Around three years ago, after a particularly stressful trip to the supermarket with my children, I decided enough was enough and turned to online grocery shopping. I am now one of those people who bores others with how much time and money it saves me every single week.
And now it’s your turn!
Further reading: Woolworths or Coles: Which is better for online shopping?
17 Online Grocery Shopping Tips to Save Money and Time
Practice makes perfect
Like everything new, especially something we are accustomed to doing a certain way such as grocery shopping, you need time to adjust. You will likely try online shopping once and feel out of your comfort zone.
But. Don’t. Give. Up.
You will make mistakes and end up with some wrong items but learn from them and get it right next time. Soon you will have it down to a fine art, saving time and money on every shop.
If something goes wrong
One of the best online grocery shopping tips is to accept that you will make mistakes when you order, but they can be easily rectified.
I once ordered two massive bags of juicing oranges, instead of just two oranges. The delivery driver was laughing before I opened the door, saying ‘did you mean to order these?’. They’ve seen it all before. He just took them back for me and a credit was added to my account.
Lesson learnt for next time.
Not happy with your fruit or veg?
Probably the biggest thing that puts people off online grocery shopping, is not being able to pick your own fruit and veg.
Firstly, I would say ‘let it go’.
Do you really need to waste time fondling every apple in the store to get the perfect one? Instead, choose fruit and veg which is in season and therefore on sale. You know it will be ripe and delicious, plus it’s cheaper.
If you do get some bruised bananas in your delivery, phone or email to tell them. It takes a minute and you will be refunded the amount on the next order. Even a bruised banana tastes yummy if it cost you nothing.
Use filter and search functions
My favourite feature with these online grocery shopping sites are the filter and search functions. Definitely a life and time saver, as I don't have to manually go through pages after pages of products as I would through aisles after aisles when shopping in physical grocery stores.
In a few simple taps, the website will show you what you are looking for. In just a few clicks, you can limit the results to what you exactly need at any time. Local brands? Check. Organic and natural? Check. Within your budget? Check.
Lowest unit price
One of the very best online grocery shopping tips is setting-up your online search correctly. You can choose from a number of options to display your search items. If you are looking to save money, always set your search to ‘sort by lowest unit price’.
This way you will get a brilliantly clear picture of the best value items, through to the most expensive. No more checking different shelves and different parts of the store and guessing value by vision. You will always get the best value with everything you buy.
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Groceries free delivery
I use Coles because I like a set price for delivery, which currently is $8. With Woolworths the price depends on the cost of the order.
Both supermarkets offer free delivery on your first order, and often waives the delivery fee if your shop is over a certain amount. To reach this amount chuck in some cleaning products or non-perishables.
Online Grocery Shopping Tips to Save Time and Money (Cont.)
Not in stock
We’ve all had it when a particular item we need is not in stock. Annoyingly, we usually end up buying a more expensive brand that is in stock.
Not so with online grocery shopping.
If an item you have ordered is not available, they will replace it with the closest match at the same price. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve ended up with brand products and larger quantities to replace the cheapest available products I had ordered.
Click & Collect
For this option, you order everything online, it is picked and packed for you and you collect it ready-to-go from your chosen location.
The best thing about this is that it is completely free. Plus, both supermarkets are trying to encourage it so offer regular discounts on shopping if you chose this option.
Check quantities and sizes
Picture yourself dashing through the grocery store, quickly grabbing what you believe you need, and making a beeline for the checkout line.
However, the online shopping experience offers a different advantage. You hold the ability to thoroughly inspect every addition to your virtual cart. It's the same as having a friend whispering, "Do you truly need that much?" This grants you the opportunity to reevaluate quantities and dimensions prior to clicking that "buy" button.
Sure, we can't physically hold the products, but that's where careful consideration comes in. Some online stores even give you the option to view products from different angles or provide detailed descriptions. Plus, they usually have reminders that help you review your order before you finalise it. You won't believe how many times those reminders saved me from overloading on items!
Sucker for sales
I love a good sale and there is no better way to make the most of them than by grocery shopping online.
You can view all half-price sale items in one go, as well as searching sale items only. No more massive sales displays confronting you the moment you walk in the store and checking the end of every aisle for specials. Simply browse through current sales items in a few minutes and tick what you’d like.
You’ll never miss a bargain again.
Stick to budget
If you need to save money on your grocery shopping then online is definitely the way to go.
My weekly budget is $100. I can never remember an in-store grocery shop coming in at under this. Short of calculating the prices of everything as you go, or taking stuff out of your shopping bags at the checkout, you have no way of knowing what you are going to spend.
When grocery shopping online you can view the cost of goods in your trolley at any time and remove or replace items to make sure you will come in under budget. Just think if you can save just $20 a week, that is over $1000 a year.
How To Do Online Grocery Shopping (Cont.)
Bought before feature
To make life even easier, online grocery shopping websites will note all the items you bought online previously. This is the biggest time saver of them all.
You can use this in two ways.
Say you search for milk and it brings up 20 types, then a little ‘BB’ will appear by the ones you have bought before, so you know to get the same again. Alternatively, you can quickly glide through a list of your ‘bought before’ items at the end of your shop to check you haven’t forgotten any of your usual staples.
Be prepared for some change
Remember, this is an entirely different way of doing a task that you do every single week. You will have to make small changes to allow it to happen. But change is often good.
My early morning deliveries don’t allow for fresh bread rolls, so I get more at other times and freeze them. My frozen pastry can break on delivery, so I make my own and wonder why I hadn’t done it earlier .. it’s delicious.
One of my most important online grocery tips is to prepare for some change.
Review your order before checkout
I completely understand the frustration of having to double-check your physical cart before reaching the checkout counter, especially when the line is growing longer. Often, I'd come across items in my basket that I had accidentally taken too many of, or I'd realise I'd forgotten something crucial. The problem is, it's tough to dash back to the aisle when other shoppers are waiting in line.
The beauty with online grocery shopping is that you can finalise your purchase whenever your cart looks good to go. This means you get the chance to thoroughly review all the products you've selected before taking that final step. It's like having a personal review session for your cart before you hit that checkout button.
You can shop quickly... anywhere
As a veteran online grocery shopper, I can place a weekly order in between 10 – 15 minutes. Brag, brag.
Looking back at the effort of going to a store, filling a trolley, unpacking, packing, loading the car and unpacking the car now seems ridiculous. I only now touch my shop once it is carefully placed on my kitchen work surface by a friendly delivery person.
Best of all you can place an order on your phone or computer anywhere. I once placed an order in Hong Kong to arrive the day we returned home from holiday. Simplifying life has never been more fun.
Become a regular and get free samples
Every now and then, my grocery delivery comes with a surprise or two. At first, I think I have someone else’s order and then, to my delight, realise I have some free gifts, yay.
These may be hair products, biscuits, cereals, cleaning products … anything. I love receiving them and trying something outside my comfort zone. It’s a bit like Christmas … and yes, maybe I do need to get out more (but not to the supermarket).
Final thoughts: Online grocery shopping tips to save money and time
If, like me, you don't have the patience for queues in the supermarket and would love to have more time for other fruitful endeavours, it's time to try online grocery shopping. It yields the same result - getting your groceries done - in less time and even more savings. If I can do it, you can too!
Not only do you save money from gas, but stores often offer better discounts and promotions when you get groceries online. You don't have to manually check items to find the lowest price because the system does it for you.
Alongside money, you save time. You can instantly see if an item is not in stock, so there's no need to drag your cart to look for store attendants. Some stores even allow you to save your shopping cart for next time.
Worried about the quality of the produce shopped online? Don't fret! You can always phone the store for a return or an exchange. Better yet, go for in-season fruits and veg. You can be sure they're fresh and cheaper.
See? Online grocery shopping is not, and doesn't have to be, intimidating. So, wave goodbye to the checkout hassle and join me in the world of stress-free shopping. Happy shopping and happier savings!