This post is part 6 of the series Taking Charge of Your Grocery Shopping. Check in here for the complete list.
It’s time to shop! Hooray! Or, Booo! I suppose it depends who you are. I used to love to shop, but then I had four kids and my love has slowly dissipated. Right now, I waver between “I love to shop if I get to go with my sisters,” and “I loathe shopping because I have to take all the kids.”
This brings us smack dab into my first and most important piece of advice:
Shop alone if you can (or at least without anyone under the age of 12), ESPECIALLY if you’re doing a giant two-week run and it’s going to be a doozy. My grocery shopping adventure can involve four stores, two cities, and three to four hours. I can take the kids, and they do okay. The caveat is that it takes longer and costs more. My son is a champion, however, and routinely goes with me while his sisters are in school. His behavior is usually purchased by a Happy Meal or some such thing, which still costs more money than if I had gone alone. But, $4 is a small price to pay for a happy three-year old. I have found that, when alone, I can knock everything out in about 2.5 hours.
Is this a ridiculous amount of time to spend grocery shopping? It depends on who you ask. I would rather spend one huge chunk of time than four or five smaller chunks of time (that usually add up to be more than the first when you factor in driving, etc). It definitely explains why I plan plan plan before I go. Remember those organized, rewritten (sometimes color coded) lists? This is why.
Choose Your Stores.
My four different stores are Costco, Sams Club, Wal-Mart, and Fred Meyer. I start with the one that is furthest away (Costco) and work my way home. Why do I go to four different stores? Cost.
Costco and Sams Club may seem redundant, but there are a few things that Sams carries that Costco does not. I teach classes that require a certain kind of pan, and Sams is the only place I can find them. Since I have to go anyway, I split my bulk shopping list between the two, depending on who is cheaper. When I’m not teaching classes, I just go to Costco and don’t worry about the price difference.
Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer do not carry all of the same things, and their prices differ as well. I know what’s cheaper in each place, and that determines what I buy where.
How do I know the prices so well? Repetition. I’ve bought the same things from the same places for enough years to know (at least roughly) if the price is better in one place or another. When I don’t know, I compare.
Last week, I knew I had a class coming up that was going to require a lot of ground beef. Since I was shopping in a bunch of places anyway, I decided to compare prices. This simply involved me snapping a picture with my phone and comparing them later at home.
Costco: $3.39/lb for 88%/12%
Sams Club: $3.38/lb for 90%/10%
Fred Meyer: $4.77/lb for 90%/10% or $3.99/lb. for a 3 pound package
Wal-Mart: I forgot to look. Whoops.
Did I buy at Sam’s Club? You better believe it (Seriously, I did, but also because I needed a bunch of chicken and it was also way cheaper at Sams).
Remember Your List!
That beautiful, rewritten, organized, color-coded thing of beauty will be of no use if it’s sitting on the counter at home. If you’re a habitual forgetter/loser-of-lists, take a picture on your phone (just don’t forget your phone!).
Get in, get out, get on with life.
Is that the Ace Hardware slogan, or Office Depot? I can’t remember. Doesn’t matter, it applies to the grocery store too. Follow your list, try to avoid loading up with impulse purchases, and get out as quickly as you can. Stores are designed to make you want to stay and spend money. You have to outsmart them. Set a timer, listen to fast-paced music on your headphones, or make a bet with your spouse that you can only spend X amount of minutes in the store.
You’re done! You’ve shopped and survived. Congratulations. Check in tomorrow for a few of the ways that I save money while shopping.