Steps to cut cost when online grocery shopping

By Jessica D

With many grocery stores and companies offering online shopping these days — and many even offering free or inexpensive delivery — it can make a lot of sense to shop for groceries online.

Popular online grocery shopping and grocery delivery services include Amazon, FreshDirect and Instacart. Your local grocery store chain may also offer its own online ordering and pickup or delivery systems.

This shopping strategy opens up a number of new possibilities for saving money on groceries. Here are some good tips for taking advantage of this new era in grocery shopping:

— Start with a meal plan.

— Make a grocery list.

— Check your household supplies.

— Stick to your grocery list.

— When buying nonperishables, always buy at the cheapest cost per use.

— For nonperishables, shop around at stores that offer cheap or free shipping.

— Only subscribe to buy items you’re confident you’ll use.

Read on for more information about save money when online grocery shopping.

Start With a Meal Plan

This is a good strategy for offline grocery shopping as well, but it’s particularly useful when you’re doing all of your shopping online. Start by figuring out what exactly you want to eat for the next several days and make a grocery list for those meals. Cross-check those meals with your calendar to make sure you have the time to prepare them.

Make a Grocery List From That Meal Plan

Once you have your meal plan in place, move on to making a grocery list. This list should just include the items you need to make the meals on your meal plan.

Check Your Household Supplies

The same technique works for your household supplies. Run an inventory of your cleaning closet, bathrooms and cabinet under the sink to make sure you have all of the soaps, toilet paper and other items you might need, so you can add them to the list as well.

Stick to Your List When Shopping Online

What’s the big emphasis on making a list? It keeps you focused. Having a list of items to get when shopping online means you won’t browse through pages on the grocery store website hoping that serendipity strikes (and likely adding unnecessary and expensive items to your online cart). Rather, with a shopping list, you can just search for each item and add it directly to your cart.

For Nonperishables, Always Buy at the Cheapest Cost Per Use

Remember: Part of online grocery shopping is that someone is delivering this stuff to your house, so you don’t have to worry about struggling to get a giant bundle home. Thus, it’s a good idea to focus on the version of the item that provides you with the lowest cost per use. Look at laundry soap in terms of the cost per load (divide the price by the number of loads), for example, and look at toilet paper options by the cost per sheet (divide the total package cost by the number of rolls, then the number of sheets).

Shop Around at Stores That Offer Cheap or Free Shipping

If you’re shopping for dry goods and household supplies that won’t go bad very quickly, do a lot of price comparisons with other online sellers that offer free shipping or low-cost shipping, such as Amazon. Many toiletries and basic food items are surprisingly inexpensive on Amazon and it can be cheaper to get, say, a big bundle of soap from Amazon than from a local online shopping service.

Only Subscribe to Items You’re Confident You’ll Use

Amazon loves to encourage people to subscribe to items and even offers discounts if you subscribe to receive them regularly. If you find a low-cost item there, it can be tempting to subscribe, but only do so if you’re sure you’re going to use the item frequently. If you oversubscribe, you’re basically paying good money to accumulate items. That’s OK if you’ve found a huge sale and are stocking up, but if that’s not the case, subscribing is often not the wisest choice.

These simple strategies will help keep your online grocery shopping expenses as low as possible.