Confused couple at grocery store

Easy budgeting with online grocery shopping

Curtis Haigh Blog

Confused couple at grocery store

a couple looks over their shopping cart looking bewildered

Grocery shopping has forever been a dreaded task in our household, even before we had kids. The dreaded two-hour trip to the grocery store that had to be carved out of the week was a real buzz kill for us: dragging our butts to the store, shopping, then bagging and loading the bags, coming home; and unloading them again. Not to mention how frustrating it can be waiting in line during a busy check out.  The list of places we would rather be or things we would rather be doing was long. Enter online grocery shopping.

Online grocery shopping has been around for awhile, but we hadn’t taken advantage of it pre-pandemic. But the early stages of covid forced us to rethink how we got our groceries, particularly during a time when things were uncertain and we were hesitant to take the kids to the grocery store. We made the switch in 2020, and we haven’t looked back.

Some of the benefits of online grocery shopping are obvious, mainly the time saved.  Even more unexpected was how much easier budgeting for groceries became once we switched online. The ability to compare prices instantly, add things to our cart and take them out later; and see what we were spending the most on became easy.

Think about it – the typical trip to a grocery store involves walking the aisles, putting things in your cart, and checking out. It’s easy to throw things in your cart on a whim (things you may not even need) and most of us don’t ‘review’ our cart before we check out to ask ourselves “Did I really need that this week?” Finally, you don’t know what you’re paying until you check out so it’s difficult to stay on budget. And even if you do change your mind, you aren’t that likely to make the dreaded ‘return’ to an aisle to put something back on the shelf. This can all lead to increased spending.

In contrast, online grocery shopping through providers like Instacart allows you to put things in your cart and see an ongoing tally of what you are going to pay for your items. It’s easy to see when you are over or under budget. Additionally, you can compare prices of similar items instantly. Before checking out, you can review your cart and ask yourself: was the bill as expected? More? Less? Do you have ‘impulse’ buys in your cart like the random kitchen gizmo standing in the aisle on a 2 for 1 deal? You can take the time to ask yourself whether you need all the items in your cart and take a second look to remove things that aren’t necessary: all from your bed, or kitchen counter, or wherever you like to do your online shopping.

We have said it before and will say it again: it is important to be aware of your spending habits. Grocery shopping is no different, and switching to online not only saves you time, but allows you to review your purchases and determine what is and isn’t needed. Putting an item back on the shelf is as easy as a click of a button. You can see if you are on budget: if you typically spend  $200 a week on groceries, you can see if your spending is trending upward or downward. You can also spot trends in your spending: perhaps your costs are going up because you are purchasing expensive items such as meat and dairy. If so, do you need it? Are there ways to reduce those purchases like switching to more plant-based meals?

If you are finding your grocery bills are going through the roof or you are spending more money on groceries than you used to, consider going the online route to help you stay on budget. Not only can you track your spending better and make better decisions, you get the added benefit of that extra hour or two during your week to do something you really enjoy.  As always, as Saskatoon financial planners we are here to chat about this or any other burning financial questions!