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Grocery Geek Presents: Places to Shop for Great Deals

Posted By Jessica Fisher On October 3, 2009 @ 4:41 am In Grocery Geek | 10 Comments

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Back in the “old days,” I shopped at SuperWalmart, spending about $200 a week and price-matching with the local grocery stores for the best prices on “loss leaders.” Usually, Walmart was able to beat those prices if I bought generic. I was content with that. Our monthly spending of $800 was well below the USDA averagefood costs for a family of our size (2 adults + 5 children) on a “thrifty” plan.

Then I discovered coupons and sites like Money Saving Mom [4]. As a result, I adjusted my shopping a little. OK, a lot. No longer was I spending 2 hours a week to make my list and haul my body through Stuff-mart. I doubled my time investment — at least — with coupon clipping, computer research and visits to multiple stores. I enjoyed the adventure of nabbing a good deal and my efforts reduced our grocery bill significantly. Depending on what I put on the menu, some months our spending was as low as $400 for the entire month! That extra time was averaging me at least a savings of $25/hour, a pretty good wage for a stay-at-home mom.

Over the last two years, we’ve found a comfortable spending level at $600/month to feed up to 9 people and diaper 1-2 kids. (I include all toiletries and paper goods in my grocery budget, though eating out is usually excluded from my figures.) While couponing has been a HUGE boon to our budget, it isn’t really my sole means of frugally feeding my family. I combine different methods and stores to keep our food costs low.

Here are my three favorite places to shop for great deals:

[5]Costco: We love Costco. It’s like a family event to grab a pizza or a few hot dogs for uber-cheap, stroll the aisles for free samples and then stock up. If money were no object, I’d just do ALL my shopping there, like once a month, and live on convenience foods from their bakery if they didn’t have the raw materials for me to make it myself. In fact we experimented with this last winter [6], but found that we couldn’t stay under our $600 limit.

Alas, money is an object that I have to pay attention to — if we want to get ahead, which we do. So, we shop Costco wisely and find that our $40 investment each year is well worth it. Costco beats almost everybody when it comes to prices on milk, butter, cheese, some produce like lettuce and carrots, as well as tortillas and some canned products. I usually only buy these items that I know are great deals. Although Costco sells major name brands, they do not accept manufacturers’ coupons, so this is a pretty straight forward transaction.

Local Health Food Stores: Place like Sprouts and Henrys regularly feature fantastic deals on meats, dairy, and fresh produce. I only buy what is on sale and work our meal plans around these items. Sometimes I can use a coupon, but generally this is a non-coupon shopping trip. This week the food pictured above cost me $48.09 without any coupons. That included 8+ pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast, 2+ pounds of cheese, whipping cream, buttermilk, tofutti cuties (for my helpers) and lots of beautiful produce.

Plain Old Grocery Stores: Where I live we have the So Cal Grocery Triumvirate: Vons, Ralphs, and Albertsons which have been around forever — or at least since I was a kid, which seems like forever. I alternately shop at these three depending on what’s on sale and what coupons I have. Vons and Ralphs double coupons but have weird funky limits that their affiliates (Safeway and Kroger) do not have in other states. (They’re just plain prejudice against SoCal; I’m sure.) They also have higher prices than their affiliates on the same sale items. {insert emoticon with my tongue sticking out}

But, I’m still able to eek out some great savings if I watch what I buy, usually limiting it to the loss leaders, catalina deals, and things we “can’t live without,” like pepperoni and basic baking supplies when not on sale. Currently Albertsons has flour $1.50/bag, so I’ll be stocking up. ‘Member my 100 pounds of flour [7]? I don’t think I have enough storage space for that much, but I’m gonna try.

How do YOU shop? What do you do to stretch your grocery dollar as far as you can?

*To get an idea of some great ways to save on your shopping trips, stop by Super Savings Saturday [8].


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[6] experimented with this last winter: http://www.lifeasmom.com/2009/01/grocery-geek-back-to-coupons.html

[7] my 100 pounds of flour: http://www.lifeasmom.com/2009/04/grocery-geek-presents-i-even-shocked.html

[8] Super Savings Saturday: http://www.moneysavingmom.com/money_saving_mom/super_savings_saturday/index.html

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