Grocery Shopping Tips | The Ultimate Canadian Grocery Savings Guide

How Top-Up Grocery Shopping Works

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Recently I filled out a grocery shopping experience survey for Zehrs and was asked about top-up grocery shopping vs. a large grocery shop.

After deliberating, I completed the survey to let the store know how they were doing.

I also wanted to glimpse what Zehrs was interested in learning from customers.

I’ve learned that we are a family who does a large grocery shop once a month and top-up grocery shopping in between.

While on Reddit, a user named BotaneyBay76 shared her tactics for reducing grocery expenses which almost mirrored the process of top-up grocery shopping.

How does top-up grocery shopping save money, though?

Amazingly, there are pros to top-up grocery shopping; on the flip side, it can be costly.

Grocery Shopping Top-Up
How To Grocery Shop By Topping Up

Large Grocery Shop Vs. Top-Up Grocery Shopping

Although extensive vs. top-up grocery shopping might seem straightforward for some of you, for others, it is a new concept.

I often find that Canadians (including ourselves) get carried away no matter which shopping method one chooses.

We have our lousy grocery shopping days and admit our struggles over the years.

It’s easy to have the answers to saving money buying groceries and another to put the strategies into practice.

It boils down to budgeting, planning, and the ability to walk away from what you didn’t plan to purchase.

When the Zehrs survey asked if we often shop to do top-up grocery shopping, in retrospect, I had to agree, yes.

Please look at what Reddit user BotanyBay76 shares about how she grocery shops.

Large Grocery Shopping List

At least once a month, we plan a large grocery shop that includes all the main ingredients we use and need replenishing.

Although I love to bake, our son is autistic and has a sensory processing disorder. Because of this, he only eats certain foods, which we are working on expanding with a therapist.

Examples of a large grocery shop for our household might include:

  • Milk 2%
  • Cream 10%
  • Cheese and Cheese slices
  • Frozen Vegetables/Fruit
  • Eggs
  • Sour cream
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Instant Coffee
  • Hungarian Salami
  • Butter
  • Spices and Baking ingredients as needed.
  • Water
  • iogo Yogurt Drinks
  • Bread
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Yogurt
  • Peanuts
  • Pizza Gold Fish
  • Organic Oatmeal
  • Onions, Carrots, Radishes, Garlic, Celery, Ginger, Cucumber, Fennel, Spinach, Potatoes
  • Apples, Bananas (always), plus seasonal fruit when on sale only.
  • Oreo or Bear Paw Cookies
  • Pickles
  • Tuna
  • Almond Flour
  • Coconut Flour
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Splenda Sweetener
  • Allulose or Surkrin Gold Brown Sugar Substitute
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • Chicken
  • Sausages
  • Ground Beef

We also source reduced foods from the Flashfood app before our large shop to see if we can save money.

For example, we could get a large box of mixed apples this week for only $5.00. Instead of buying apples at the grocery store as a staple item, we would order that.

Throughout the month, for our top-up grocery shopping, we continue to seek deals through Flashfood.

Also, our significant shop is at Costco once a month, including filling up the truck with gas.

If I buy beer, I use my monthly allowance to do so as I can spend it on whatever I please.

Top-Up Grocery Shopping

After a large grocery shop at Costco for the remaining three weeks of the month, we work with the remainder of our grocery budget.

Our grocery budget for two adults and one youth is $700, with a $25 Stockpile Budget.

Using a stockpile budget helps us to get extras IF we find them in-store such as reduced products or manager specials.

These products are not on our grocery list but are a great deal. Typically, we use the money each month as there are always deals.

October Grocery Budget For 3
October Grocery Budget for three people

When I started Canadian Budget Binder in 2012, our monthly grocery budget for two adults was $192. 78.

You can read my first monthly budget update from January 2012 that I wrote, but I warn you it’s far from what it is today.

Groceries- $192.78                               Monthly Actual-$231.81

Over the years, our budget numbers changed once we switched to a zero-based budgeting system.

For the remainder of the month, we scour the weekly grocery flyers for Zehrs, Food Basics, and No Frills.

Related: The most expensive grocery stores in Canada

Occasionally we will buy top-up groceries from Amazon Canada depending on if they are the best deal.

Often we go to Food Basics for certain top-up groceries such as buying milk or bread as needed, fruits and vegetables, etc.

We would only go to Zehrs for flyer specials or to pick up from Flashfood.

At this time, we shop around and may find foods that are 50% off, which we only buy if we can eat or freeze the products.

Related: The least expensive grocery stores in Canada

Unfortunately, this also can work against us as we could spend more than anticipated if a deal sparks our interest.

For example, if we find reduced prices on ground beef or whole chicken.

Catch Up Grocery Budgeting

However, what we spend one month will save us in the future only if we balance our grocery expenses throughout the year.

For example:

  • Grocery Budget $700
  • Actual Amount Spent $800

There is $100 overspent on groceries, meaning we must save the overage for the remainder of the year.

  • $100 overage October, Spent $650 November = Overage now $50 , December $650 = Caught up with the overage.

Creating A Large Shop with Top-Up Grocery Shopping

  • How much can you spend on groceries?
  • Meal plan for the month (Do you have regular recipes you rotate? Try one new recipe each month).
  • Create a Pantry List, Refrigerator List, and Freezer Inventory List
  • Write down the core ingredients, including spices (free printable spice list) needed for a large grocery shop once a month. Use my free budget binder printable grocery list to create your core ingredients list.
  • List top-up grocery shopping items you may need each week by keeping a list on the refrigerator or a mobile phone. Add to it as items are needed each week and use these as top-up groceries.
  • You may need to alter your large grocery shop based on top-up groceries required, so always inventory what you buy often.
  • Use coupons, flyer specials, in-store discounts, multi-buy, bulk purchases, and mobile apps to save money. Flipp App – Free! Compare prices at grocery stores with the Flipp app or a grocery price book.
  • There are many grocery-saving mobile and survey apps that you can use to save money to spend more or put the money towards overage.

Read over 300 grocery blog posts in my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide For Canadians.

Can Top-Up Grocery Shopping Save Money?

That is how it should work out mathematically in a perfect world if one wants to stick 100% to a grocery budget.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy, but certainly possible, especially when someone is on a tight budget.

Perhaps it would be easier if we didn’t have the extra money in our bank account.

I know that sounds like an excuse, and perhaps it is why we are dedicating next year towards a mindful, tighter budget.

We plan to continue extensive grocery shopping with top-up grocery shopping but without spur-of-the-moment purchases.

I think we learn something new each year about how we spend money on groceries.

Regarding budgeting, no matter what category, we can all learn a lesson and work towards improving the outcome.

Not perfect, but better.

Discussion: What type of grocery shopping do you do each month?

Please leave your comments below for other readers.

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