5 Reasons to Shop Online for Groceries for Meal Planning

I am a huge believer that time is precious. At times shopping can be enjoyable, but my primary focus is on making it fun and efficient, especially when I have a toddler in tow. Which is why my family has converted to grocery store shopping online, thus allowing the times we choose to go to a physical store be relaxing and an opportunity to explore new products (if that's what you're into). A few months ago I did an honest review (not sponsored) on my experience using the Walmart Grocery Pick-Up service (which you can read about here), and I thought that in conjunction with my reasons for advocating for shopping for food online, I would also update you on our Walmart Grocery Pick-Up experience as well. I will first share with you my reasons for why I strongly believe shopping for food online can be wonderful, and then I will update you with my latest review on the Walmart grocery service. 


5 Reasons to Shop Online for Groceries for Meal Planning

1. I can meal plan & shop simultaneously

When I do my weekly meal planning, I draw from a list of my family's favourite meals that we have created together (I talked about that process in my post on 5 Essential Tips You Need to Meal Plan for Your Family). All the recipes are at my finger tips, and I often set up my laptop so I can add groceries into my cart as I add recipes onto my meal planning template, which you can download here. I can generally have my groceries done and meals planned in about 30 minutes.

2. Save time!

Between the time spent going to the grocery store, looking for a parking spot, navigating the shelves, and then waiting in line, you need to seriously schedule some time to making the grocery shopping magic every week (or however often you choose to shop). The real bonus is I am now able to find a couple of extra hours where I can use Sunday to do some meal preparation for the rest of the week to take the pressure off of family meals. 

Additionally, within my online grocery account with my store, I am also able to keep a saved list of commonly purchased, or "favourite" items that I buy on a regular basis. I found this really only needed to be set-up once, and amended a couple of times after that as I shopped. I am able to easily add these items, in addition to my grocery list needs for the week, into the virtual grocery cart with a few quick clicks. In terms of always ensuring I have the necessary pantry items on hand for meals (and even emergency meals when things go wrong!), this tool is a major winner. 

3. Less impulse purchases, therefore saving money & not wasting food. 

I only rely on my "favourite" items list within my personal online grocery store account, in addition to the list of ingredients or pantry items I need for the upcoming week. As a result, I rarely make any impulse purchases. Ever. Which is amazing! Our grocery bill is completely predictable and I don't buy things that we don't need, or because I'm craving them. They are bought for the meal plan and we rarely ever have food waste.

4. Compare prices easily!

I can do cost comparisons more efficiently, thus saving more money. As I'm adding groceries into my virtual cart, I can be checking an app called Flipp to see if there are any sale prices that are significantly better at other stores. I know, perhaps an unnecessary step for some, but on a single income we're making every nickel (since we no longer have pennies) count! Plus, I generally just don't like having to pay more than I need to. One thing that my husband and I agreed upon when embarking on the single income journey was to save money wherever possible so that we could eat our most cherished meals all the time, regardless of the cost of the ingredients. We didn't want to compromise on our foodie nature or experimenting with foods that we loved. 

5. Invest in quality products by looking up reviews

I can easily look up product reviews as they are built right into the online grocery web site. I would like to know sooner, rather than dinner time, if a product is poor quality. With online shopping, I can easily see what other people have said about the product, and select another option if it's better quality. There is nothing worse than putting your effort into dinner and your meal plan, only to have it thwarted by a poor quality ingredient, or having an epic toddler meltdown occur because they don't like the taste of what you're serving (and frankly I'm not into that vibe either).

ordering groceries and food online

My Updated Review of Walmart Grocery Pick-Up in Canada

In case you haven't read my previous post on Walmart Grocery Pick-Up services in Canada, I will tell you that my family has tried ordering food online through several formats over the past few years, including food boxes, grocery pick-up and even a service where you would get groceries delivered to your home. For the most part, we loved the Walmart Grocery Pick-Up service ... for about the first 10 months that we used it. Lately, however, it has been lacking in the same consistency and quality that we first fell head over heels for. The service itself within Canada has been rolled out quite quickly over a large number of geographical areas. It has also been marketed heavily, which means that there are a lot of people trying it. But my frustrations with the online grocery shopping experience at Walmart can be broken down into three critiques:

  1. There are not enough grocery attendants at the pick-up locations. The attendants are not able to manage the influx of customers to the pick-up windows. While there is clearly a cap to how many people can sign up for each pick up window (and more often than not, I now need to order my groceries half a week in advance to get my time slot), but they also often only appear to have one person on duty. Also, on three different occasions now we have had to wait 15 to 20 minutes to collect our pre-ordered groceries. This no longer becomes a time savings! 

  2. You can order one grocery item, and pick it up. You might be thinking, what? No, silly! The minimum purchase is $50. Yes, and ..... no. As it turns out you have to purchase $50 of merchandise to pick up your groceries and also apply some pretty awesome promotions that Walmart regularly offers (like the $20 off your entire total promotion that is going on at the moment). However, merchandise isn't necessarily food at Walmart. And while the promo was intended to highlight the online grocery pick-up service, as long as you purchase one banana, you qualify! The rest could be any additional merchandise that Walmart has. So people are filling up time slots for online grocery pick-up, getting their one banana, and then the rest of the non-grocery merchandise is shipped to their home. Now, I don't know about you, but as someone who is willing to fill up my entire grocery cart, with well more than $50 in produce and pantry items, I'm a bit frustrated that I cannot get an online grocery pick-up slot booked anymore. Maybe, Walmart, you could put some fine print into the $20 promotion voucher indicating that at least $50 or $75 of the total merchandise purchased must be grocery-related. 

  3. The groceries are not always as fresh anymore. On several occasions, we have received produce that was set to expire the next day. Take for example two weeks ago when this happened, and I am now lacking salad and bread for the rest of the week ... not exactly things I (or my toddler, aka toast-fan-extrodinaire) can do without. Now I need to set aside time to go to the grocery store to get by for the rest of the week (even if I call in and ask for a credit to my account). Whether this is due to the maintenance of the central location where the groceries come from, or simply the time taken by designated grocery shoppers who put together my order, this oversight is a major problem. And because it's happened multiple times, is now a pattern in my customer experience. The last time I picked up the groceries I made the attendant go through the bag with me to check expiry dates. Not the finest moment for either of us, but I've lost my trust in the quality of what I'm receiving. 

Thankfully, spring is around the corner and my local farmer's market will be opening up soon (thank goodness for their greenhouse produce). My plan for ordering groceries online in the near future is twofold - support local farmers, and draw more upon the dried goods and pantry items available via Amazon, as we do have a membership with them (and we schedule monthly household items that come in). And if you haven't checked out Amazon's offerings for simple pantry goods and non perishable items, you may be surprised at what they have and how competitive their prices are when it comes to shopping for food online. The real bonus with Amazon, of course, is that if they send you something that is not adequate, they will immediately ship you a replacement item by the next day. That's a bonus in my books, as it means I don't have to make that extra trip out to the store, and it likely means just flipping a couple of meals on my weekly meal plan at worst. 


Where Should I Order Groceries Online?

Okay, so we are hooked to the convenience of online grocery shopping. It makes things tick in this household. Have you ordered groceries online before? Or do you get groceries delivered to your home? What was you experience?  I'm open to options for shopping for food online.... unless things begin to make a drastic improvement soon!