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What's your grocery shopping style?

Last post Thu, Jun 27 2013 2:12 PM by Juneflower. 15 replies.
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  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 8:40 AM

    What's your grocery shopping style?

    Just now I made a post in the "What can you get for $10" thread in this forum, comparing the shopping trips described in that thread (go to one store, buy what's on sale, make as many meals as you can from it) to my usual approach (hit several different stores in the course of a month to get all the items I'd normally use for the lowest possible price). It occurred to me to wonder which of these approaches is actually the best for saving money. I've seen articles recommending that you make as few shopping trips as possible to prevent impulse buys, but Amy Dacyczyn (the Frugal Zealot) used to recommend the other approach, because going to more stores means you can get the best prices on everything, not just what happens to be on sale that particular week at that particular store.

    So, my questions are:

    1. What's your usual shopping strategy? Make one big trip and spend as little as possible at one store? Rotate among stores to hit all the different sales? Or something else?

    2. How much do you end up paying for groceries with this approach? I don't mean per trip, since obviously a big trip will cost more than a small one, but on a monthly basis.

    I check all my local store fliers when they arrive and make note of any good deals I think we should take advantage of. I keep a price book in which I record the regular prices (at multiple stores) of items we buy regularly, so we will only buy a sale-priced item if it can beat the lowest regular price. I also check the Coupon Mom site to see if there are any coupons I could stack with these sales to get a better deal, but I very rarely find any. We also take the driving distance into consideration: we won't drive to just one store to buy just one item on sale, but we'll stop in if we can buy several items at a good price or combine it with another trip. We generally either visit a store when it's on our way to someplace we're going anyway, or else hit several stores in a single shopping excursion.

    There are some items that we almost never buy on sale. That might be because only a few stores carry them (e.g., free-range meats), or because sale prices can almost never beat the regular prices at our favorite stores (e.g., mushrooms, which are $2.29 a pound at the Whole Earth Center), or because they just don't tend to go on sale (e.g., powdered milk). So for these items, we just pay the lowest regular price. When we run out of these, we will plan a shopping trip around them.

    Using this approach, we spend about $230 a month on groceries for two adults, or $3.85 per person per day. That's for a mostly-vegetarian diet, but with the little bit of meat that we do eat being entirely free-range. We also buy some organic products (especially sugar, coffee, cocoa, raisins, and some produce), but we don't eat entirely organic. I'm sure there are others on this forum who spend less; can you share your secrets with us?

    My Ecofrugal Living blog: ecofrugality.blogspot.com
  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 9:44 AM In reply to

    Re: What's your grocery shopping style?

    Hi Haver, this is a great post. I can chip in my answers... Over here we prioritize healthy eating so we budget more for food and less for other things. Healthy eating is top priority so I am one who will and can spend more on food. I do not have a specific budget for it. I get what we need and have to spend. However, I do that within a WELL STRATEGIZED plan of action each week. I don't just go off and spend. I spend both time planning and shopping in order to help support the higher end budget I have for fresh foods (not every single thing in my kitchen is organic but I do make it a priority to get as much seasonal local food as possible and special things needed for health needs over here). First, I ONLY grow organic and grow whatever fruits/veggies/herbs/greens I can here at my home...If I can barter with local organic growers I do this as well... Store/market shopping: I look at all the local sale fliers. I never shop just one store, instead I rotate local stores and they are close so it does not eat my gas. I plan out which stores I need to go to that week. I do online club card/coupon savings. I take advantage of freebie coupons and other paper coupons as I come across them and can use them. I know all the reduced produce racks in the area, when to go and the EXACT TIME to go for stocking my cart FULL of fresh produce that's still COMPLETLY fine and marked down - you can find a lot of organic stuff at this one place too. If you get there even 15 minutes late it may of been taken so if you are a reduced racker like me you go on time with boxing gloves, LOL... i get there early and wait if I have to. They KNOW when I get there to go get the stuff. I am friends with the owners and give them good business and help them organize the rack while I wait too, this helps the produce guys and we chat as well so we are all cool and it just works well. I appreciate the special treatment, they appreciate the help I volunteer when I go over there. Anyhow, I also shop in store sales. I have year round farmer's markets I go to weekly and support and get discounts with some vendors for being a bulk and long time buyer... A combo of all these things saves HUNDREDS of dollars a week on my end and I have invested a GREAT DEAL of time over the years increasing savings doing these things and being able to buy and consume fresh healthy whole foods of good quality for me, family, loved ones/friends, workers, volunteer cooking, etc. I menu plan after my hauls not before unless there is a special occassion dinner or special request I need to go buy specific stuff for. I get whatever I can and then I work with that. This is all how I make it happen here. In that case I MUST point how how blessed I am to have the 1. accesss 2. prioritized funds and 3. time to DO all this planning and rotation shopping... If I did not have these privileges I would still find ways to make things work they just would not be as abundant as they are now. I could and would still make eating healthy top priority and be able to do that even if I had less access, $ and time. I know the ins and outs of my area because I have spent so much time over the years figuring this all out. It as not easy, let's just say that and has been a step by step learning and growing process. My educational background in nutrition has helped a GREAT deal in knowing how to grow or select our foods, store them, prepare and cook (or keep raw and fresh) them as well - knowing the who what when where and hows of nutrition, lol, helps balance things well
    I am unable to delete my account. Therefore, I have signed out and will not be returning. Please do not contact me here, I will not get the message. God bless you all.
  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 10:34 AM In reply to

    Re: What's your grocery shopping style?

    Most of my shopping except for meat or super specials is done at Aldi's - their prices beat everyone else including Wally Mart and the warehouse clubs.  We stopped getting the newspaper in April and now get the store flyers via email, so I do check those out thoroughly every Wednesday.  One of the stores has a Senior discount on Thursdays and they are on the way to Aldi's, so if something is worth the stop I will do so.  I budget $50 cash each week for groceries - helps keep down the impulse buys.  I used to have a few dollars left each week to stash away for Xmas and other things but with all of the food price increases that hasn't been happening.    We usually have a Wal Mart shopping trip at the end of the month to pick up vitamins and water for DH's CPAP, so I'll stock up on a few things there that Aldi's doesn't carry. 

    Ellen B.
  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 10:43 AM In reply to

    Re: What's your grocery shopping style?

    Haver, do you take advantage of rain checks on stores that do have sales but out when you go? I have no problem asking for multiple rainchecks if there is a product on sale I know I will use and they are out of. Whole grain pasta for example, sometimes you can find really good deals but maybe they are out and I wanted to restock with the sale. I have no problem going up there asking for a high number of rainchecks so when they do restock I can too and honor the sale price.
    I am unable to delete my account. Therefore, I have signed out and will not be returning. Please do not contact me here, I will not get the message. God bless you all.
  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 11:26 AM In reply to

    Re: What's your grocery shopping style?

    I run and around like a chicken with my head cut off!!! First I check the ad's usually for the meat (chicken breasts only) Then I shop at usually only 3 stores...As of late we shop on Wed due to Sprouts has double ad's and Winco they are across the street from each other.... but I do on the way home from work stop by Safeway for Dairy check in...

    Safeway for clearance dairy items due to DD lactose issues I have to get special milk and at $4.59 half gallon at times when they mark it down say good with in a week I get it half price!! it saves me $$ the same with their yogurt I will freeze it... Plus I can freeze the milk too...

    Winco- bulk bins top priority here plus grind your own almond butter Sprouts- Produce and CHICKEN!!!!!


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  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 12:12 PM In reply to

    Re: What's your grocery shopping style?

    Jaya haha you made my day... chicken with it's head off... girl been there done that and over time learned how to sew my head on straight so I can tackle trips each week LOL I have a nice sewing kit you can borrow, smile. Ps. LOVE those mark down sales. Stock up and preserve!
    I am unable to delete my account. Therefore, I have signed out and will not be returning. Please do not contact me here, I will not get the message. God bless you all.
  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 12:25 PM In reply to

    Re: What's your grocery shopping style?

    When I had children at home, and only worked 15 hours a week, I had so much more time to browse the ads and coupons.

    After my breast cancer diagnosis in 2010, I gradually went to about 90% organic. Fruit, veggies, dairy, everything. I also only buy free range, organic - let's just say the most expensive :-( - type of meat.

    Now single, I only have time to shop once a week, if that. I'll stop in at Kroger for fruits and veggies, and maybe a monthly trip to Whole Foods for meats and such. No coupons and no real sale scouting.

    I budget $75 a week for food, groceries, cleaning and such and frequently feed my friend.

    In a month, it's usually about $300. I'm going to see if I can bring that down this month!

    It's all about Love!
  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 1:16 PM In reply to

    Re: What's your grocery shopping style?

    Haver, do you take advantage of rain checks on stores that do have sales but out when you go?
    I have done this (did it last week, in fact, when the Shop-Rite ran out of the sale-priced olive oil on the *first day* of the sale), but it doesn't come up that often. Also, when stores around here have loss-leader sales, they often put a limit on how many you can buy of the item (usually four), so you can't get a rain check for more than that.
    My Ecofrugal Living blog: ecofrugality.blogspot.com
  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 1:22 PM In reply to

    Re: What's your grocery shopping style?

    Grannie_Sue, do you have a Trader Joe's anywhere near you? I find they have the best prices on a lot of organic products. Just last weekend we got organic sugar for $1.75 a pound, raisins for $2.99 a pound, frozen spinach and corn for $1.99 a pound, chicken legs for $1.99 a pound, and really good dark chocolate for $1.99 a bar (hey, dark chocolate is the healthy kind, right?). Haven't checked their dairy section--we usually get powdered milk because it's what I grew up with, and it's just *so* much cheaper.
    My Ecofrugal Living blog: ecofrugality.blogspot.com
  • Fri, Jun 21 2013 2:32 PM In reply to

    Re: What's your grocery shopping style?

    1. My usual strategy is make a list, go through all my coupons, check the commissary threads on the coupon forum 'A Full Cup' to be sure I don't miss any deals, and then hit the commissary. Sometimes the grocery stores will have better prices on meats, but most of the time their sales are within a few cents of the commy's regular price, so I don't spend the extra gas to go there. Once in awhile DH will notice that a nearby grocery is having a really good deal on one particular meat, or on a seafood item, and he'll stop on his way home from work to pick up enough to put a couple packs in the freezer. But for the most part, we stick to the commissary. We go about twice a month, occasionally three times. In between, I'll pick up a few perishables at Target or Walmart, just milk and bread, a fruit or two, and a bag of salad or head of lettuce. Those things are comparable in price to the commissary, so it makes sense to just pick them up there instead of making a special commy trip just for those items. The nearest naval base (we have several in the Hampton Roads area, but I usually just stick with the one closest to me) is about fifteen to twenty minutes away, so I have to factor in the cost of gas when I go there.

    2. On average, with this strategy, I spend around $400 a month. Some of that goes for cat food and litter, though, and household cleaners/health and beauty aids. So more like $350 or so on actual food.

    "The business of life is the acquisition of memories." --Mr. Carson
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