The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

Should you really shop at a bulk food store? : The Grocery Game Challenge #2 Oct 6-12, 2014



Most people would assume that if they buy food from a bulk food store that it would cost less than buying at a local grocery store.

I’m not just talking about a bulk food store like the Bulk Barn but also stores like Costco that people believe help slash their grocery budget.

Almost two years ago when I participated in the Welfare Food Challenge I agreed that buying in bulk would help keep costs lowered for those who want to stick to a budget. It’s true as long as you are always getting the ‘best price’ for the size/amount you buy. What is also important to consider is here as well is quality of product. If you aren’t then likely the savings aren’t going to be great.


Bulk Food Store Savings


We don’t have a Costco membership which you have to pay for and factor into your overall costs. This cost can run you anywhere from $55 a year for a business membership to a $110 for an executive membership.

Through the grapevine I’ve heard that if you buy a Costco gift card or one was given to you then you can by-pass needing the membership although I’ve never tested this out before.

I’ve been in the store a few times with my sister-in-law. If you know your prices like I do it won’t take you long to figure out what’s worth buying and what you should pass up. I will agree that you get what you pay for though.

Each time I went to Costco I’ve walked out empty-handed except once where we loaded up on baby wipes. We did the math and even though the world of baby was still new to us because we had just found out we were having a baby we didn’t know the prices like we thought we did.

We loaded up on giant boxes of Kirkland Baby Wipes that just happened to be on sale the day we went in. According to my sister-in-law who is also a mother she said they were a great deal at $15.99.

I confess that years ago we were extreme couponers and when my sister-in-law had her baby we stocked up using Smart Source coupons to make the single packages of Huggies wipes $0.99 each after coupon. This was where the math came from in the moment of deciding whether to buy those Kirkland wipes. Probably not the smartest financial decision because I really didn’t base my numbers on equal size boxes.

When we were calculating the figures at Costco for our own baby budget we thought we were getting a great deal for the big box of baby wipes but looking back, we didn’t. Not even a week later we were at Zehrs and found the giant boxes of Pampers wipes on sale for less and more in the box. Saying that, it’s always hit or miss. One week the Kirkland might be the best deal. It always boils down to price knowledge at the end of the day.

Pampers is well marketed around the world as one of the best baby brands along with Huggies so we now know that we could have saved some money had we of known the prices of the baby products. The point here is that we thought we were getting the best deal buying in bulk at Costco but it turned out, we didn’t.

Many people believe that just because they are buying in bulk it must mean it’s the best price around. I’m pretty sure those of you that agree with me have done the math before and sure some products will give you more bang for your buck but going wild shopping when you go to Costco (people do it all the time.. admit it) can significantly increase your grocery budget for no reason.


Savings outside of the bulk food store


If you are one of those people who don’t have patience to grocery shop, use coupons or shop flyer sales then yes shops like Costco will likely be your best savings bet. The laws of economics: If you buy x amount you can negotiate better prices but whether it trickles down to the consumer depends on the store.

If you can hang on tight and shop at the grocery store you may find you can save much more after applying rewards points, coupon app savings, coupons, flyer deals, reduced product, discontinued product etc.

What is considered bulk?

Another type of bulk food store that many people flock to are the bulk stores where you can buy just about any pantry item, well… in bulk. It’s tempting when you walk through the door  at the Bulk Barn (this is the shop in our area) just as it is when you go to Costco and you can easily spend far more than you anticipated.

I have to ask though why people buy from the Bulk Barn for example when they really aren’t buying in bulk unless they are buying a mass quantity of it. If you are buying chocolate chips for example and only buying enough to equal a package from the grocery store make sure you are getting the best deal. Sometimes prices are higher on bulk food items depending on whether they are in season such a nuts which always increase in price come winter.

Next time you go to the bulk food store have a look around to see what products they market to you as soon as you walk through the door. At Costco you will see sales as soon as you walk in the door and the same goes for the Bulk Barn however you might find more candy and junk food upon entering.

Everyone likes snacks and treats and people love seeing big huge pails and buckets full which almost force your hand to pick up the scoop. We do go to the bulk food store to shop but only for specific products that we know that we can score a great deal on.

The good thing about the Bulk Barn is they often have a flyer coupon (also a printable Bulk Barn coupon)-when available for spend $10 save $3 which is when we go shopping. The problem is the coupon isn’t always available so when it is get your shopping list ready for those pantry staples.

Some of the items we buy at the Bulk Barn that we know we can get cheaper is rolled oats, nuts, brown sugar, icing sugar, pure vanilla extract. Those are just products specific to us but if they are on sale during the time we have the coupon it makes it an even better deal.

If you need any specific health food items, gluten-free foods, sugar-free or even animal food and treats you can score some savings if you watch the prices matched with the coupon. We use the coupon which helps bring the cost down and makes it worth it for us to shop there.

The only time we may find that the grocery store trumps the bulk store price is when the grocery store has a sale and even with the bulk food store coupon applied to the shop it would make more sense to buy at the grocery store.


Don’t get side-tracked


Bulk Barn candy is very tempting and the only way to avoid buying it is to stick to the plan, get in and get out. It’s no different when you shop at Costco and likely why so many people end up with hundreds of dollars in their cart when they might have went in to just “look around” or to buy specific products.

There’s a reason there are samples all over Costco and grocery stores, to entice you to buy. The only problem with Costco is that you are buying larger amounts. Food waste is a big deal and throwing food out because it is past expiry really makes no sense when your goal is saving money.

At the end of the day it’s hit or miss when shopping at a bulk food store whether it be shops like Costco or the Bulk Barn. You also have to consider the size of your family and whether the convenience of buying in bulk is worth it for you.

The only financial defense you will have is making sure you know your prices so you can make the informed decision so you don’t bulk out your budget instead of your pantry.

What products do you buy in bulk that saves you money? Do you think that bulk food stores really are money saving shops?


October grocery game challenge posts


If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up for the month each week here in this section for you. Join in the Grocery Game Challenge fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each blog post… here are the GGC rules!

How quick means can be a lifesaver for new parents: The Grocery Game Challenge #1 Sept 29-October 5,2014


Grocery Saving Tips

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I hope you take the time to get back on track and start the savings process in your grocery budget today.

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Ultimate grocery shopping guide


Everything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is below with new information added monthly.

If you missed a Grocery Game Challenge post some of the most popular posts are listed below or you can now find the posts listed on their own page called The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.

If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email.


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Grocery Game 2 Oct 6-12, 2014


Grocery shop results


Shoppers Drug Mart

  • 2 x Neilson Milk 4L $3.97 each
  • Dozen Eggs $1.99
  • Danone Greek Yogurt $3.99-$2.00 SDM internet coupon

Total out-of-pocket $10.93 plus 20150 Shoppers Optimum points when you spend $75 or more. We bought a case of Enfamil Ready Feed Bottles which falls under baby budget.


Food Basics

  • 3 x Honey Bunches of Oats $1.99
  • 2 x Shreddies $1.99
  • Astro Original Yogurt $3.29 (they forgot to take coupon off so I’ll call and get that sorted out)
  • 2 x Mushrooms reduced $0.99 each
  • 4 x Triscuit Onion and Sweet Potato $1.44 each
  • 2 x Pillers Honey Ham  $2.99 each were $6.00 each reduced
  • Yoplait Yogurt 12 $4.99- FPC
  • Chicken Breast $8.17, $8.80
  • Romaine Hearts $1.88
  • 4 x Campbell’s tomato soup $0.50 each
  • Seedless cucumber $0.97
  • 2 x Johnsonville sausages $$4.99-$1.50= $3.49, 44.49-$1.35=$3.14
  • 2 x tortellini $1.99 each
  • Red Onion $0.94
  • Bananas $1.48
  • Tomatoes $1.57
  • Steel Cut Oats $2.69 (apparently this helps with breastmilk production… along with fenugreek and mother’s milk tea)

Total out-of-pocket $67.06


Yearly grocery budget for two: $2820

(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $240 per year or $20 per month.)

  • Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00 or $78.33 week with potentially 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 Budget for October $235.00-$49.30 (overspend in September)=$185.70
  • Total Coupons Used this Week : $6.99
  • Total Coupons Used to date: $61.19
  • Total Discounts this Week: $2.85
  • Total Discounts Used to date: $51.71
  • Total Gift Cards Used to date: $33.18
  • Total Rewards Points Used: $0
  • Total Rewards Points Used to date: $20.00
  • Stockpile Budget ($20.00): $ 19.92 (6 x Bavarian bread and 2 x Ta Ta Tea)
  • Stockpile Budget Used to Date: $20.00+$19.08+$17.94+ $2.06+$20.00+$15.10 + $20.00 (June)+ $22.44 (July) + (August) $8.00+ (September) $0 + October $
  • Snap Groupon to date: $19.25
  • Zweet to date: $4.00
  • Cart Smart to date: $0
  • Checkout51 to date: $12.75
  • Total Spent This Week: $77.99
  • Total Spent So Far October:$40.92+$77.99+$118.91
  • Total Over/Under spend this shop: $n/a
  • Total Over/Under spend for the month: over $n/a
  • Total Left to Spend for the Month: $66.79
  • Total to Carry Over Next Month: $n/a
  • Total Spent To Date This Year: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $242.66+ Feb $191.74+ March $255.82+April $235.07+May $223.62+June $275.37+ July $203.36+ August $228.26+ Sept $272.80+ Oct $
  • Weekly Overview: It’s going to be a tough month for us in October as we have a smaller budget this month. We loaded up on bread that is normally $2.99, chicken breast and cereal this shop. We wanted to make sure we were eating healthy even though we are eating quick meals.


 Coupon Sleuth


Did you find any coupons? If so share the details in the comment section of this post where you found it and what the coupon is for with expiry.

October Canadian Coupons 2014


Frequently Asked Questions


  • Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible.
  • 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 fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
  • 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.
  • Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: 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 affected 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.
  • What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
  • How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.

Over time you will gradually learn where you should and shouldn’t go in the grocery store or at least how to say no, I’m on a budget I need to buy this or that. You may also substitute items in order to stick to your grocery budget to make it work. Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do.

This is why the grocery game challenge was created to not only show you that we are like everyone else but to bring us all together to work as a team to get our budgets on track. If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2014 get ready to dive deep into your grocery budget and learn just where you are spending, how much you are spending and what you are saving.

Feel free to read all the above posts that I linked to above which I feel are relevant to learning about the grocery budget and grocery shopping in general. You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!

Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge Canada 2014!



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