How to Save Money on Your Online Grocery Order

Person holding phone with online grocery app open

For some, online grocery shopping can save valuable time and energy while crossing one more chore off the list. You can pull your car up to the designated spot and have your groceries loaded in the trunk within a few minutes or placed directly on your doorstep at your convenience. However, not everyone may be so keen on the idea. You don’t get to select the exact fruit, vegetable, or loaf of bread that speaks to you, and there isn’t always a substitute for the crucial ingredient you require. Luckily, most retailers offer a satisfaction guarantee, so it’s worth a try.

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, ordering groceries online to your home or for curbside pickup is not just convenient but safe and, for some, essential. According to a study by Dalhousie University, almost three times as many Canadians are concerned about shopping at the supermarket than visiting restaurants. Ontario topped the list as the province with the highest level of concern at 73%. Yet, only 3% of Canadians have chosen to buy groceries online since the start of the pandemic, and 4% are opting to use food delivery apps more often.

Nevertheless, as grocers continue to limit the number of people visiting stores, you may be tempted to try a few of the online grocery or meal delivery services that have been gaining popularity. Here is how to save money on your groceries in-store and online.

Who offers online grocery delivery in Canada?

Many popular grocery stores already offered pickup or delivery services before the start of the pandemic, but the demand has grown. Consumers can order over an app or through an online portal, by choosing a time slot and filling their cart. Often, routine shoppers can even save their shopping list for an express checkout option.

Online grocery stores:

Recently, more apps have started to pop up that are not limited to one brand or store. You can select items from multiple local merchants that will show up in the same order. However, these apps typically have more fees and higher delivery costs.

Grocery apps:

Additionally, meal services have begun to cross the border and are now available in Canada. Generally, these services won’t drop off a carton of milk or your favourite cereal but will provide well-balanced and portioned meals that you pre-select and then cook yourself.

Meal delivery services:

Often, these services can be paused in advance if you want to skip a shipment and can also meet dietary restrictions.

How to save money at the grocery store

Saving money in-store can be as simple as checking the weekly flyer or searching for coupons online from your favourite brands. But thanks to technology, there are even more ways to save.

Third-party apps

Stores like Loblaws and the Superstore use the Flashfood app to offer consumers discounts on products nearing their expiry date. Other stores may have similar promos.

Loyalty programs

Many retailers offer loyalty programs that can benefit routine customers. You can typically earn loyalty points as you shop and redeem them for free groceries and products.

Credit cards rewards

Many credit card issuers tailor their programs toward grocery purchases. Depending on the card, you may earn cash back rewards or points when you shop at the supermarket. For example, the BMO®* CashBack Mastercard®* offers cardholders 3% cash back on groceries, up to $500 per statement period. Plus, this card has no annual fee.

Large grocery chains may also offer a co-branded credit card, like the PC Financial Mastercard or the BMO Sobeys AIR MILES Mastercard. Customers may be able to double their rewards by using their credit card and swiping their in-store loyalty program card when making purchases.

How to save money grocery shopping online

Depending on the online grocery store or app, you may still be able to use loyalty points as you shop. If not, here is how to save.

Referrals and coupon codes

Many apps offer referral codes to entice new users. Referring friends and family may earn you an in-app credit and get your inner circle free delivery or a discount. If you sign up for emails, you may also receive discount codes or a free trial.

Planning

The best way to save on online groceries is to plan what you order and only use the service for bigger buys. Paying to have one item delivered can be costly. However, using the service to purchase a full cart of groceries may be worthwhile. Write out your produce and products by meal to ensure you don’t miss any ingredients and click the “substitution” box if it is available. That way, you don’t have to make a trip to the store or plan around a missing item.

Find a customized approach

Meal delivery services and online grocery stores can be convenient, but the fees and gratuities can add up. Taking advantage of promotional codes and referral discounts can help you test services for a reduced price. When you find something that works for your household and the budget, you may be able to save even more with loyalty programs or credit card rewards.

In the end, how you get your groceries is not entirely about saving money. While you might pay more for getting food delivered, if you are eating more home-cooked meals and avoiding take-out, your pocketbook will benefit over the long term.

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