery Shop

This weeks Grocery Game Challenge is to help a reader who wants to learn how to grocery shop. I received an email a few days back from a student who is leaving for University next year and wanted to learn everything there is to know about grocery shopping on his own. Some of you might be laughing thinking well, what’s to learn, but some people have never stepped foot in a grocery store let alone know where to begin. Guys in their teens don’t always go to the grocery store with their mom and dad growing up as opposed to the girls who might enjoy it more.

I emailed him back to say I would put something together and see what other tips my fans could come up with for him. I’m certainly not the grocery shopping expert but I do know a few things that I’ve learned over the years shopping on my own since I was 19. This post is a bit longer than normal but I certainly hope it helps ease any stress for those that don’t know where to begin in a grocery store.

How To Grocery Shop

One of the first things I would suggest to someone who is learning how to grocery shop is to know how much your grocery budget is especially if you think you will be grocery shopping on a tight budget. If you don’t know how much you have to spend each week it’s very difficult to plan your shops. This is a great time if you are a student to put together a back to school budget so you get used to what you need to do and how much you can spend while away or living at home.  All of the lists I will show you below are available for FREE in my Money Saving Free Downloadable Tools Page.

Weekly Meal Plan

Weekly Meal Plan Sheet

Meal planning has become important in our house as it not only helps us plan our meals together but we limit what we purchase because already know how much food we need for the week and what we have to buy. We mark down on our weekly meal plan sheet what we want to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. On occasion we see a super amazing deal and for that we have a stockpile budget of $20 per month in reserve in case we need it. If we don’t use it the money goes back into our savings account.

Grocery Shopping List

Grocery Shopping List

After we plan what we will eat for the week we start building our grocery shopping list. This is where we fill in all the items we need to purchase to make the meals in our meal plan that we don’t already have in our pantry. We have a pantry inventory list that we update weekly so all we have to do is flip through our binder and see what we have available. We also have a freezer inventory list that we keep in our binder which we update for this grocery shopping step.

Grocery Price List

Grocery Price List

Next, I would sit down with all your local grocery flyers or you can log in online to just about any Canadian coupon site as they will have the flyers posted for the week along with coupon match-ups. We look at the products on our grocery shopping list to see if any of the products are on sale this week and where. Some people plan their meals around what is on sale for the week so that is another option for you. We make note of the price, the store and whether we will be price matching or not.

We total up an approximate price at the end of each stores column so we know roughly how much it will be. We want to make sure we aren’t spending more than we have available in our grocery budget. This is another great reason to know your prices so always keep your price radar on so you build this knowledge up in your memory. It’s a great way to learn how to start saving money on groceries.

You won’t always have the correct total because not everything you need to buy will be on sale and in a flyer so always leave some shopping room just in case an item has gone up in price or you have a tough time to find the brand you need and you have to settle for something pricier. The printable grocery price list allows you to type in the stores you regularly shop at so it’s a custom form just for you.

Before we leave home we make sure that we pull out the coupons we need and collect the flyers to price match so we are prepared to shop and put them with our shopping bags. There’s nothing worse than getting to the grocery store only to find out you left everything at home. I’m sure many people are nodding their heads because we have all done it and it’s pretty hard to grocery shop when you don’t have your list in front of you. I’m betting 9 times out of 10 when we guess what we need for food we spend far more than what is needed. Some people like to bring their entire coupon binder when they shop but we tend to buy more if we have the binder with us. Sometimes we leave our excess coupons in the vehicle but most times the coupons end up expiring if we don’t use them.

Printable grocery lists are great because once you have it printed you can put it in your coupon binder, budget binder, on your refrigerator or wherever it’s most convenient for you to plan your grocery shop. I find if I just grab a piece of paper and start scribbling a list on it that I tend to spend more rather than taking the time to plan. A list that is easy to read and organized may encourage the money conscious consumer not to overspend. Over time you will find what works for you because it’s different for everyone.

At The Grocery Store

When you are the grocery store, especially if it is your first time shopping alone it can be overwhelming. Typically all the food you will need is along the perimeter of the store, milk, dairy, produce, grains etc and that is the best route to take first in my opinion. Keep your eyes open at pricing on the top and bottom shelves and inside freezer/refrigerated bunkers where you may find reduced product for less. If you must go down the aisles I caution this is where most people break the budget. Typically the most expensive products will be at eye level as some manufacturers pay a premium price to have their products on that shelf.

How can I tell what products are down each aisle?

Most times if you just look up above each aisle you will see an aisle number and what products are generally down that aisle. Head down the aisle you need, get the product on your list and leave the aisle. If you start looking around and you are not good at overcoming temptation then you may get the urge to pop something into your grocery cart that you don’t need.

If you are not sure of the price of a product ask someone or some stores have price scanners on the wall which come in handy. All you do is simply scan the Universal Product Code (UPC) to see how much the product costs. If the shelf is empty ask a stock boy or girl to see if they have any more stock at the back. If not also ask at customer service on your way out for a rain check.  What is a rain check? A rain check means that the next time you shop if the product is in stock you will get the sale price on the item listed in the rain check. Typically a rain check lasts for up to 30 days but some 90 so it’s best to ask.

Pink Sticker reduced products

Reduced Racks

Most stores also have reduced racks where you will find damaged items or items near expiry that they are selling cheap. If you can walk away from that temptation as well if you don’t need something at least check it out. You will also find shops that use reduced stickers on products to alert you that it has a lowered price.

An example is in the Loblaws stores they use what most grocery shoppers call the “Pink Sticker” a colourful invention to grab consumers attention. Look at me, look at me, I’m reduced….. be warned it can be tempting so pick and choose what you need according to plan.  We know because we’ve got caught up in that many times and blew the budget. If you add something into your cart that is not on the list you must take something out to replace it. That is what we learned and what we do our best to stick to.

Finally, always read date codes on the products you purchase because you don’t want to pay full price for something that will expire in a couple of days or that is a damaged product. Don’t be afraid to haggle with the department supervisor to see if the will reduce the price for you.

Universal Product Code

Checking Out

Right from the start I’m going to say if you don’t know what the Scanning Code of Practice is in Canada you MUST read about it so you are an informed shopper.

When you are finished finding all the items on your list it’s time to check out at the cash register. Have your coupons, discount cards and flyers to price match organized and ready for the cashier. Some stores allow you to use your smart phone to price match so you don’t have to carry the flyers with you so that’s something you can ask at customer service. I know some people find this much more convenient. A tip I like to give is that an organized shopper always makes a cashier happy. We also ask the cashier if she would like our coupons as we go along per product or all at the end. We also let him/her know if we will be price matching.

There are many options these days from the self-scanner to the fast lane 1-8 or 1-16 items or  your everyday checkout lane. If you do choose to go to the fast lane make note of how many items they ask you to have because it’s only fair to stick to the reason behind why it is called the fast lane. Besides you might upset other shoppers who are following the rules.

If you choose the modern self scanning stations there is always a cashier who moderates the stations who can help you out if you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that is why they are there. Take your products one by one out of your shopping cart and flip them to the Universal Product Code (UPC) , follow the directions on the touch screen, scan your item by scanning the UPC code, then sit the item in the holding dock until you are finished scanning all your items. It’s a pretty easy step by step process that any new shopper can figure out on their own.

If you choose to go through a regular check-out do the same as above, be organized and have everything ready for the cashier. Always check the bottom of your cart in order not to miss any products. The last thing you need is to be pulled aside because they think you are shoplifting. Lastly, save all your receipts so you can go home and input the expense in your budget sheet and post your weekly shop right here in the Grocery Game to help motivate you to stick to your grocery budget!~ See rules for the grocery game below!

So, grocery shopping is pretty easy and the more you do it the easier it gets. I’m sure I’m missing something in this post so lets see what else the fans come up with and I’ll update the post with any new information that is important.

What other tips could you add to this list for the first time grocery shoppers

The Grocery Game Challenge

This is the final Grocery Game Challenge week for March 2013~~ Post your Shop and you might be our next Grocery Game Winner!

For Inspiration read about Canadian Budget Binder fan Donna R who shares her secrets for lowering her family’s grocery budget from a whopping $1100 a month to $600 give it a read now.

Our Grocery Game Challenge Results 
Total Grocery Amount Budgeted For the Year : $2819.38
  • Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00 or $78.33 week with one no-shop week per month or $58.75 for 4 weeks per month. (During the months with 5 weeks we just make it work)
  • Total Coupons Used this Week : $0 
  • Total Discounts this Week: $0
  • Total Checkout 51 rebates this Week: $0 Don’t Use this service
  • Total Checkout 51 rebates this Month: $0 Don’t Use this service
  • Total Colleague Discounts (CD) this Week: $0 
  • Total Colleague Discounts (CD) this Month:$0 
  • Total Gift Cards Given Used this Week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points Used: $0
  • Stockpile Budget: $20.00 Used: $20.00 (done for the month of March)
  • Total Spent This Week:$0
  • Total Spent So Far for (March): $169.62
  • Total Over/Under spend this shop: n/a
  • Total Over/Under spend for the month of  (March): Under $65.38
  • Total Left to Spend for the Month: $65.38
  • Total Coupons Used This Month :$17.23+$7.50+$0= $24.73
  • Total to Carry Over Next Month : $ n/a We don’t carry over 
  • Total Spent To Date This Year: $206.95 (Jan)+ $160.77 (Feb) + (March)$169.62= $537.34
  • Rendezvous Account: $65.38 (this will be used for a date night or a summer holiday)

Weekly Overview: This was a no spend week for us so we opted to not shop even though we wanted to. It’s hard to break that weekly habit but we keep working on it. We have more than enough food to get us through this week. Mary inspired this no-shop week as she decided not to do her massive Air Miles shop which you can read about in her comment in last weeks grocery game post. Sometimes it can be tough but we have to stick together. The rendezvous account started this shop so I put the remainder of the money from the month of March into that category and will tally it along each month until we use it.

Canadian Coupons Found This Week

No coupons found this week as we did not go to the grocery stores.

How was your grocery shop this week?

FAQ’s- Grocery Game Challenge RULES…..

  1. Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop? No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops only to win a monthly prize. We have a few players from around the world.
  2. When does the Grocery Game Close each month? The Grocery Game Challenge Closes at Midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month. You can post your shops all month-long.
  3. Does Your Grocery Budget Include Health and Beauty and Laundry? Yes our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be effected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any more. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money.
  4. Where can I find Canadian CouponsHere are your latest Coupon Match-ups  of the week including Checkout 51 from 25 Newspaper Inserts around Canada compliments of Save Big Live Better that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge.
  5. Where can I find updated Coupon Policies? You can find all the updated Canadian Coupon Policies on hand at Mrs. January

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