Feb 16, 2009

Learning from a master: I'm changing up my grocery shopping routine

Sometimes something is so obvious that you think it doesn't need to be said. I'm guessing that's how Crystal of Money Saving Mom feels about the order in which she hits stores when grocery shopping. On her weekly post about her savings last week, she mentioned off hand that she went to Dillons and picked up sale items, then went to Aldi for staples.

She's said the same thing week after week, but for some reason, the significance of it - and applicability to my own shopping - didn't hit me until this week. Maybe it's because I finally know without having to look anything up that Dillons is her local Kroger chain, and Aldi is a discount supermarket known for its relatively inexpensive store brands.

In any event, it suddenly occurred to me that in order to maximize my own weekly grocery savings, I ought to go to Ralphs first, and then go to Trader Joe's.

If those store names aren't familiar, Ralphs is the Kroger chain out here in SoCal, and Trader Joe's is . . . well, one of my very favorite stores. It's part discount grocery store, with the lowest everyday prices on staples like milk, eggs, and produce, and carries mostly store brand products. But it's also partly gourmet specialty food store, with items like Meyer lemons, citron honey, and numerous ogranic products. I've been doing my weekly grocery shopping there for six years now.

For the last month or so, ever since I've had a car at my disposal again, I've been going to Ralphs fairly regularly to pick up the handful of items that are free or cheap that week. (For example, I've gotten cheap Cottonelle and free Multigrain Cheerios.) But I always squeeze these stops in whenever I'm already out and about, which means that I sometimes miss out on deals because I've already something at Trader Joe's. For example, this week, Ralphs has strawberries on sale for 2 for $3. The same size container is $3.29 at Trader Joe's.

If I'd shopped at Ralphs on my way to Trader Joe's, I would have picked up some strawberries there. (I'd prefer to buy organic but so far, I've only seen organic strawberries at Whole Foods.)

So that's my new plan: I'm going to stop at Ralphs and pick up that week's deals, then I'll head to Trader Joe's for the bulk of my weekly shopping.

I'll probably still make a couple of extra stops at Ralphs though - the only way to maximize savings there is with coupons, and they only double one like coupon per transaction. Ten years ago, they doubled coupons that were up to $1 in value, and doubled up to four like coupons in a single transaction. Oh, how I miss those days!


Christy said...

I am just now getting the hang of "multi-store shopping". It has been a confusing thing for me to figure out what to get where. I had such an established routine of shopping that it was very hard to break!

Mercedes said...

I do this too, but I hit one store on Wed. and the other on Sunday. It works very well for me.
I also wanted to mention I don't know if you read Jennifer's "Getting Ahead" post on her kids making their own meal. It worked with y oldest to get him to eat his whole PB sandwich!


Anonymous said...

I'm new to your blog, but wanted to share a new (to me) discovery. If you have a "Jons Marketplace" store near you, it may be worthwhile to buy your produce there. The produce prices seem to be significantly lower than Ralph's, Vons, TJ's, etc. Most of the middle aisle items are comparatively priced (and many are more expensive) to the other stores, but I'm willing to buy only my produce there.