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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fact Finding Mission

When it comes to shopping, people usually have pretty strong opinions about their grocery store of choice. Many people love Aldi, and I've been giving it more of a chance lately, stopping maybe once a month to pick up a few things, but it is somewhat of a hassle since they don't have everything. I only go to Walmart every few months to use certain coupons. Yes, some of their prices are lower, but I don't think they're unbeatable. I don't have a warehouse membership, but they don't usually accept coupons anyway, so I doubt I would shop there. Besides, the idea of paying money up front in order to reap possible savings doesn't appeal to me.

It's no secret I'm a big advocate of double coupon days at my local grocery store. There's another grocery store in town that is HUGE. I have several friends who shop there and swear by their lower prices and gigantic selection. It's across town for me (20 minutes away as opposed to being 5 minutes from *my* grocery store), so it's not very convenient. To be honest, hearing friends describe how big it is also puts me off. I like my smaller grocery store. I know where everything is and can be in and out in under an hour.

A lot of people have been asking my advice on where to find the best prices, though, so in order to give an educated decision, I left the kids with Ted for a few hours and went to the HUGE grocery store on a "fact finding mission". Armed with a notebook and pen, I wrote down the prices of most of the items I usually purchase. After I got home, I compared those prices with old receipts from my shopping. Some prices were lower, some were not.

I get some free or almost free groceries each week on double coupon day. But do the prices for the other groceries eat up my savings in coupons? That depends on how you shop. I tend to stick pretty closely to the sales items and try to stockpile when things are at a low price. This is how I am able to keep my grocery bill lower. That's another reason I like my store--because they have a weekly ad. The other store does run sales, but there isn't an ad, so I wouldn't be able to plan my purchases each week.

To try to be fair in evaluating the prices of the two stores, I made a list of 28 different items that I regularly buy (milk, eggs, cereal, pasta, yogurt, grapes, carrots, etc.) and went on a mock shopping trip for about 2 weeks worth of groceries. I wrote down the prices for those items at my store and the other store. If there was a coupon for the item, I applied it (doubled at my store, single at the other store). If my store had a sale price, but it was for a perishable item (like milk or produce), I applied it only half the time, since I wouldn't be able to stockpile that item. It wasn't an exhaustive list, but I hoped it would give me a fair representation. This would be for almost 2 weeks worth of groceries, except for perishables, which I only bought for one week.

The result? Drumroll please. . . . ! On my mock shopping trip, shopping at my grocery store on double coupon day saved me over $15 over the other store ($101.74 to $117.76). It certainly made me feel better! Though to be honest, I wouldn't want to change my store anyway, because combining the price of gas to go across town and the extra travel time to get there wouldn't be worth it. (Well, maybe it would've if the price difference was substantial--then I might have to think about it!)

A person who only shops once a month or who doesn't have time for coupons may be able to save more at another store, I don't know. And I haven't done this same comparison at Walmart, so I can't be sure the same would be true. I suspect I might still save over Walmart's prices, and part of that is because of cereal and yogurt, which my family eats a lot of, but I pay little to none for at my grocery store after sales and doubled coupons.

The bottom line is this: Shop where you feel comfortable shopping and remember there are opportunities to save wherever you go. Your grocery bill might be higher because you have kids with allergies who need special food or you have teenagers who eat you out of house and home! But I encourage you to take a look at your grocery bill and see where you are able to shave a little off. Then look into how you might do that (maybe by starting to clip coupons!). And if you aren't able to save on your grocery bill, look for other areas you could be saving (like on items at Walgreens or CVS or staple items at Aldi).

In this economy especially, people are looking for ways to tighten up their budget, so my goal is to help, not make people feel guilty. If there are other ways I can do that or questions you have, please let me know. :-)


KJ VandenBush said...

I totally agree with you on the "huge" grocery store in town. I have shopped there on occassion, but always find my way back to "my" grocery store. Now that I know the competitor has double coupons on Wednesday, I have started to shop there once again.

Thanks for your wealth of knowledge, time, and effort...especially with little ones!

Andy and Katie said...

Great post, Jessica! You know I appreciate all you write...thank you!!!!

As for the big grocery store, I do shop there on occassion, and you know we have allergies in this house which we have to take into consideration. I do not enjoy the bigness either--especially if you forget something on the OTHER side of the store and you have a child that needs to nap soon! So, another hint to pass on would be to break up shopping, even though that will take more time. But, if a person finds themselves on the other side of town and is organized to run into the big store to pick up a month's worth of "x", and then can frequent the smaller store and get double coupons etc for the other items, it may be an added bonus. I'm finding that in my effort to save money, a huge key for me is to be organized and have a well thought plan--in meals and items I'm shopping for. (Something that you probably realized years ago! :) )

Jessica said...

La said:
"I have to say that I am a huge fan of my store, probably the same one you go to, and double coupon day. I save so much money just by clipping coupons and shopping on Wed it is incredible! I also wanted to share that our store will honor the ad coupons from their competitor. This was huge for me because I would go into the competitor just to use the coupons and end up buying a bunch of other things. Now I just take the coupons with me on Wed. and get everything done in one trip!"

Jessica said...

La: I just asked at my store about taking the competitor's coupons last night, so I was able to pick up a few things all in one trip! I'm definitely going to be doing that from now on!!

Katie: I wish I was that organized! I might consider running in to buy a month's worth of "x" and then doing regular shopping at my store, but I think that stocking up at Aldi makes more sense for me because their prices even beat the big store on the items Aldi carries, and it is closer to my house. But it really depends on what you buy, because Aldi may not carry what you'd need to stock up on (like in the case of allergies or organic food, for example).

Again, the bottom line is saving where you DO shop! :-)

Busy Mama said...

Jessica thanks so much for going through all the effort to figure out if there are any savings between the stores. I sometimes go to the "big store" as well but it is certainly not as close as the others. I have to really plan ahead if I want to go there. Sometimes I go there just for more selection, but the store completely tires me out. I didn't know "your" store had double coupon Wednesday until I read that awhile back on your blog. I appreciate knowing that and I think I'll have to start shopping on Wednesdays. Especially since we go through a LOT of cereal. Thanks for your hard work!!! ;)

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