The Grocery Buying Algorithm: How I Save Money on Groceries

Grocery Buying Algorithm

I love my grocery buying algorithm!  Here’s the method that I use when I go grocery shopping using Flipp app Canada and Checkout 51.  There are lot of steps to my grocery shopping strategy, even though our grocery bills are still relatively high for trying to save money.

Step 1A:  Check the Online Flyers of Stores I Frequent

I don’t have flyers delivered to me anymore unfortunately (I’m not sure why?  I used to even though I live in an apartment).  Because of this, I started relying on the Flipp app so I can check out what’s on sale without having to clumsily look at the store’s website online.  You can also look at the Flipp website for the sales too.

Flipp is one of the best personal finance apps in Canada, in my opinion.

As you can see in the screen shot below, I just inputted “No Frills” and voila, the weekly flyer is uploaded.

Flipp App Flyers
Source: Flipp

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If it is a 20x the PC Points event at Shoppers Drug Mart, I will usually take the effort and add up the minimum spending amount of items I can find in the flyer.  For example, there was a $50 minimum spend and you get 20 times the PC Points event, and I bought just over $53 worth of items sub-total.  Usually everything I buy is on sale.  It’s worth it as you can get about $15 worth of PC Optimum points with a 20x Event.

Related:  PC Optimum Review:  My Experience So Far

I also make sure that my PC Optimum “Offers are Loaded”.

It seems like Loblaw’s totally keeps track of what you buy and then they offer you PC Optimum Points for buying those items in following shopping trips.

Like I bought some contact lens solution one week and the next time, my offer was for 2000 points if I bought contact lens solution.  I also load my husband’s offers through our joint email account but oftentimes they are the same offers that I got.

Sometimes they have some great deals, like 200 points on every $10 spent on diapers or something like that (equivalent to about $6 off a box of $33.72 diapers).  Couple that with a $1.50 printed out coupon, and a $3.00 checkout 51 coupon, and you’ve got the diaper savings trifecta!!

Step 1B: Search for any Items that Might be on Sale

Sometimes I am looking for something specific.

Like Red Bull (my husband likes to drink it).  When the 4 pack is not on sale, it’s almost $10.  Sometimes it has been on sale for $5.98, and usually I stock up if it is less than $7.99.  I just input “red bull” into the search box, and you can see which retailers have it on sale.  This week the sales aren’t really that great because $2 a can is the standard sale price, so I’ll pass and move on.

Flipp Search Groceries
Source: Flipp

Step 2:  “Circle” the Grocery Items on Flipp

Then, as part of my grocery buying algorithm, I just tap on the item if I want to ‘circle’ it.  When I go to my shopping list it separates out the items that I have circled into “My Clippings”.  As you can see, 18 pack of eggs at $2.88 is a steal of a deal!

Circled Items Flipp
Source: Flipp

Related:  Saving Money on Groceries The Easy Way

Step 3: Print out any coupons needed and Scan Checkout 51

Before I head to the store, I print out any coupons that I might need.  For example, Pampers diapers coupons, there is usually a $1.50 Baby Dry Coupon that I can print out every few months from Smart Source.  I sometimes do a quick search for coupons online before I head to the store.

I also scan Checkout 51 really quickly for their weekly offers.  They often alternate between Huggies or Pampers coupons.  Sometimes the Pampers diaper with Checkout 51 is $3.00!  When it is a Pampers week at Checkout 51 I make sure I print out my Pampers coupons ($1.50).

Related:  Diaper Hack: Save Money on Disposable Diapers in Canada

Step 4: Go to the Store and Buy the Goods with the Points Credit Card

Then I make the trek to the store, equipped with my Flipp app and check off the items on my shopping list or “My Clippings”.  Sometimes I am annoyed as I can’t find the item even though it is advertised.  Or I am annoyed because the price scanned is not the price that is advertised (ahem, Scanning Code of Practice!).

I give any coupons I have to the cashier.  I’m not embarrassed to use coupons, I love using them!  I don’t use many coupons though because most of the stuff we buy is fresh and perishable except for diapers and toiletries… and chips.. and chocolate.

If it is at a Loblaw’s owned store (City Market, No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, T&T Supermarket) I use our PC Financial World Elite Mastercard to pay for the groceries and to collect the points.  If it is another grocer and they accept American Express, I whip out the American Express Gold Rewards Credit Card as you get 4 Scotia Rewards for every $1 spent at grocers.

Step 5: Use Checkout 51

Then, when I get home, I open up my Checkout 51 app and check if there is anything that can be claimed.  About 50-60% of the bills can be claimed (the Cadbury dark/milk chocolate has been a recent one) with Checkout 51, and if there’s nothing, often there’s a “enter for a chance to win free groceries” for spending more than $60 on groceries.  I take a picture of my receipt.  I wait until I get home because you need a bright background to upload your receipt, otherwise they will ask you to resubmit it again.

Thankfully, Checkout 51 doesn’t influence my buying decision (otherwise, there’d be a lot of buying name brand goods!).  Then I wait for approval, they usually approve or disapprove within 24 hours.

We have received over $46 in the past year for claiming stuff through the free app, Checkout 51.

Passive Income Checkout 51

Related: Checkout 51 Review: Perfect for the Lazy Couponer Like Me

Step 6: Make Sure there is no PC OPtimum Discrepancy

Finally, I log into my PC Optimum App (if the purchase was made at a Loblaw’s store, and also the points show up just through using the PC Financial World Elite Mastercard) to make sure that there was no discrepancy for PC Optimum Points.

Then I admire the points accumulation for a few seconds because I am a #pointsaddict.

There we go, that’s how I do my weekly grocery shopping and that’s my grocery buying algorithm.  For fruits and vegetables that aren’t on sale, I often go to a small mom and pop grocery store where they have cheaper groceries than you would get at a big chain supermarket.

Finally I would finish off and see I can get any cash back for scanning the receipt.

You may also be interested in:

What does your grocery buying algorithm look like? 

Do you check flyers or only buy on sale

Do you do your shop at one place or do you go to a few different places for your weekly grocery shop?

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19 thoughts on “The Grocery Buying Algorithm: How I Save Money on Groceries”

  1. We shop at a couple different places and always check the flyer for sales and deals in the store. We use coupons when they are available, but don’t go out of our way to track them down. Coupons are usually for stuff we wouldn’t buy anyway. But you are much more disciplined GYM than us.

    • @Tom- Me too, don’t go out of thw way to clip coupons. I’m totally not disciplined lol, I don’t go to 4 different places to get a good deal on steaks, for example.

  2. Hey GYM,

    Here is my algorithm.
    1. Costco
    2. Local grocers

    I am a true blue reserve shopper. I will buy large amounts of whatever I need on sale at Costco. I am the one who will buy 12 boxes of cereal on sale. I store them in my basement metal pantry rack.

    For the “run out of groceries” during the week, I walk to my local grocers. There are at least 9 grocery stores and/ or Mom and Pop grocers within a block from where I live. As long as I know my prices, I can easily shop at any of these.

    But I intensely dislike shopping of any kind and my ultimate goal is to wait for my daughter to get her drivers license and send her to Costco! ?

    • @Dr. MB- SO simple!! I am jealous. We don’t have a Costco membership- I find Costco overwhelming. Tried to get a hotdog a few months ago and then it took 25 min to find parking. Do you have a deep freezer too? We also go to local grocers regularly, once a week (love them) for our produce.

  3. Man, I wish the US had these sweet loyalty programs!

    Our algorithm is mostly buying certain things at certain stores. We buy staples at Trader Joe’s, meat and stuff at Whole Foods, and then super cheap produce locally. If there’s something we use a lot of and can order from Costco’s, we do. Things like tomato sauce and pasta.

    Other than that, we don’t really coupon, because I’ve found the coupons are rarely for things we’d actually buy.

    • @The Luxe Strategist- Hey you guys have sweet credit card bonuses, I would rather take that lol! I love Trader Joe’s, wish they had them up here in Canada. I don’t clip coupons anymore either but I do print them out occasionally and if it’s on an app I’ll just use them since it takes almost zero effort.

  4. If I didn’t know better, I probably would think that you are a programmer instead of a blogger (maybe you are both). This is a great algorithm. I need to incorporate the Flipp app and checkout 51 into mine.

    I am a points hoarder and I am waiting for one of those extra points event with the PC points where you claim 100,000 points and you get 125000 worth of items.

    • @Leo- Haha, if I was a programmer wouldn’t I be FIRE’d already? You can try out the Flipp app on just their website, it’s pretty much the same except hard to circle what you want to buy. Ahh, yes, I love the ‘Spend Your Points’ event for PC Optimum. I haven’t been hoarding my points so much lately, I think our grocery bill this month is like under $50 because of all the points redemption at checkout!

  5. Hi GYM, I can see you are a great analyst. Very thoughtful and following the logic. I don’t spend much time preparing for the grocery trip, except a shopping list. I usually shop at two places, sometimes three. If the price and quality is good, I’ll grab it.

    I usually make sure the groceries are consumed at home before the expiration date. Try to reduce the waste. I’m the obnoxious kitchen cop, hehe.

    • @Helen- Hehe, thanks! I like analysing things and sometimes I analyze things too much and go off into a rabbit hole of thinking. Great to make sure groceries are consumed before the expiration date- there’s so much food wastage. I get a bit of anxiety about making sure the food doesn’t go to waste too. Right now there is a pork loin in the fridge that we bought a few days ago and I have yet to cook it or cut it up and freeze it to prevent it from going bad. I’ll have to do it today!

  6. That is some serious hacking right there! I’m pretty impressed. Our algorithm is simple. Aldi for whatever we can get on our list. Then, a cheap, local store + Ibotta or Target + Ibotta for the remainder of the goods. Thanks for sharing , as I always love hearing what others are doing.


    • @Dividend Diplomats- Aldi sounds amazing, I keep hearing about Aldi on Twitter. I would love to visit one, one day when I’m in the US. Ibotta sounds similar to Checkout 51. Thanks for sharing what you do Bert!

  7. I wish we had that type of algorithm here in the US. We just a straight forward one where you go to certain stores for sales. Since I’m a Costco shopper, we get a notification through the Costco app when in-store sales start. They would give you a preview of all the items that would be on sale. so you can prepare what you want to buy.
    We go to Trader Joes as well but most of the stuff we buy there are inexpensive and they barely have sale items.

    • @Kris- I love Trader Joes! I haven’t been in months. Should make the trek down to Washington again sometime. Well you are doing very well despite no algorithm, your grocery expenses are killing it.

  8. The only step I don’t do here is the coupons. And checkout 51 usually don’t have what I buy on offer, so my most utilized tip is on sale items on flyers and pc optimum points with pc mastercard (it adds up pretty quickly).

    • @Jeannie- Yeah Checkout 51 works for me because of diapers and body wash lol. The PC Optimum and PC Mastercard are amazing- like a magical unicorn combination.

  9. Great blog. Have been reading it for a while.
    Was wondering, if it too cheap to buy things that are on listed on Checkout 51 (big ticket items like diapers, etc.), collect the offer, and then return the products when you are back in the store (Walmart has a 90 day return policy – so not a huge hassle to go back and return something)?

    • Ah, think I found my own answer – the terms say “Products that are submitted for Cash Back Credits cannot be returned to the store”

    • Tobiakins- Thank you so much, means a lot to me! I’m glad you were able to find the answer to your question. Checkout 51 has been better at cracking down on couponing tricks/ hacks (like for example, submitting the Checkout 51 for a Dairyland 1% milk when the coupon on Checkout 51 says 2% milk (just a hypothetical example).


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