Is food shopping online better for your budget?
9 July 20
Reading time: 4 minutes
Picture yourself walking the aisles at the supermarket, with every label screaming, “Buy me!” It’s basically like walking a hallway of ads.
That’s no accident, since a supermarket is a highly calibrated, thoroughly tested space designed to persuade you to keep walking through it and buying more stuff as you go. It can wear down your willpower, especially with little ones in tow!
Now we’ve got what may be the best thing for budgeting in a long while: ordering groceries online, either for delivery or “click & collect”.
To get ahead financially over the long term, we need to sort our money in the here and now. Buying food online can help keep your spending plan on track. With the ease of shopping from home, you may also find the headspace to spot bargains and lower-cost options that work well.
The upside of online food shopping
It’s so much easier to stick to your list.
When we’re walking through real aisles, there are all sorts of little extras that end up in the cart. That doesn’t tend to happen virtually. You can more easily avoid those impulse buys, again without any kid pressure (no lower shelves to tempt them). Best of all, you can save your lists to come back to each week and remake your order effortlessly.
You can keep an eye on your cart total.
Ever see someone walk through the supermarket aisles with a calculator? Only twice have I seen shoppers plugging in numbers as they go. Our brains, for all their power, have a hard time keeping up with how much we’re spending. Online, there are no surprise moments at the checkout; you can track exactly where you’re at cost-wise.
You can check what’s in your pantry.
Scratching your head at the store, wondering if you’ve already got that item or not? Now it’s a simple walk to the pantry with your device to check that you’re not overstocking or forgetting anything.
Did we mention the convenience?
You’ve got options: delivery to your door, or “click & collect”. Either way you have a personal shopper carrying out your orders. If you live some distance from the store, just the time and petrol savings alone can make delivery worth it.
You might even get upgraded.
When you order something and your shopper finds the store has run out, they will typically replace it with something of the same value or higher. A massive $16 jar of crunchy peanut butter made it to our house because of this, and we only paid for the $7 one. Score!
The downside of online supermarkets
Having a personal shopper comes at a cost.
Will you end up spending less this way? With paid delivery, perhaps not so much, but the “click and collect” option helps. Lately, if you bring your own bags to collect, it can even be cheaper.
You can’t always get what you want.
Some in-store products may not be available, such as very large items and hot food. In some areas (e.g. rurally) the product range can be limited. If the store runs out of an item, and there is no substitute of equal or higher value, you may end up with a product you didn’t want. If you were in the store, you’d simply change your meal plan on the fly, but online you don’t have this option.
You can’t pick your own.
It takes time to get used to not picking individual items yourself, not choosing the quality of meats, fish or produce you want. It also takes a bit to get used to the quantities on offer and purchasing by weight. You may think you ordered five carrots, only to find you’ve received 15!
The specials can be different online.
Some in-store specials may not be available online. That said, they can indeed be the same, or there can even be online-only deals to take advantage of. To spend less like you would in a store, make sure to search out the specials tab.
Overall, there is much to like about online grocery shopping, with a lot of power at your fingertips. Hopefully it helps us stick to our spending plans, keeping us on track towards our long-term goals.