May 25, 2009

Changing my shopping habits: Am I now spending less on groceries?

A few months ago, I mentioned that I had started shopping at multiple stores in order to get the best deals on groceries. I was asked if my spending had declined, but at the time, it was too soon to tell. Now, I have a pretty good idea of where we stand.

The bottom line is, my grocery spending remains about the same. But, we are eating out a lot less, so our overall spending has gone down. Since I started cooking again shortly after changing my shopping routine, I'm spending the same amount of money but buying more groceries. I'm also wasting less, and we're eating healthier.

I could spend a lot less if I was willing to buy more conventionally grown produce, and conventional dairy and meat products. These items account for about a third to a half of my weekly grocery bill, and I could probably spend half that amount by buying conventional products. But I can afford to buy organic produce, dairy and meat, so I do. It may not have much effect in the long run, but I like the idea of keeping my boys' bodies as chemical-free as reasonably possible.

I've pretty much eliminated Costco from my list of grocery stores. I'm sticking to going there just for gas and birthday parties because it's too inconvenient and the savings aren't worth it – especially compared to the risk of impulse buys.

I continue to do the bulk of my shopping at Trader Joe's. I wish it was publicly owned so that I could buy stock. They consistently have the best prices on organic and antibiotic/hormone-free products, and the relatively new store in Woodland Hills actually has decent parking. (Every other TJ's that I've been to has a horrific parking lot.)

I also shop at Ralphs (Kroger affiliate) and Pavilions (Safeway affiliate) on an almost-weekly basis to pick up loss leaders. The SoCal grocery thread at SlickDeals is my best source on these deals, and this is where the "more stuff for the same amount of money" part of my shopping really comes into play. I routinely get things for free at these stores, and the amount of savings at the bottom of my receipt is almost always over 50%. Granted, the savings amount is calculated based on regular prices, which at these stores is usually absurdly high, but the point is that I walk out of there with a lot of great deals. Last week, I bought three boxes of Wheat Thins for 69 cents each, and they'll make inexpensive contributions to our pot-luck playdates.

The last store I regularly buy groceries at is Whole Foods. Bargain Briana recently started listing the weekly deals there, which has inspired me to check the deals for my local stores on the web site (locate your store, then click for a pdf flyer for specials). Yesterday, I bought 3 pounds of hormone and antibiotic free ground beef for $1.99 per pound, the best price I've ever gotten. It's 22% fat, which is a higher fat content than I'd like, but I always drain my ground beef anyway, so it'll be fine. I actually wish I'd bought more, so I might be heading back today if it's not too inconvenient.

The bottom line here is that there are many ways to save money on food, and that you have to do what works for you. I'll be the first to admit that shopping at multiple stores and organizing my coupons takes a fair amount of time. But for me, it's worth it.

Previously: Costco vs. Trader Joe's vs. Ralphs


Bargain Briana said...

Great post! I love how you point out you may be spending the same amount at the grocery but you are getting more and eating out less!

Kristy @ Master Your Card said...

You certainly have more patience then I, for it's a hassle to go to the one grocery store I do go to. But, I'm considering other alternatives because I've heard Whole Foods has much better pricing on organic food and I am making the change on certain things. I've always thought that it was something of a mindset to eat organic over regular produce, etc. I've recently discovered that not only does it taste better, I feel better after having eaten it. I eat way too much processed food, and I don't even want to consider the chemicals I've ingested. Yech! But, I believe spending the little extra on organic is worth it.