The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

5 Supermarket Annoyances That Cost You More To Buy Groceries : The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 #3 Oct 17-23



This week I wanted to focus on changes that grocery stores could embrace that would make grocery shopping easier so I’ve broken down some of the most common annoyances that customers face.

Today when we buy groceries it has gone from something simple to a bit overwhelming at times now that we are parents. Over the past nine years of grocery shopping in Canada I’ve noticed a trend at every grocery store that I go to and that is marketing differs across the board. It becomes a tug of war between the shops and the customers and in the end all I ever see is a packed parking lot at Costco.

We’re a country driven by convenience and it shows.

No grocery store is alike even though they may offer similar rewards programs and the same products. Every grocery store needs to have a face and by that I mean they must stand out whether it’s in a big way or by multiple smaller reasons to herd the customers in week after week.

That’s how they make their money or in part.

You might not want to shop at a lower-end grocery store however they may offer price matching and rain checks where the mid-high range grocery stores do not.  These days shoppers go where the savings are even if there is an inconvenience to get them.  Overall, there is no consistency between grocery stores that fall under the same company and for this reason it can be frustrating for customers who simply want a stress-free shopping experience.


It does matter where you buy groceries


Your grocery budget may or may not dictate where you grocery shop but if you had to choose between mid-range to high-end or cheap like Freshco I’m sure we’d all have different opinions on the better option. That means that not all grocery stores will offer perks that you have come to expect and love.

Related: How much should my grocery budget be?

If shopping at Zehrs is your grocery store of choice you’ll notice that they don’t offer price matching and that’s because they have to pay for all the glam the store offers. The same goes for Metro who often has high-end displays, in-store pharmacy, health food department, convenience hot food counter, deli and bakery which also means, higher prices.

I’ve only scratched the surface of conveniences that some of these higher-end grocery stores offer. You may even find a beer store, coffee shop, florist, butcher, fish market just to name a few experiences that you’re paying just to look at even if you don’t use them. All in all you’re paying to shop in beauty because that’s what you want.

Do we really need all of that though?

That’s up to you but if you’re a fan of one-stop shopping you might not care about paying more for what you love to give up what you’d like to have. Let’s stop and think about the success Costco has had and they offer nothing more than free food samples and supposed lower prices. You even have to pay to shop there! We’re members now as we are testing it out for a year so we can blog about our experience but so far the only excitement we hear is about the cheap hotdogs after shopping and free food samples.

I had to really think about what grocery stores should all offer to help make our shopping experience easier. You might think grocery shopping is the getaway of a life-time where others treat it as a trip to hell. They have no desire to grocery shop however they still want to enjoy simple pleasures that help ease the pain.

What I’ve concluded:

  1. User Friendly Shopping Carts
  2. Part-time 24-hour grocery stores
  3. Competition consistency
  4. Grocery Packer
  5. Supervised play centre

Listen to what I have to say, what the fans have said and then let me know what changes would make your shopping experience easier. Speak up Canada! Grocery Stores are reading this blog post just like you are.


User-friendly shopping carts


We had a chat about shopping carts the other day on my Facebook page during the What’s For Dinner nightly post. I asked my readers what they would like to see changed with shopping carts that would make their shopping experience painless. Shopping carts are forever falling apart and have so many flaws that some shoppers opt to get a basket when they buy groceries.

One of the top comments that turned up was for grocery stores to ensure that they had grocery carts that were serviced or inspected daily. The amount of times we’ve gotten a wobbly cart that has caused us stress about five minutes into shopping is unforgettable.

This is why we take the time to test the shopping cart now before we buy groceries so we’re not faced with increased pressure. This becomes a bit time-consuming though when you are paying to use the shopping cart and have to let the store staff know you’ve got a defective cart. Many people don’t and just put it back, take their money and pop out another grocery cart. This is why the broken carts get lost in the mix.

I’m not a huge fan of paying to use a shopping cart because I often forget to bring change with me and have to waste time changing a $5 bill just to get a quarter. I understand why grocery stores have gone this route and now we’re even seeing Walmart introduce the loonie shopping cart. If you thought finding quarters in shopping carts that were left by lazy or forgetful shoppers was fun just wait until you score free money, loonie style.

One thing I liked about the Target grocery cart was that they had a drink holder attached. My wife always brings water with us because she gets a dry mouth from her medications or the baby has his drink so the holder is perfect. This avoids losing the bottle or it getting lost in the bottom of the shopping cart.

Related: Is a Costco membership worth the money?

I also have to admit that Costco has a pretty cool shopping cart where you can fit two kids in the child seats and you don’t have items falling through to the floor because everything is in bulk packaging. If you’re thirsty just hang on until your done shopping and sit down to enjoy some food if you’re still hungry after all the free samples and a beverage. No need for cup holders. Solves a few problems but using a different marketing technique, free stuff.

It’s clear that customers want to taste the food they are buying and Costco is servicing this need on a daily basis not just weekends like some grocery stores who have in-store sample booths most often put on by third-party companies to showcase a new product.

Here’s what a few of my readers suggested:

A grocery cart with a cup holder and four wheels that worked together would be nice.Susan D

I have Arthritis so using the carts at Walmart is lovely as they turn on a dime.The grocery scooters at Zehrs are horrible. You have to get someone to drag one of the two out for you because there’s no room to move out safely. They rattle and shake and when I stand up the cart actually moves. Walmart price-matches and has great carts.Colleen K.

My biggest peeve with shopping carts is the child seat. You would thing they could make them so that small items I like to put in the child seat part would fall into the bottom or onto the floor and be lost in the maze of shopping aisles.Colleen Kn.

I have no issues with shopping carts, but I agree with Colleen that there should be a part in the cart that could hold small things so they don’t drop out of it. Things like makeup, etc.Mona M.


Competition consistency


I wish, I wish, I wish that price matching was available at all grocery stores even though I know I’m just holding my breath for it to happen. It becomes a pain in the butt to travel from store to store especially when the deals are good. I enjoy buying produce from Zehrs or Metro especially when they are on sale because they always seem to have such nice product. The problem is they don’t price match so we end up making a special trip to get what we consider the better produce in our city at grocery store level.

Related: Price Matching Saves Shoppers Big Bucks

Even various Walmart stores are stepping up and proving they can join the ranks of Sobey’s, Fortino’s, RCSS and so on with top-notch marketing plans. They want your business and being the top retailer in Canada I’d say they’re doing something right.

I remember there was a time when RCSS didn’t price match but apparently they do today. It would be nice to see Food Basics join in with price-matching since No Frills also a Loblaws store which I would consider their direct competition allows it.

With Shoppers Drug Mart now introducing more President’s Choice products to their grocery section after the purchase from Loblaws it would be nice also see them climb on board. I’m surprised since Walmart offers price matching as does many other shops that this hasn’t been revised policy and added to the plan. I’m sure there’s a method to their madness but it would make grocery shopping easier for everyone.


Open 24 hours part-time


Most grocery stores close at 10pm or earlier depending on how much business they get at night. I can appreciate a business doing what’s right for the company especially if they are not driving the customers in that they would like to sustain being open 24 hours.

Related: Would you shop at a 24 hour Grocery Store?

It would be nice to have more grocery stores open 24 hours for those times when you want to sneak out when the kids are sleeping, late night shops after work or just to avoid the mass crowds of shoppers during the day. Even if a grocery store was open 24 hours 2 or 3 times a week on partial load that might do the trick because the option to grocery shop will be available for shoppers. Partial load means little to no departments would be staffed throughout the night. It would be a great opportunity for someone who just wants part-time hours or a couple of shifts a week.


Supervised play centre


I know what you’re thinking, leave the kids at home. Not everyone has the luxury of owning a vehicle to click and collect, can afford home delivery or to pay for a babysitter every time they need to go grocery shopping. This means when it comes time to shop the kids are coming along.

I’m sure most parents would agree that when their kids are very young between the ages of 1-4 that it would be nice to have an in-store supervised play centre to drop the kids off at before you shop. Charging a couple of dollars seems reasonable or even offer it as a free service for parents.

This would enable the parents to focus more on grocery shopping so they aren’t missing out on deals or buying stuff they were supposed to get but forgot because of distractions from the kids. Many times parents will agree that they super shop as fast as they can just to avoid screaming or tantrums in the grocery store. Easing the stress of the customers is a great way to drive customers into the store.


Price Scanning stations


Everyone should know about the Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) by now but if you don’t I encourage you to click the link and become an informed consumer.  Understanding SCOP will help you save money not only at grocery stores but many stores across Canada.

I often find that we spend more time hunting down someone to price a product for us or are wasting time at the customer service desk for something avoidable such as a price check. Some grocery stores have price scanning stations throughout the store and others do not. Even if a grocery store invested in just one price scanning station it would make grocery shopping easier.

The amount of times I’ve said, “ah forget it” and walked away from a product when I couldn’t be bothered to find help is countless. Grocery stores are losing money because customers will buy the products somewhere else. We are all impulse shoppers by nature unless we learn to control the urge. One thing most people don’t have when grocery shopping is patience so convenience is key.

There are many people who want to know if they’ve found a product that’s been priced wrong because they are mindful of pricing standards and know their prices. By this I mean they will likely get the product free so having the opportunity to run a product through a pricing scanner is ideal.

Ultimately it would be very cool to see price scanners on all shopping carts or available by using a smart phone that can read bar codes using a special app. Walmart has already introduced scanning codes to learn more about a product with your smart phone so I bet this idea is already in the making.

If you thought distracted grocery shopping was a pain get ready to battle even more shoppers with phones in their hands. Maybe the stores will come up with a stop-only smart phone policy where you can only use your phone if you’re not pushing your cart. Sounds funny but many accidents have happened because customers are not paying attention.


Outdoor grocery packer


Click and collect is the new way to buy groceries for many Loblaws customers where you order what you want to buy online and pick it up at a designated time and spot at the grocery store. You pay a fee for this convenience but not everyone wants to give up grocery shopping.

What would be nice is if the stores brought back the grocery packer similar to what was available back in the 70’s and 80’s at  grocery stores like A&P and Miracle Food Mart. The idea is once you buy groceries you are given numbers for the grocery bins that contain your groceries. When you drive up to the front of the store you have the clerk confirm your numbers and he/she will pack the groceries in your car for you and away you go.

This service would be great in the winter when you’re busy cleaning the snow from your vehicle, trying to start your cold car or have kids in tow, seniors, pregnant or disabled. Even though many stores have designated parking spots sometimes there’s not always enough available.

There were times when we struggled to find expectant mother parking for my wife when she was nearing the end of her pregnancy. I’m sure if you remember this brilliant service you’ll recall a time you used it and thought it was useful.


Change is good but don’t go overboard


Like any other business grocery stores must keep up with the times which means scoping out the competition, listening to customers and investing in updating their stores to keep customers coming back. The next time you head out to buy groceries take some time to look around the grocery store. Examine how they place products, what departments are next to each other and how sale signs are posted.

Investigate why the store might put a product display in the middle aisle or why the lighting is so bright in some areas and dim in others. You might even notice wider aisles, in-store conveniences such as coffee shops, fast-food or a relaxation centre like you find in most Zehrs stores.

Grocery stores want to know what makes customers happy so the next time you think of something that would make your shopping experience easier let the store know and share your insights. You’re the one who has to buy groceries so you might as well make the most of the experience by helping to improve the shopping environment.

Although some of the ideas above might be far-fetched they certainly would make life easier at the grocery store. Yo never know when an idea will be brought to life!

Discussion Question:

What changes would you like to see introduced or returned at the grocery store to make your trip easier?


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: $65
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 340,000
  • 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


Food Basics

  • 3 x Lactancia cream cheese $1.99 each
  • 2 x Schneiders Red Hots 2/$5
  • 2 x whipping cream 35% $1.99 each
  • Bananas $1.45

Total Out-of-pocket $15.40

Bulk Barn

  • 2lbs Almond Flour $23.00 (that’s on sale)
  • Chocolate Chimp Cereal Non-GMO, Organic $4.69-50%
  • minus flyer coupon $3.00
  • minus gift card $5.00

Total Out-of-Pocket $17.35

Shoppers Drug Mart

  • 2 x Sealtest Milk 2% $4.27 each plus 20x the points
  • 2 x bags of Doritos 2/$5 (darn it I was hungry)

Total Out-of-Pocket $13.54

  • 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:$2.35
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $488.84
  • Total spent this week: $46.29
  • Total spent so far this month: $201.23
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: over
  • Total over/Under spend for the month: $ over
  • Total left to spend for the month: $25.39
  • 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 much at all this week as we are pretty much stocked up. At the Bulk Barn we realized that after we bought the almond flour that we might have been able to print a second coupon for $3 off which would have been smarter. I could have bought a pound of almond flour and so could Mrs. CBB and we saved $6 instead of the $3. Ah well,  live and learn for next time.

Food Basics had hot dogs on sale and since that is one food our son will eat along with sausages we grabbed a couple of packs. Just recently he tried cereal so we picked up the box of cereal at Bulk Barn to see if he will eat that. If not I’m eating it. Food waste and children is horrible. If anyone has any tips please let me know because I’m working on a post. I’m sure I’ll post this question in the What’s for dinner thread on Facebook next week.

I caved and bought chips… at least they were on sale.


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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