The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

Big City Savings Tips To Survive Grocery Shopping : The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 #4 Jan 25-31

big city savings tips to survive grocery shopping (1)OPTIONS ARE ENDLESS IN THE CITY


Many people who live in the big city choose not to drive, can’t drive or can’t afford to drive. This means rolling their shopping cart into a large parking lot to load groceries only to whiz home around the corner is not an option.

Many of us take for granted the luxuries of living in a smaller city while shopping especially when it comes to parking and space. You’ll get more of that than you will living in the big city where space is at a premium.

Related: How a small town family saves money on groceries

The smartest tip that I can share with you today about shopping in any city is to be ORGANIZED. Without organization you risk having a less than ideal shopping experience. I find when we have things planned out it’s almost always smooth sailing. Unless of course we have a tired toddler, dirty nappy or it’s feeding time.

Download my Free Printable Tools to get you started on the organizational train.

With millions of people who live in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area you will certainly find just about every grocery store on the market. In Toronto alone I counted 15 No Frills grocery stores which isn’t much if you consider how big Toronto really is. Some small cities have 2 with nowhere near the million mark population. So you see many neighbourhoods in the big city rely on the small shops to provide groceries to the residents who don’t drive or opt to use alternate transportation.

No matter if you live in a big city, suburbs or in the country there will always be pros and cons when it comes to surviving the grocery shopping game. For instance, living in a big city you are bound to find just about any ingredient that your heart desires. That’s not so much the case if you live outside a big city. The key is to do research to figure out the best way to get in, get out and save money while getting the best deals and freshest product.

When you live in a big city and your only form of transportation is your feet the last thing you want to do is bulk shop, even though it will save you money in the long run. Stockpiling for most people in a big city like Toronto or Vancouver may not be an option especially if you have to lug you groceries home on the bus or subway. Many smart shoppers will purchase collapsible grocery carts which is great because you can buy more and use less energy taking your groceries home.

If you are worried about losing your cold items to melting what I would suggest is to purchase a cooler bag or a bag you can wear that will keep your dairy and other items cold until you get home. We have a cooler bag with straps in our house but right now we use it for toddler food and bottles on the go. Nothing is odd living in a big city so if there is something that makes life easier people jump on it even if that means lugging around a cart.


Non-traditional buildings


In the summer when my parents came to visit last year I took my parents to downtown Toronto to see some of the local attractions. While we were wandering around looking for somewhere to eat we ended up inside of a hotel/mall which took us to a high-end grocery store. I can’t seem to remember the name but the shop falls under the umbrella of a big box grocery store.

What we noticed was that it was much smaller and crowded with product everywhere even though it was meticulous. Keep in mind in the big city you may have to pay for parking at the grocery store if you decide to drive especially in the downtown core as not all grocery stores have store specific above ground parking. You’ll end up paying premium prices just to get your groceries. This is what luxury big city living is all about even if you are living it on a tight budget.


Meal Planning


Meal planning is critical when you live in a big city because of the amount of food you can cart home during each shopping trip. If you are taking the subway consider the stress of trying to transport home bags and bags of groceries. Meal planning will allow you to shop for the groceries you’ll need so you get in and out of the big city grocery shopping nightmare alive.


Living Space


If your place is anything like mine when I was living in the big city, you don’t have much space. I didn’t have arge cupboards to store stockpiles of food. I’m pretty sure my wife thought I was going to starve her every time she came to visit me in the UK. The only option I had was to get what I could store and shop daily or every couple of days. One option is to build shelving on the wall so you can stock up if your space is limited.


24-hour grocery stores


If you are in proximity to a 24-hour grocery store it may be wise to visit later in the evening when the crowds die down. Even where we live now the 24-hour grocery store is still very busy at night but nothing near what it is during the day. You may also score some great deals if the grocery store has any price reductions at night on short expiry products.


Cost more money


You may think that living in a big city means you will pay the same prices as every other grocery store. Not the case. Always make sure you read the local flyers for a specific grocery store before you go in as not all shops are created equal when it comes to marketing. In the big city they know the people will come so the prices always seem to be a bit higher. Keep in mind transportation costs into the big city costs more money as well.


Longer line-ups


Get ready to battle big city long line-ups but if you’re handy with a self-checkout or you can shop when the stores have less traffic in the evening. You may just be able to avoid the task of standing in line reading Hollywood magazines or talking to strangers about what they are cooking for dinner.

Related: Self-checkout


Shop often


When I lived in a small UK town I would shop often because it was easy for me to walk up to the local shops and get what I needed. There were no grocery stores in our village and if I wanted to do a large shop which I rarely did I would have had to drive to the big city.

I’ve also lived in the big city of London, UK and again I would shop where I could get to and from a store with-in walking distance. You may relate to my big city experience where I would buy meat from the butcher, fish from the fish guy, deli-meat at the deli and fresh bread at the bakery. The other grocery items I could find at local shops in my neighbourhood. I didn’t care for living in a big city which is why I left for somewhere smaller even though we still had a butcher and deli but no major grocery store just markets.

Even today living in the Greater Toronto Area is a big deal for me and I couldn’t imagine buying or renting real estate downtown Toronto or anywhere near that chaos. I’d be just as happy living in the country and working in the city or just outside the big city making fewer trips to the grocery store if it meant peace and quiet.

Like I mentioned above if you are able to get to the grocery store or market a few times a week it will help to ease the stress of pushing your way through the crowds of shoppers with more than you can handle.Cashing out with a few items at a time may leave you less frustrated rather than having bags and bags of groceries to haul home.




Food waste is a bad habit all over the world but if you live in a big city having leftovers may be a life-saver especially if you can switch them up to create a new meal. Instead of tossing your leftovers or staring at them in the refrigerator for days until they go off utilize them to create a delicious meal that helps you stretch through the time before you need to grocery shopping again.

Related: Food Waste In Canada


Out-of-Town Trips


If you know you will be heading out-of-town for a road trip or you’re off to see friends or family and they live in a smaller city don’t hesitate to make a pit-stop at the local grocery stores and stock up on what you need. The few minutes it will take you will save your grocery budget in the long-run.


Ethnic and Specialty Markets


You may find less variety in the scaled down version grocery stores in the big city which means you likely will have to go to a few shops to get the ingredients you need. You will come across ethnic and specialty markets just about everywhere you go in a big city.

Related: International store grocery shopping

Toronto has many diverse neighbourhoods in the big city where you can buy cultural foods from shops, markets and even street vendors. I have to admit I do love this about Toronto because I enjoy tasting food from all over the world.

I’ve stopped in the Asian grocery store, Italian Grocery, Portuguese bakery, Cheese Factory and so on. The benefits of the specialty markets are that they are mostly family run, local products and if you get to know the owners you may find you get better deals. A happy returning customer is always important for small businesses.


Grocery delivery


If you’re lucky you may find a grocery store living in the big city who will deliver the products that you picked out and paid for. The other option is to order groceries online and have them delivered to your house. Whether you pay a delivery fee depends on the company and the city you live in.

Some big cities have fierce competition for grocery delivery where they will waive the delivery fee just to get your business. Keep in mind you may find that you will pay more for the products you buy online. They have to make their money somewhere.


Monthly Grocery Shop


If you plan to drive out of the big city chaos to the suburbs or a smaller town to grocery shop consider visiting a local Costco or other big box store to stock up on bulk items if they are on sale or if you have coupons to use up.

My wife has a friend who lives and works in downtown Toronto who eats out often because she is single and can’t be bothered to grocery shop and cook at home. When she goes home to see her parents in a small city this is when she grocery shops and brings food back home. I’m not a lover of eating out everyday but for some people if it fits their budget and lifestyle.

Related: Eating In vs Eating out – the comparison


Eating habits


If you live in the big city and are surrounded by a few markets but no grocery stores what you could do is see what these shops have to offer and base your diet around those products. Most often you should have no problem stocking up on dairy, produce and meats which are all staples in any diet. If you can avoid having to go into the city to get what you need it will save you time and money to shop your neighbourhood.


Shop smart


In the end if your mission is to save money on groceries know what you are getting into when you head out the door. Arm yourself with the same knowledge that your suburb and small town friends use. If your goal is to shop with limited stress and challenges then certainly put some of these big city tips into action and see if that makes a difference to your shopping experience.

Do you enjoy living and grocery shopping in the big city, suburbs or in the country? Where do you buy your groceries and do you have any other big city tips to add?


January Grocery Game Challenge posts 2016


Join in the 2016 Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are the rules to get you started and where you’ll also find a link for the updated 2016 GGC schedule. Please feel free to download, save and even print the schedule so it’s handy. Thanks to Mary for putting this together for us again this year. If you need any help please let me know.

New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only BUT If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10CDN. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.

If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week here for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. This makes posting a bit easier although all you need to do is click on The Grocery Game Challenge on the homepage sidebar and you will see them all.


Free Money Saving Tools 2016


I know I blast you every which way I can on this blog about my free money saving tools and that’s because I want you to take advantage of them being FREE. So many people pay for budgets and tools on the internet to help them save money and honestly you don’t need to. Even a paper and pen will do the trick.

Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!

This is the budget that brought us to debt freedom back in 2013 and now I’m offering to all of you for FREE. We still use this budget every month as it helps us to see our overall financial picture.

2014 Free Money Saving ToolsDon’t pay someone for these services, I’ve done the work for you along with some help from other amazing bloggers.

You can download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!

Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.

Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE.

CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet. So many free resources at your fingertips.


Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide 2016


the ultimate grocery shopping guide cbbEverything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is packed into this amazing FREE grocery shopping guide that has taken over 4 years to create.

The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is ongoing with new informative money-saving posts added every month.

Even if you don’t live in Canada there are some amazing budget saving tips that will help put you on the path to more savings at the supermarket.

Share this guide with your friends and tell them about Canadian Budget Binder especially if they are struggling with their grocery budget.

The time is NOW to get started saving money on groceries so please enjoy the  many money-saving posts in the The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.


2016 Grocery Shop Results


Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2016: $2820

(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $300/year or $25/month.

Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)

  • Total Grocery Budget for the Month:$235.00
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $235.00
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $50
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 56670
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP)to date $0
  • Shoppers Optimum: Over 700,000 points ( I will update this twice a year)

Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)

  • Snap Groupon to cash out: $40.00
  • Zweet to cash out : $18.25
  • Checkout51 to cash out : $7.00


Grocery Shop This Week


Shoppers Drug Mart

  • 3 x Dozen Eggs Sale $2.49

Total Out-of-Pocket: $7.47

Food Basics

  • 1 x 5 pk avocado $2.88
  • 1 x mozzarella selection cheese $3.97
  • 1 x Bavarian Bread $1.99
  • Fennel $2.47
  • 1 x cauliflower Sale $2.88
  • 3 packs of Selection bacon reduced $1.49 each 🙂
  • 1 x cucumber $1.97
  • Fresh Ginger $1.31
  • Whole White Mushrooms $1.50
  • Lactancia cream Sale $2.49

Total Out-of-Pocket: $25.93

Bulk Barn

  • 1 x Grace coconut oil $8.99
  • 1 x Baken-Ets pork rinds $1.49

Total Out-of-Pocket: $10.85-$3 coupon =$7.85

  • Total to spend this month $235.00
  • Stockpile budget 2016 ($25.00):$25.00
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $15.88+$7.00+$2.12=$25.00
  • Total coupons used this week: $0
  • Total coupons used to date: $4
  • Total in-store discounts this week:$0
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $128.10
  • Total spent this week: $39.13
  • Total spent so far this month: $252.95
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: under
  • Total over/Under spend for the month:- $17.95 over
  • Total left to spend for the month: $over
  • Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $252.95

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

So we were fine for milk this week as we picked up 4 cans of free formula for our son a couple of weeks back and have split between the two so it lasts longer. My wife doesn’t drink milk any longer and uses cream only in her coffee and recipes but not everyday.

We went over this month which is a bummer because we were really hoping to stay on budget. With having to buy the coconut oil and a few other bits set us back. We really need to watch those pink stickers. It’s so hard though but we’re trying. Next month is 5 weeks so the plan is to use what we have in the house so we don’t get further into grocery debt. Any other suggestions for us?


Coupons and Coupon Apps 2016


Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?

We didn’t find any coupons worthy of filling this space for the week. We’ll try again for next week.


Grocery Game Challenge 2016 FAQ’s


  • 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. The rules have been updated for the 2016 challenge year.
  • Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
  • What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $10 CDN via Paypal if they win. As more people join I will add more money to the gift card or I will split it up and offer 2 prizes every month.
  • 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 but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly  or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it altogether. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
  • Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: No, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year in order to plan accordingly our budget.
  • Do you stockpile food? 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 longer as we found we weren’t eating it fast enough. Stockpiling is still great and just one way to help cut your budget to save money if you do find items that you can buy in bulk at a sale price.
  • Canadian Coupons:Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest  Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
  • Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading with mobile coupon apps being the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site that mailed coupons to households has gotten involved with the addition of a new mobile app joining forces with the many other coupon apps available. If you find an app that I don’t talk about please let me know as they are always being added and I’d like to review them.
  • What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
  • What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
  • What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
  • 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.

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 back in 2012 and is one of the most popular hang out spots for people who want to save money on groceries in Canada.

If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 get ready to examine your grocery budget by learning…

  • Where you are spending money
  • How much money you are spending
  • How much money you are saving every month

If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!

If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email. If I use your topic I will put your name in a draw for a prize at the end of the year.

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 2016!


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