The Grocery Game

7 Money Smart Shopping Trip Essentials You Need : The Grocery Game Challenge 2017 #1 Jan 30-Feb 5




Coupon Binder, what’s that? Yes, even the binder has become old school and the grocery saving newbies are wondering what we’re going on about. You mean, smartphone, right? No, coupon binder but don’t worry because not many people carry them around these days.

Planning for a grocery shopping trip in the CBB household either runs as smooth as my brownie batter or as lumpy as my mashed potatoes. Even before we became parents grocery shopping was a big deal and it still is although our priorities include a toddler who takes ages to get out the front door.

Related: How to successfully go grocery shopping with a baby

Over the years we’ve learned the easy way how to save money while grocery shopping and the hard way. The problem is that even though we have the best intentions sometimes not everything goes as planned. I bet even the ultra-organized shoppers screw up their own shopping trip from time to time.

I can’t tell you how many times Mrs. CBB and I have sat down to sort out our menu plan for the week and have never used it. Why you may ask? Well, we either forgot to take it with us before our shopping trip or things just got in the way where we skipped meals or had to switch them up. In the past this may have caused some food waste and even though that’s a no-no in our world we can’t always prevent it.

Some people think that saving money at the grocery store is as easy as picking up a flyer and meal planning as they go along. This may be their way of saving money compared to the way they used to shop but it’s certainly not the best way to save money. In fact, most shoppers spend MORE money when they “Insta-shop” as I like to call it with only the weekly flyer in hand.

But that’s not really what I want to talk to you about today. It’s the beginning of the year and everyone is in a frenzy trying to find their financial groove. The biggest culprit to attack any budget is the food budget which most people feel they can control but often fail miserably at. Some of you might be eating more than what your mortgage is worth every month and not because you eat too much but because you shop with little to no planning.

Related: How we lowered our food budget from $1100 to $600 in 6 months

I enjoy hearing from the readers but this email below from Carla shares her struggles with getting organized. She was also hoping to find out how we keep it altogether in the CBB house. The truth is, it’s tough work and from time to time we mess something up but we keep it simple, keep it neat and keep it by the front door.

Dear Mr.CBB,

I’ve tracked my grocery spending over the past few weeks and I seem to be struggling with organizational skills. One week I forgot my grocery list and I had to guess what I had written on it. I used to save it on my smart phone but when I accidentally deleted it I became frustrated.

Just the other day the cashier asked me if I needed bags and of course they were sitting at the front door at home. I just can’t get it together. How does the CBB family get ready to go grocery shopping?



Thanks for your question Carla.

Last year I wrote A Smart Shopper Guide To Prepare For The Grocery Store which shares details about how we plan and execute our shopping trip. When Carla emailed me I re-read that post and realized that I failed to mention how we keep our shopping trip organized without chaos or at least visible destruction.

There’s everything right about planning the shopping trip and everything wrong about forgetting what you planned. Below are valid reasons for you to stop and think about what you need before you shut the front door to go on your shopping trip.

Each and every one of these money saving essentials have been part of an ongoing family project for us because it’s not easy as parents to get it together even at the best of times.

Gone are the days where we had time to have a smoke, cup of coffee and a chat before heading to the grocery store. Picture daddy chasing toddler with one sock on and another in his hand, mommy filling bottles and getting snacks ready and trying to talk on the phone and get organized. We’re total disasters in this department but have worked hard to get back to basics with a mom and dad twist. Thank goodness for coffee, keeps us mellow.

Related: How we quit smoking for our health and our wallet


The Grocery Saving Bag to the rescue


When we venture out for our weekly shopping trip we go as a family most times so my wife and  boy can get out of the house. I also have one day off and like to do things with them even if it is grocery shopping. I’m afraid this time of year is too cold to be planning outside family events as our son doesn’t fancy the cold so much. I don’t blame him. This leaves us trips to the mall, grocery store and play centre for family fun.

Instead of leaving bits behind these days we’re all set and ready to go and have one thing to grab, The Grocery Savings Bag. While were window-shopping at The Goodwill shop we found this awesome little bag that we store all of our essentials in. If you love to knit or sew you can DIY something that suits you instead of buying a bag.

The key for us is to stock The Grocery Savings Bag as we plan our shopping trip so all we have to do is grab it on our way out the door. The best part is our bag is hanging on the peg board where our vehicle keys are so it’s hard to forget to grab it.


Each of these sometimes over-looked saving tools costs money if you don’t bring them along.


Re-usable Bags


How many times has the cashier asked if you needed bags and you look at him/her and say, “They’re in the car” or    “I left them at home” as if they care? Probably more than you can remember which is why you probably have a huge stash of shopping bags like we did.

There was a point where we looked in our garage on the wall and concluded that we had far too many plastic shopping bags. Literally we had 5 huge Value Village bags filled with shopping bags and had to do something about it. Now we have 4 or 5  re-usable bags that we roll up that goes in The Grocery Savings Bag as soon as we empty them. If we run out of bags I will look for boxes before we pay for shopping bags again.

We talked about counting all the plastic bags to see how much money it cost us for our lack of organization but that seemed like a big waste of time. It wasn’t going to improve anything because we had already decided we needed to change our ways.


Grocery list


texting from every grocery aisleWe are old-school grocery shoppers and hand-write our grocery list on our printable grocery list that we created years ago. Even that started to become scribbles on paper because we weren’t prepared with our printout so we used something else.

I have to admit that I’ve forgotten the grocery list many times but I’ve not lost it as many as the Mrs. has. Both of us have a love-hate relationship with the grocery list. Some of you might use your smartphone to store your grocery list which is great if that option works for you.

There is no way Mrs. CBB and I are able to use our phone to grocery shop with a toddler or even alone, we’d miss in-store savings. Almost 98% of the time we are scanning products which means shopping without blinders on and looking after our son.

There is no time to be fluffing about with a phone for us, besides I’m sure we’d upset someone behind us. Mrs. CBB can’t even steer the shopping cart straight at the best of times with what strength she has let alone trying to shop and use her phone.

To save us even more hassle as soon as we create our grocery list into The Grocery Savings Bag it goes. It’s a little dark in there right now but soon enough there will be a bit of light.


Charged Cell Phone/Calculator


Not to get back to the smartphone conversation but we’ve given it an honest shot in the past only for the phone to run out of battery mid-shop or not even turn on at all. Back to square one without a shopping list. If you opt to go this route always make sure to supercharge your cell phone before you leave the house and limit usage until after grocery shopping.

Let there be light…

You will always find a calculator lighting up the inside of The Grocery Savings Bag. It’s just a small one we have as back-up just in case the above battery drainage scenario happens on the phone. Honestly, we’ve used the mini calculator far more than we have ever used the phone.

We don’t ever take the calculator out of the bag unless it is at the grocery store which ensures we keep it in one spot at all times.




We used to hate when we left our coupons at home and went on our shopping trip. There were times that Mrs. CBB would call the store and ask them if they would honour a few that she had forgotten and meant to take. Although they were nice about it, I’m sure if it were a monster envelope full they would have told her to go stuff it.

As we all know coupon savings filter through many coupon apps that are available to Canadians who want to scoop up more money. Pairing the coupon app with paper coupons is a huge money saving investment tool for consumers which means bringing coupons along must be a priority.

Any coupons we will use for our shopping trip will go into an envelope and stashed in The Grocery Savings Bag. The rest of the coupons go in a large Ziploc bag that we keep in our sons diaper bag side pocket. This is optional but has given us even more savings with unadvertised in-store specials in the past.

Big money loss if you planned to use coupons and forget them.




Whether you use paper coupons or not you should carry an envelope or zippy bag at all times. Part of our budgeting series talks about being organized and everything having its own place. With the envelope you now have a place to store your rain checks, grocery receipts and any other paper related items you may need to bring along with you.

Mrs. CBB hates looking through her purse for receipts, coupons and other bits from our shopping trip when we get home. We’ve lost receipts in the past only to find them in the bottom corner of her purse after we tear everything apart.

These days we keep an envelope inside The Grocery Savings Bag and as soon as we cash out in goes the receipt before we leave the store. Use your Grocery Savings Bag as you would your wallet or purse. Step aside after you pay for your groceries and get organized for a couple of minutes. It will pay off in the long-run.




We always keep a pad of paper and pen in The Grocery Savings Bag because you never know when you’ll need it. Your calculator might fail you and you want to manually work out the maths on products to see which one is cheaper. You may want to track your expenses as you grocery shopping.

Whichever the case a pen and paper is always handy to have. For you smartphone fans… it’s better to be prepared than to have nothing at all. Be smart about your smartphone and always have back-up.




Only once have I left home without my wallet, completed a full grocery shop and had the cashier ring it through only to find out my wallet was in the car. Thankfully it wasn’t at home because my face was already red enough as it was. From that point forward I had to be mindful not to leave it in the vehicle. Time is money and so is petrol so if you don’t want to drive back home to get your wallet or purse, don’t leave home or your car without it.

Mrs. CBB typically keeps The Grocery Savings Bag in her purse and opens it up so she can get out anything if needed. We like that it’s all in one spot and there is no more frustration ripping her purse apart. If I do grocery shop alone I take The Grocery Savings Bag and sit it inside of a reusable bag in my cart.


Shopping Trip Success


Sometimes we have to take measures into our own hands when we notice a trend in our lives that doesn’t quite jibe with our goals. In this case we kept it simple and created The Grocery Savings Bag to replace the coupon binder we used to lug around with us.

Use whatever method works for you but if you find you’re forgetting any of these vital money-saving tools re-vamp your shopping trip organizational plan so you don’t rip your hair our or risk your wife sending you back to the grocery store over and over.

Discussion Question:

How do you keep your shopping trip tools organized?

What money-saving items are a must to always remember in your household?


February Grocery Game Challenge


Join in the 2017 Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are The Grocery Game Challenge rules to get you started and where you’ll also find a link for the 2017 GGC schedule. Please feel free to download, save and even print the schedule.

New monthly prize: See the Grocery Game Rules

Congratulations to Ballot #2. You are our January Grocery Game Challenge Winner! Email me to claim your prize.

February 2017 Blog Posts:


Free Money Saving Tools 2017


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 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 2017


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 5 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.


2017 Grocery Shop Results


Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2017: $3120 or $260/mth

(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 this Month: $260
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $260
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $0
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 431,000
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
  • Shoppers Optimum: Just under 850,000 Optimum points  (I will update this twice a year) $1500 worth of free stuff.

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



4 x Sealtest Cream $2.05 each

Total Out-Of-Pocket $8.20


  • 2 x 4L 2% Milk Sealtest $4.27
  • 3 x Nescafe Instant Coffee $3.99
  • Planters Peanut Oil $6.49
  • Parsley Flakes Dry large $4.49
  • No Name Unsweetened Coconut $2.79
  • 2 x 2kg Kraft Peanut Butter $5.99 each
  • 2 x NN Pizza Mozzarella $3.77 450g
  • 1 dozen large eggs $1.97
  • PC Spinach Bag $1.99
  • 2 x Cauliflower organic reduced $1.49 each
  • Celery Root $5.16
  • Schneiders Black Forest Ham $8.99-50%
  • Low Salt Top Dogs $4.99-50%
  • 6 x Smokehouse Tradition Bacon $1.99 each
  • 2 x seedless cucumbers $1.79 each
  • Roma Tomatoes $4.99-50%
  • Whole chicken $7.61
  • Chicken Thighs $5.00
  • Chicken Drumsticks $5.00
  • 4 x Oliveri Tortellini 2/$14- 50%
  • 6400 PC Plus points earned

Total Out-Of-Pocket $122.50- $11.98 Peanut Butter $11.97 coffee= $98.55

  • Total to spend this month : $260
  • Stockpile budget 2016 : $25.00
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $23.95
  • Total coupons used this week: $0
  • Total coupons used to date: $0
  • Total in-store discounts this week: $23.50
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $49.66
  • Total spent this week: $106.75
  • Total spent so far this month: $106.75
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: over
  • Total over/Under spend for the month: under
  • Total left to spend for the month: $153.25
  • Total Spent To Date 2017: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $231.06+Feb $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

Hey everyone,

It’s February already wow. That means we have 11 months until Christmas, haha!! Start the savings today for tomorrow. You may have a 5 week January which is fine just keep posting your shops accordingly even if you are off a week from my shops. Ballots will always be entered for you no matter what. We did a bit of a stock up as you can see as we were running low on a few bits.

The wife practically hugged that celery root when she found it at Zehrs as she wants to work on making fries with it together with me.  I’ve never had one before have you? Expect a recipe for that one soon if we can make this happen. The peanut butter was an awesome deal that we couldn’t pass up for out little guy. He only likes it on the spoon though, no bread.

The instant Nescafe coffee was on sale so we stocked up on that too. There were plenty of 50% off stickers when we went it was hard to control ourselves. We ended up making adjustments to the grocery list to accommodate the deals. Not too shabby of a start even if it is over budget but we’ll catch up.

How was your shop?



Coupons and Coupon Apps 2017


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?

If you notice I’m missing a valuable link please message me and I’ll get it added to the savings list below.

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 2017?

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

If any of these links are broken please report them to me.

  • 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 2017 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 to reflect changes for the 2017 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-$20-$50 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $CDN via PayPal.  Please see GGC rules.
  • 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 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 is one of the most popular hang out spots for people who want to save money on groceries.

If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2017 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 2017!


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