For the last few months, my wife and I have been trying an experiment to see how the change would impact our bottom line with grocery shopping.
Grocery Shopping Before the Strategy Change
Step #1: My wife would make a menu and a grocery list.
Step #2: My wife would make a weekly shopping trip to Walmart/Sam’s. Walmart is the cheapest place for groceries because of price matching.
The problem is that Wal-mart is 5 miles from our house, and Wal-mart is SO MASSIVE that it’s not a fun place to do grocery shopping. Less than a mile away from home is a Safeway grocery store. Shopping there is always a more pleasant experience. They even offer to help take the groceries to the car.
We started brainstorming and trying to figure out if there was a way we could shop at Safeway and still do it for less or not much more than Wal-mart.
The Grocery Shopping Strategy Change
Step #1: I spent about an hour writing down the price of the items we usually buy at Wal-mart and Sam’s. (As a full-time blogger, I have the luxury to do these sorts of experiments.) It was actually a very enlightening experience that I’d recommend if you’ve never done it before. Prior to making this list, we’d get our weekly grocery ads on Wednesday and say, “Is $1 a pound for tomatoes a good deal?” Typically, neither of us would know. However, by having our very own price sheet, we can check and confirm if it is indeed a good deal. I also take the list with me when I go grocery shopping.
Step #2: We altered the order of menu and grocery list creating. Instead of making the list first, I’d go to the grocery store and buy items on sale by category. As an example, if they have apples and oranges on sale this week, we’d eat apples and oranges as our fruits for the week. The next week they may put grapes and pears on sale. As another example, we typically keep cracker type snacks on hand. After switching our shopping style, we’d buy cracker snacks based on what was on sale for the week. Since I made a Wal-mart price comparison list, I knew that these items were in fact cheaper than Wal-mart – even the off name brand.
Another possibility that doesn’t work as well for us is to make the menu after you’ve discovered the weekly sale items. If chicken is on sale, you might include a chicken meal on the menu instead of a beef menu. In our case, my wife is very organized and likes to have a monthly menu ready at the start of each month. By the way, I think people underestimate how much money a menu saves. If you are tired after a hard day of work, you might decided just to go out and get food. However, if you have a menu, you don’t have to use any energy to figure out what to eat.
Step #3: Reduce our Wal-mart/Sam’s shopping to once a month. This saves both gas and time. Typically, we buy staple items at these two stores, so we actually just have a recurring list of what we need to buy when we end up at Walmart. The fact is that there are just some items at Walmart that are much cheaper than anywhere else.
Miscellaneous Comments About Grocery Shopping
Coupons: We’re not really into coupons, but we do look through the coupons to see if there is a coupon for something we plan to buy. If we could get more organized with coupons, I’m sure we’d use them more.
Stocking up: When an item is significantly on sale, we go ahead and stock up (non-perishable).
Other promotions: Our local grocery store has extra promotions that make it less expensive. As an example, they’ve had several times when you get 30 cents off per gallon of gas when you spend $50 or more in a single transaction. With a minivan, that can be worth $4.50 on a tank of gas.
In the end, we’re saving money on groceries and spending less time grocery shopping, but it did take a few changes to our regular shopping habits.
You don’t always have to seek out big extravagant plans for saving money around your home. Sometimes it’s just a small change, but over a long period of time it can make a significant difference.
What do you do to help reduce the cost of your groceries?