Today I had a grocery list of about a dozen items. My preference, always, is to go to Winco, the most affordable grocery store in my town. But it is half an hour from home. And I’d be going right by a couple of different stores on the way home from church this evening: Paul’s, a small grocery store with some awesome prices and some terrible ones, and Albertsons, big and generally expensive, but with 10# of potatoes on sale for 99 cents this week.
The potatoes were a real lure (do I have a strange mind or what?) but in the end I went to Paul’s. They almost always have milk on sale (usually with ‘points’). They often have excellent sales on meat and fruit. And they have a habit I utterly adore: they clearance random things to move them faster.
This week– sure enough — they had milk for $1.78 a gallon. They had prices on dish soap that were comparable to other places. I paid $1.50 more for bacon than I would have at Winco. None of the meat prices knocked my socks off, so I passed. (We just brought one of our cows to the butcher this week anyway– my freezers will soon bulge with beef.)
But the clearance items were lovely this week. I got canned evaporated milk (2 days past expiration) for 25 cents a can. Crispix cereal was a buck a box. And Shasta root beer was $2.50 for a case of 24. We don’t drink pop often– the kids probably have a can every month or so — but this price was so good that I got 3 cases. It’ll be perfect for a youth group party we’re planning next month.
Always when you’re shopping there’s a tension between wanting to save money and needing to limit your time grocery shopping. This evening I opted for the more ‘expensive’ store to save time. I paid a dollar extra for a couple things I really needed, but I also saved 50% or more on several items, and overall still ended up saving money at that store.
I think you can make almost any store work for an occasional trip by remembering the following hints:
1.) Knowing your prices from store to store helps you make reasonable choices. If you know you’re paying $3 extra for that can of cocoa powder, you just may decide to buy it someplace else. But if the milk is only a dime more and it will save you half an hour to buy it at the higher price, go for it.
2.) The corollary to knowing your prices: be willing to temporarily go without non-essential things if it means buying them at a more affordable store later. You’d be surprised at how many things you can live without for a few days or a week.
3.) Check sales. (Duh) There are stores I only set foot in when the sales are good. I visit Albertson’s less than once a month, but a few weeks ago I bought 20 boxes of cereal there for $1 each. And those on-sale potatoes. I walked right by all the rest of it, thus escaping with most of my money.
4.) Shop at stores that offer clearance items, bulk food, and generics. Much money can be saved with bulk and generics. Clearance too– I personally am not afraid of canned goods that are a few days past their date. Obviously I’m going to avoid dented or bulging cans, and sniff food as I open and prepare it. But nothing horrible magically happens to a can 72 hours past the date stamped on it. (Casual Kitchen has more on this topic.)
What about you? How do you get the most out of a ‘high-priced’ store?