How Do You Get the Best Value for Groceries?

Thrifty Thinking

How Do You Get the Best Value for Groceries?

Grocery Bag

May be some of you need to save for something big like a house, car, college, or a remodel project.  May be some of you are trying to stave off having your house taken away.  May be some of you have big medical bills piling.  No matter your money situation, cutting the grocery bill can be one the easiest ways to save money in your household budget.  It also can be the most flexible area to change.

Really THE best way to get the most bang for your buck when purchasing groceries is to look at the ads and shop at several different stores.  Some may not want to hear this, but this is true!  We are creatures of habit, and changing things isn’t always fun.  If you typically shop at one store due to time constraints, I would like you to consider shopping at multiple places.

Often times, if we exclusively shop at one store, we can spend a lot of time meandering down the aisles trying to find what sounds good.  I can take 1-2 hours sometimes.  May be some of you come in with a list, and that’s great!  If you follow our blog, you’ve seen that I create short lists of items I would get if I were going to a certain store.  I’ll go in with my list and come out with those items, and almost exclusively those items (unless I am passing as good deal on the way to my next grocery-item destination and just can’t pass it up).  I don’t shop down every aisle at any store except for Grocery Outlet (where the items are continually rotating, and I only go there every 2-3 months, but it’s worth it).  Even when I bring all three of my kids, I can be in and out of a store in 15 minutes because I go in for very specific items (except WinCo where I update prices, taking about 40 minutes including shopping), and I’ve been shopping long enough at my groceries stores to have a good idea of where to find the different items.

Perhaps you are thinking that the money spent in driving to multiple stores doesn’t justify the cost of gas, and people should only shop at one place.  I want to encourage you to think otherwise.  I don’t take one day and do all of my grocery shopping.  That would be overwhelming, exhausting and not a good use of our gasoline.  I connect my shopping with other destinations and spread it out throughout the week.  If I have to take my child to school, I will drop by Bartell Drugs and IGA, which are right next to each other.  Or if I drive to meet someone to exercise or need to go to the bank, I may also go out to a grocery store or two afterward.  I hardly ever go out just to go to a grocery store, alone.  I, at least, connect my grocery trip to one other destination.

If you still only want to shop at one store, in Snohomish County, I recommend WinCo.  I’ve told Jonathan, “if I ever die, don’t worry about coupons, and just shop at WinCo.”  They have the best prices for groceries here, especially bulk foods and produce.

Fred Meyer is where I spend the second most amount of money.  They’ll usually have good milk and produce prices, along with an occasional good meat sale and some good natural products.  Since QFC and Fred Meyer are owned by the same company, they typically have similar sales, but since I don’t live by a QFC, I only shop Fred Meyer.

I do shop at Costco, but not for everything.  Don’t be deceived into thinking that if you do most of your grocery shopping at Costco, you are getting a good deal for everything, because this is probably not the case.  Costco has some GREAT prices for some things.  Just not all things.  You have got to shop around (or look at our blog; we are here to help)!!  I buy their boxed organic salad, bananas, cranberries, nacho chips, nuts, frozen fruits for smoothies, strawberries and more.  I have never purchased meat there.   An aside, I do love to buy big ticket items there like vacuum cleaners because they have such a great return policy though.  This justifies the annual $50 membership fee in my book.

Our little Allen Creek IGA typically has great produce prices!  I’ll often go there and to the Bartell Drugs next door and be out of both stores in 15 minutes.

Grocery Outlet is great for natural and organic products.  I love looking at their cereals and different natural salad dressings.

Albertsons really doesn’t have a lot of great deals these days, unless it’s the occasional week where they have their coupon doublers.  Then you can get THE best prices there for coupon items!  If we get doublers, they typically work between Sunday-Tuesday, and you only get 3.  They’ll come in the newspaper.  If you get multiple newspapers, Albertsons will let you have 3 separate transactions.  So you can go in once, and have 3 different transactions, each transaction using 3 doublers, for a total of 9 doublers used out the door.  If I do this, I don’t always know what I am going to double until I get there, and it takes time.

Safeway and Haggen can have some good loss leader prices (the rock bottom prices that lure customers in where the store may take a loss), but they are not go to spots for us.  Sometimes I’ll ask JSarr to go to Haggen if they have a rock bottom price.  This week, for instance, grapefruit is 3/$1.  Excellent price!!  Since JSarr makes at least one weekly trip (and may be more) to our Starbucks next to Haggen, it’s easy for him to stop there and get the one or two items I really want there.

Grocery shopping can be short and fun.  I love going in with my list (on my ad) and getting out in minutes.  I am a woman on a mission in a grocery store!  I do love to stop and chat when I see friends, though.  You can shop at multiple stores a week and really save!  Between Jonathan and myself, we probably go to 3-4 grocery stores a week.  I think this saves several hundred dollars a month.  Each dollar adds up (you can put those dollars in an envelop to pay down your debt/bills and/or save: more on this later).  So:

  • make your grocery list based on the ads and needed items
  • shop at several stores, accordingly (start with just adding one new store)

I know there are different factors that will affect the grocery bill even more.  This gives us a place to start, though.  I haven’t talked about coupons much.  I do use them some, and they can help you save even more with your grocery bill, but more on that later.  I also haven’t talked about menu planning, and that will come later, too.  I will even give out real numbers for what we’ve spent on groceries, but, again, later.

Happy grocery shopping!

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Have you read…?

Budgeting for 2012, Part 1

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