A few months ago, I shared how I was changing my grocery shopping habits by shopping at multiple stores. In the months since, I’ve gradually reduced my grocery spending, even as I continue to buy organic or “almost” organic dairy, produce, and meat. (“Almost” meaning, for example, items that don’t have added hormones or are grown without pesticides.)
The biggest key to my success has been my willingness to shop at new stores, and stop at different stores each week. I’ve discovered that what I thought was a great price is actually not the lowest price I can find on a regular basis. For example, Vons/Pavilions (part of the Safeway family of stores) has cut the club price on their gallons of organic milk to $5.49. The regular price at Trader Joe’s is $5.99, and that had been the sale price I’d see at the mainstream markets until just a few weeks ago. (It’s worth noting here that a year ago, I’d only been in Vons or Pavilions maybe twice in the last ten years. Now I go nearly every week.)
I keep my sanity by not going to every store every week, and I’ve even skipped Trader Joe’s on occasion. I let some deals pass me by every week, and sometimes I consciously decide to pay a slightly higher price to save myself time, stress and gas money.
I have to admit that menu planning has sort of fallen by the wayside, but I’ve gotten better at stocking foods that I can easily turn into quick meals. Thus, we’ve been wasting less food and eating more at home. My system is definitely not perfect, and if there was some sort of financial crisis where every penny suddenly became critical, I know there’d be a lot of room to cut back in our grocery budget.
I plan on reducing our grocery budget even more by incorporating trips to a Farmers Market once or twice a week. In the past, I was always put off by farmers market produce because the listed price weren’t any lower than the grocery store’s. But I recently discovered that I get more produce at the farmers market for the same amount of money, and it’s of noticeably higher quality. I also find that I naturally tend to buy less at farmers markets because I’m not just throwing things into my cart and instead paying for a little here and a little there, so I’m more mindful of what I’m buying. And that’s definitely a big key, too!