The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

15 Valuable Grocery Store Services For Customer Retention: The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 #2 Oct 10-16




Have you ever asked yourself why you seem to frequent a grocery store over the others in the city or town that you live in? Think about this for a second and ask yourself what grocery store services are offered where you shop that keep you going back week after week. Maybe it’s not grocery store services, rather proximity and even then there are services that you’d miss if the grocery store took them away.

Every one of us are different with different needs when we grocery shop. Some of us might care about certain grocery store services where the next customer could care less because there is no impact. It’s not a big deal to me to see a lottery booth at the grocery store because I don’t buy lottery tickets any longer.

For a weekly lottery player this is one of those grocery store services that helps them save time and is convenient. My wife remembers when she would go grocery shopping with her grandmother that her grandfather would check his tickets and run his numbers for the next draw while she shopped.

You might not care if a store is well-lit but for someone who doesn’t have 20/20 vision it’s important to grocery shop where lighting is bright enough to read product labels. Excellent coupon policies, return policies and offering the Scanning Code of Practice might be important grocery store services that appeal to you but are they really considered “services” or are they just perks? If it matters to you then it’s a service.

I took some time with Mrs.CBB yesterday while I had the day off for Thanksgiving to think about what grocery store services were important to us and why. When you’re done reading this leave me a comment and tell me what grocery store services are important to you when grocery shopping.


Excellent customer service


Employing happy staff who are friendly and visibly available on the grocery store floor is imperative for us. We don’t like waiting around for management or staff who seem to take forever to respond to a customer query nor do we like to struggle to find someone to help us who works at the grocery store.

Related: Is customer service affected by the clothes you wear?

It’s important to have noticeable staff dressed in uniform or with a name tag who are easily identifiable for customers. I’m sure just about everyone has been asked at one point or another if they worked at a store when they were simply a customer grocery shopping. You might react with a laugh or jump back and want to say, “Does it look like I work here” but what you really say is, “Sorry, no I’m just a customer” as you’re opening a container of Goldfish to give to your toddler for a snack.

Having knowledgeable staff on policies, procedures and product information who enjoys their job are a huge asset to the company. Employing staff who are courteous and always willing to help a customer with a smile is not a bonus it’s expected and part of the job. Customers recognize this and if a grocery store wants return customers investing in a solid training program for their employees is inestimable.

That’s all it takes to lose customers, once.


Low prices


You might think that grocery stores who offer low prices are top priority for customers and although true for many it is second in line to customer service for the reasons listed above.

As most Canadian families are struggling to pay the bills the grocery budget typically takes a hit because of flexibility. When a grocery store is known for low prices, reduced product, in-store promotions and other perks to get cheap or free groceries the customers will come.

There will always be a clientele looking to save money. Why spend more money than you need to if you can turn a box of Kraft Dinner into 2 boxes shopping at a lower-priced grocery store? This is why grocery store competition is so fierce and they are fighting for customer attention. They want you to open your wallet or at least make it through the front doors so they can wine and dine you all they way to the bank.

Only smart shoppers won’t fall for that because they stick to their budget and know when to say no, or at least try. Even then if price is your biggest concern there may be no other grocery store services that matter and you’ll take whatever you can get just to save money.




This is a big perk for any customer and high up on the “awesomeness” scale for a grocery store if they allow price-matching. We don’t want to go to 5 different grocery stores so we can eat this week because we run with a tight budget. Not everyone has a vehicle either which means having to ride the bus or use other modes of transportation which likely won’t happen especially come winter.

Related: 5 ways price matching can significantly lower your grocery budget

Most people in these situations are forced to shop at grocery stores in their local area that they can easily get to which could be very costly if there is no price matching. Some small towns only have one grocery store and residents have no choice but to pay the extra costs for food and other products or take a trip into the city once a month to stock up on flyer deals. The problem with the small town grocery stores is that they rely on their small customer base and prices may be higher to ship to remote or small areas from companies which means higher prices for the customer.

Related: Grocery shopping in a small town on a budget

Grocery stores in the city though who do offer price-matching will likely have a following of customers who would shop at their business over the one who offers no price matching. Listen up Zehrs, Metro and other grocery stores without price-matching, get on the list because your customers are waiting.


Rewards program


Any time I can spend money and make money back I’m in on the program because I’m not one to give up free money. Some people don’t care about rewards programs where other customers save quite a bit of money by utilizing this grocery store service. Our favourite is the PC Plus Program and the Shoppers Optimum Program for free groceries and other home and health and beauty needs.

Some shoppers build up points in their rewards program so they can host a dinner party, buy Christmas gifts or to balance their grocery budget over the course of the year. It’s always nice to enjoy top quality products when you know you’re saving money buying them with your rewards card.

Although we shop at other grocery stores that don’t fall under the Loblaws banner we pay with our PC Elite MasterCard. This allows us to collect PC points when we have to venture out to other shops. If Zehrs only had price-matching we wouldn’t have to shop anywhere else but they don’t so this is our other option except for at Costco where they won’t honour the points since it’s considered a warehouse.

When we shop at Costco I will use my Canadian Tire MasterCard for rewards instead of getting the Costco MasterCard which we’re not interested in at this time.


Free Wi-Fi


This is a big, big deal these days because it’s a way businesses choose to target marketing and advertising to their customers. Most rewards programs require customers to load their deals but not all customers have Wi-fi at home or a data plan on their phone. That means if they forget to load their deals before they grocery shopping they are stuffed and have to spend time calling customer service to help them out.

You can only do that so many times and honestly I can’t see why any grocery store hasn’t gotten on board with free Wi-Fi. Save your customer service queries for other important things and offer free Wi-Fi for your customers.

Related: Should businesses offer free wi-fi to their customers?

Quick Response codes (QR) are also a huge deal because we are starting to see stores using the QR code to offer customers more information about a product simply by using their phone to scan a code. If you don’t have wi-fi on your smart phone you don’t get to join this elite service and have to either read through a manual or hunt down someone who works in the department you’re shopping in for help.

Just offer free wi-fi and your customers will stick around.


Open late


I work long hours and since we only have 1 vehicle on the road at any time that means when I’m home we have to go grocery shopping or I go after work before coming home. Since my wife is a stay at home mom you can imagine how thrilling a trip to the grocery store is for her. She jokes saying it’s like a night out on the town so I always make sure that I get her out of the house as much as I can or she goes with her mates.

When grocery stores close at 5pm or even 8pm that forces customers to shop at the competitors. Those customers who work midnight shifts don’t want to get up early to grocery shop after working all night so having 24 grocery stores available are a bonus but they are far and few these days. This is why having a grocery store open late caters to those customers who shop late out of necessity.


Wide aisles


When a grocery store tries to cram too much into a large space that turns into a small space it just confuses the customers. It takes longer to grocery shop because of grocery cart jams and maneuvering around stacks of product and aisle advertising campaigns.

Grocery stores such as newly built Walmart, Zehrs or RCSS stores offer wider aisles which not only make the store look bigger and brighter but offers a quality shopping experience for the customers. Consider employees who stock shelves during the day who might also benefit from having wider aisles to go around customers swiftly without holding up traffic.

For accessibility reasons having wider aisles helps to accommodate assistive devices and transportation such as scooters for those who need them. It also helps to have mirrors for customers to see if anyone is coming when they go in and out of the aisles.

We’ve had many smash ups with grocery carts which might be a laugh to some people but when there is a baby in tow this could turn deadly and you don’t have to be going fast to knock a cart over especially if it is unbalanced. Alternatively, stop at the end of an aisle and poke your head out to look and see if anyone is coming and hope for the best.


Clean store


If part of lower prices means hiring less staff or putting cleanliness on the “when we get time” list then I’d rather shop somewhere else. Following health and safety and food safety guidelines in Canada is a must and that includes keeping a clean shop throughout the day.

If there is a clean-up in an aisle make sure it is attended to once you are notified and cleaned up, wash windows and doors, pick up garbage, change garbage bins and make sure that shelves, bunkers and other food storage areas are kept clean. If you offer public bathrooms please, please have someone check them every hour. Enough said.

I also find it gross if we’re checking out and the belt is dirty or even sticky. I will ask the cashier to clean it off before I put my food on the belt. I don’t fancy putting my bread on top of chicken juices that leaked from a package.

Outside it’s nice to turn up to a nicely manicured property which means free from garbage inside shopping carts and on the ground. The bins should be changed often so they are not overflowing inviting bees and other insects. The grocery cart centres should be monitored to make sure shopping carts aren’t overflowing potentially rolling out and hitting a car or causing an accident.

Being clean also means being organized so keeping similar products in the same area with signage helps customers find what they are looking for fast. In the future it would be nice to have the availability for customers to type a product into a touch screen mounted to a post that will show what aisle it is in.

Even more sophisticated is being able to use a smartphone to find what you are looking for in a grocery store although not everyone owns one. That won’t stop the way technology runs businesses in the future though because they know almost everyone does own one.

This is one of those grocery store services of the future that might be a wonderful perk. Canadian tire offers computers around the store for customers to look-up products which I absolutely love and use often when I shop there.


Product availability


Grocery store services also include making sure that you have a variety of products especially organic, international foods and other dietary needs such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free etc. I can’t tell you the last time we used the in-store bakery, hot food counter, sushi, fresh fruits, deli, seafood counter or butcher at the grocery store so they aren’t a must-have on our list. What we do care about is not having to run all over town to look for common pantry staples or brands.

It’s also nice to grocery shop where rain checks are offered for products that are out of stock and on sale.


Online shopping and delivery


The big deal these days for some customers is that they don’t have time to grocery shop so if they can order their groceries online to have them delivered they will become a valuable customer. Grocery store services such as click and collect at Zehrs where you order your groceries online then pick them up at a designated time.

Related: Click and Collect the new way to grocery shop

Plus…when you get to the store you have a personal parking spot close to the store and your groceries will be delivered and packed into your car. It doesn’t get any easier than this especially for those with disabilities, new parents, seniors or people who don’t have time or hate grocery shopping.


Store promotions


We consider store promotions as part of the grocery store services that we have come to expect as regular customers. It’s nice to see that the grocery store offers promotions for those customers that are return customers week after week.

One of our favourite in-store promotions are unadvertised deals so the only way you will find out is if you go into the store or someone tells you because they’ve just been grocery shopping. Most times blow-out sales as such are on products that have a short expiry or they get overstock. We picked up $6.00 containers of organic greens at Zehrs once for $0.99 for this reason.


Public restrooms


Every business has a restroom for staff but not every business has one that is accessible to the public. If you’re desperate all you need to do is ask and most business owners will be more than happy to help out. My biggest issue here is making sure that public restrooms are clearly marked for customers to see, always kept clean and inspected for cleanliness and are accessible for both male and female for those with disabilities and babies.

Having a family bathroom available is a huge plus but this doesn’t happen often. I found that I struggled to find places to change my son because not all bathrooms had a baby changing area for dads. I really didn’t fancy changing my son on the counter top or floor of the men’s restroom even if I did have a change pad with me.


Water fountain


Oops, you forgot your water bottle, you ran out of water, you need water to take your medication, fix baby formula or you’re thirsty. The last thing you want to do is pay for an overpriced bottle of water when you’re shopping.

Having a water fountain available for customers is a great opportunity to say, we care. Not all businesses have water fountains but for those that do it may make a difference to your customers when they don’t have to hunt around for water or have to take it from the bathroom tap when needed.




When you’re a parent it’s nice to know that the grocery store you are shopping at cares. Some grocery stores having fancy shopping carts for the kids, free fruit and cookie programs, colouring, kids corners and more. If there is a way to keep a child entertained while shopping a grocery store may be on to a winner for parents and those without kids who want to shop without hearing screaming kids in tow.

As a new parent even then it’s near impossible to console a screaming baby or toddler having a temper tantrum at times but when grocery stores go out of their way to say, “we understand”, this matters to parents. Not everyone is able to leave their kids at home while they grocery shop or have friends and family willing to babysit while this necessity of life chore is carried out. Trust me when I say most parents would LOVE to shop alone if they could.




If you’re a business that sells goods in Ontario having accessibility integrated into your business is a big deal to someone with a disability and is now that law under the Accessibility for Ontario Act 2005.

My father-in-law has a permit for accessible parking due to his health conditions and this allows him to get in and out of shops with the least effort. I couldn’t find anything online that said that businesses must have designated parking spots for those with disabilities but just about every business these days has one or more spots available.

Related: How to get an accessible parking permit in Ontario

Before we had our son I wondered who used parking spots for expectant parents or parents with young kids. I mean, how hard could it be right? Wrong, it’s VERY hard and my wife was always so happy if grocery stores had designated parking spots when she was pregnant.

Related: New Public Spaces Accessibility Standard is Now the Law in Ontario

Even after our son was born we still used the accessible parking for parents with young children. There is so much stuff to travel with and in the winter or through bad weather being close to the store entry and exit really does help new parents.

Other services such as motorized shopping carts, packing and unpacking of groceries, wider aisles and check-out accessibility is very important and must be considered for those with disabilities along with other customer care standards.


Grocery store services matter


Grocery shopping services appeal to every customer in one way or another even if we don’t say it out loud we think it in our head. This is why we pick certain grocery stores to shop at over another. Take a moment to think about what makes you a happy customer because the happier you are you’ll become a better shopper.


Discussion Question:

What have I missed that’s important to you? Are there grocery store services you don’t care about?


October Grocery Game Challenge


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.

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 $10 Canadian. 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 below for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. Alternatively, just click on the “Grocery Game Challenge” tab on the blog side-bar to see past posts.

September GGC WINNER goes to Ballot #8 Christine W. Congrats Christine.

October Grocery Game Posts


Free Money Saving Tools 2016


You WILL want to check this out!

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-$40.93=$194.07
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $194.07
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $60
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 314,000
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
  • Shoppers Optimum: Just under 850,000 Optimum points  (I will update this twice a year)

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

  • Zweet to cash out : $18.25
  • Checkout51 to cash out : $22.00


Our Grocery Shop This Week



  • Potatoes $1.50 bag
  • Cauliflower $2.47
  • 2 x Schneiders Bacon Sale $1.99
  • 2 x Sealtest Milk 2% $4.27 each
  • 2 x pumpkin pie pumpkins $1.49 ea
  • Romaine lettuce 3 pk $2.50
  • Radish bag 1lb $1.99
  • Thai thick pork chops 2 pk $7.50 -50% =$3.50

Total Out-of-Pocket $27.48


  • 10lbs Onions $3.97
  • Large White Onion $2.00
  • Top Dog Hotdogs $2.97
  • 2 x Eggs $1.97 ea
  • Cherry Tomatoes $1.97
  • Cinnamon $2.00
  • 2 x reduced bags of apples $1.00 each WOW
  • 1 bag of reduced green peppers $1.00 WOW
  • Bananas $1.41
  • Avocado $3.97
  • Lemon Pepper $2.00

Total Out-of-Pocket $26.96

  • Total to spend this month : $235.00-$8.38 overage from September= $226.62
  • Stockpile budget 2016 : $25.00
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $25.00
  • Total coupons used this week: $0
  • Total coupons used to date: $15.36
  • Total in-store discounts this week:$6.50
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $488.84
  • Total spent this week: $54.44
  • Total spent so far this month: $154.94
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: over
  • Total over/Under spend for the month: $ over
  • Total left to spend for the month: $71.68
  • Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $252.95 + Feb $249.46 + March $211.11 + April $248.11 + May $279.07 + June $231.96 + July $244.40 + Aug $201.30+ Sept $238.12+ October $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

We didn’t need to buy too much this week because of Thanksgiving dinner which we will be stretching for the week if we can. We finally used another one of those cheap whole chickens we bought a while back and it was delicious and moist. I’ve already made a pot of chicken stock and Mrs. CBB will turn that into a pot of low-carb soup that we can all eat for a few days for lunches or dinner with a sandwich. I might have to make a loaf of bread as I’m down to one loaf in the freezer. We’ll see.

Our Thanksgiving dinner was divine and our house smelled sweet with the scent of apple spice squares baking in the oven. With the remainder of our grocery budget we may end up with a no-shop this month which should be fine as long as we are stocked up on  milk and the basics.

How was your week of grocery shopping?


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?

Sign up for the Nielsen Canada Home Scan Program and you can earn rewards points fast to redeem for awesome products or gift cards. I did this in the UK and loved it!!

Where can I find Canadian Coupons 2016?

Plus check out these other hidden areas online to get more coupons!!

  • Healthy Essentials Printable Coupons (Johnson and Johnson)
  • Danone Coupons Get up to $25 in coupons
  • Clorox Coupons Sign up to print coupons in the Clorox family which include Greenworks, Glad etc.
  • Kraft Canada Sign up and receive recipes and coupons by email
  • Printable Smart Source Coupons
  • Walmart Canada Printable Coupons
  • Proctor and Gamble PandG Sign up for printable coupons
  • Hidden Coupon Portals You Should know about – I found this over at Save a Loonie and you’ll want to sign up for notifications and check out the site so you get notified every time a hidden coupon is available from, Brandsaver, Smart Source etc.


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 Know what stores accept coupons?:  If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
  • 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 look at 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!

Please Note: Some of the links in the body of the blog post are affiliate links which means I may get paid if you buy something from Amazon. The items I’ve chosen are products we use at home or similar to.


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