I do the grocery shopping in my household. I build up a list throughout the week, and I always go to the grocery store on Saturday or Sunday. I rarely, if ever, go during the week. I like this because I can compare what I spend weekly, stick to my budget, and meal plan.
Last Week At The Grocery Store
Last week was my boyfriend’s last week home after he had a few weeks off recovering from ACL surgery. He was well enough that he’s up and about last week, so he decided to go to the grocery store for us. I included very specific details on our list, and I even included flavors and location of odd things in the grocery store (do you know how hard it is to find Carnation Instant Breakfast and Luna Bars if you don’t know where they are? It’s very hard). After that, he was good to go.
This is what our conversation looked like after I got home from work the day he went grocery shopping:
Me: “So, how did the grocery store go?”
BF: “It went well; I got everything on the list, in addition to a couple extra items, like bagels.”
Me: “Oh great; I always love having bagels in the house. How did it go finding everything?”
BF: “Pretty good. I had to double-back for the frozen fruit and Carnation.”
Me: “That Carnation is hard to find!”
BF: “It is! Also, I didn’t know what brands you get. It seemed like everything was about $0.40 more for name brands, so I went with them instead of generic.”
Me: “[insert look of death and pause, until I finally say…] I always get generic everything, unless I’m hosting something. Generic cheese, generic cold cuts, generic coffee creamer, generic toiletries — whenever I can, I buy generic (unless of course a brand name is cheaper due to a sale that week).”
BF: “Oh man.”
Me: “Let’s just say that $.40 more for each name brand item adds up to about $10 more for the whole bill. If we grocery shop once a week, that’s $40 more a month just for name brands ($10/week x 4 weeks = $40). And $40 / month for the whole year is $480 ($40/month x 12 months = $480)!”
BF: “[Wide-eyed] Oh man! Yea, I’m fine with generic for sure.”
Every Grocery Store vs. Walmart
I used to shop at Giant Eagle. In fact, while in law school I wouldn’t have been caught dead in Walmart. Boy have times changed now that I’m living in my financial truth. Once I started learning about finance and set a goal to get out of debt, I started minimizing expenses. And I quickly discovered that Walmart is much less expensive, regardless of fuel perks. For a pack of 5 Luna bars it’s $5.86 or so at Walmart; at Giant Eagle, they’re $1.25 each (for 5, that’s $6.25). That’s one example, but for pretty much everything I buy, I find it cheaper at Walmart.
For right now, while I’m getting out of student loan debt, this is part of how I’m lowering my grocery bill. I love nothing more than a great shopping experience at Giant Eagle or dare I even say Whole Foods. But until I’m debt free, those luxurious places will have to wait.
And I understand bulk shopping can be an excellent way to go for bigger families. But for just two people, a membership isn’t worth it (at least it’s not for us).
Price vs. Quality
As someone who enjoys cooking, I am actually in the camp of people who believe that certain brands are higher quality (don’t get me started on buying good, expensive cheese!). An excellent book that discusses this is The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn (anyone just getting into cooking would love this book). So, I do believe that I’m giving up better quality; I just don’t care! Until I’m debt free, lowering my expenses and increasing my income are my top financial priority. Higher quality ingredients will come later. And you better believe I’m looking forward to the day when I can afford to shop at Whole Foods! 🙂
What grocery store tricks do you have?
How do you save at the grocery store?