Grocery Shopping Hacks

How to save time and money in the supermarket.
Published May 7, 2018

There’s more to smart grocery shopping than clipping coupons. This weekly chore can eat up time and money, so to maximize shopping efficiency we asked experts for their tips and tricks to make the most of your supermarket visits.

Professional organizer Nancy Haworth, who owns On Task Organizing in Raleigh, N.C. often helps her clients with time management of recurring chores such as grocery shopping.

Her key tip? Planning.

“Each week, create a weekly meal plan while scanning the contents of your fridge and pantry. From that meal plan, create a grocery list,” Haworth says.

“Organize your fridge and pantry into categories similar to the grocery store’s departments such as: breakfast foods, canned goods, dairy, vegetables, meat, etc. This will make it easier for you to make a grocery list and put items away.”

She takes that level of planning to the shopping itself, too.

“Arrange your grocery shopping list based on the store’s layout, aisle by aisle to eliminate backtracking.”

And if you are really pressed for time, Haworth says, you can always delegate your grocery shopping to someone else – use online ordering or curb side pickup services.

Walmart, Metro, InstaBuggy, Instacart, and Grocery Gateway are some of the outlets offering online grocery shopping services in Canada, and Costco recently announced its plans to join the fray, after finding success with its grocery delivery initiative in the United States.

Consumer finance expert Andrea Woroch offers a wealth of tips to get the most out of your grocery shopping from start to finish.

Meal plan with overlapping ingredients

  • “Food is among the top three biggest household expenses, yet Americans waste 25 per cent of the groceries they purchase,” Woroch says. “Cut out food waste by reviewing the contents of your refrigerator, freezer and pantry, and prepare meals with overlapping ingredients and those nearing their expiration dates.”

Use a basket instead of the cart

  • “Ever notice how those shopping carts seem to get bigger and bigger?” Woroch says. “They’re designed to entice you to fill them up with more goods! The bigger the cart, the less full it feels and the more compelled you are to fill it with things you likely don’t need.”

Reduce shopping trips

  • Fewer shopping trips means fewer chances to be tempted to buy stuff you don’t need, Woroch explains. “Buying on impulse can totally bust your budget so consider reducing the number of times you go to the grocery store to slash those impulse purchases.”

Opt for frozen

  • “Produce is flash frozen at peak ripeness, meaning flavour and nutrients remain intact. Plus, frozen goods store longer than fresh and you can stock up during sale time,” she says.

Compare end-cap deals

  • “End caps are the shelving units at the end of each aisle, where supermarkets place ‘sale’ items that aren't always that cheap,” Woroch explains. “They're counting on our preference to avoid heading down an aisle, so shoppers will just grab an end-cap item that seems reasonably priced instead of actually comparing it with other brands in the product aisle.”

Review your receipt for errors

  • Woroch recently caught an overcharge for a package of bacon on her receipt. She brought it up with customer service and was able to get the refund, saving herself US$6.
  • “It happens a lot, so pay attention then review the receipt and don’t be afraid to ask for your money back – even if it’s just 50 cents!”

Rotisserie for rush meals

  • “You don't have time every night to thaw pre-cut meat or whip up a meat-based meal from scratch. If you're in a hurry, avoid the fast food joint in favour of pre-cooked rotisserie chicken…” Woroch says. “These chickens are a great value, plus you can retain leftovers to use in salads or sandwiches the next day.”

Seek out manager markdowns

  • “Look for lean protein and fresh fish nearing its expiration date,” Woroch advises. “Usually stores will reduce prices on such food to move it off the shelf. Cook it right away or freeze it for later.”

Buying in bulk is also a great way to stock up on pantry staples and save some cash. Check out our recent article all about buying in bulk here.