This is part 3 of a series dedicated to saving money on food and groceries – usually the second biggest expense outside of rent or a mortgage for most of us. In part 1, I covered the 6 food characteristics that I am not willing to sacrifice in order to save money. In part 2, I detailed a simple 4 step process to saving money on groceries through disciplined routines. In this part, I’ll cover the 4 retailers that I get all of my groceries from, how often I shop there, what I get there, how much I spend, and some coupon/discount opportunities.
Where I Shop for Groceries
1. Trader Joe’s
You have to love Trader Joe’s customer and price focused approach to retailing. They are still family owned and privately owned at that. And I hope they always stay that way. Here is The Trader’s principles to business:
- We buy direct from suppliers whenever possible, we bargain hard to get the best price, and then pass the savings on to you.
- If an item doesn’t pull its weight in our stores, it goes away to gangway for something else.
- We buy in volume and contract early to get the best prices.
- Most grocers charge their suppliers fees for putting an item on the shelf. This results in higher prices… so we don’t do it.
- We keep our costs low — because every penny we save is a penny you save.
- Frequency: Once/week
- Items: All weekly non-produce, and select produce items
- Weekly expense: $50
- Cost Savings: Trader Joe’s doesn’t do sales. However, their prices are so low and the quality is so good that I still feel like I’m getting a bargain. If I had to some up Trader Joe’s in one phrase, it would be ‘high value’.
- Best Deal: Trader Joe’s Tuna for Cats – at $0.48 it beats any can of cat food anywhere per oz., and the cats love it! Any of the Trader Joe’s generic label foods are typically a great value.
- Why I shop there: Trader Joe’s is simply where it’s at. Mostly organic/natural foods, unique offerings, a pleasant shopping experience, and absolutely great prices. To the latter, for the few non-Trader Joe’s brands they carry, I have seen the prices at about 30-40% less than Meijer and Kroger. Before Trader Joe’s, I never thought that grocery shopping could be an experience that I didn’t dread. Trader Joe’s has changed that. I shop there for all non-produce and some produce items.
We’ve all heard the ‘Whole Paycheck’ pun, and it’s true – Whole Foods can be expensive. However, it doesn’t have to be. I count on them for high quality organic produce, and I usually can find a few bargains on a weekly basis.
- Frequency: Once/week
- Items: Organic produce
- Weekly expense: $20
- Cost Savings: Whole Foods almost always has some good sales on in-season produce and their produce is significantly better than anything I’ve had outside of a farmer’s market.
- Best Deal: I’ll often be able to pick up avocados for $1/ea and bell peppers for $2.99/lb. A few weeks back, I was able to get a 6-pack of delicious grapefruits for $2.50.
- Why I shop there: I am not willing to sacrifice my health for cheap pesticide doused produce. I’m willing to pay a little extra, but as you can see by my total expenditure, it’s really not that bad.
- Coupon Offers: Printable Whole foods coupons can be found on their site.
Kroger has recently seen a growing share of our grocery spend due to their excellent inventory management, online ordering, pickup, deals, and more.
- Frequency: weekly
- Items: low cost generic store foods, produce, and heavily discounted items
- Weekly expense: $50
- Cost Savings: low cost generics, Kroger Plus Shopper’s card discounts, digital discounts, and other promotions
- Best Deal: typically a handful of very good digital coupons you can ‘clip’ online and apply at checkout online or in store
- Why I shop there: online features, high quality generic store brand items, coupon opportunities
- Kroger Coupons: I put together an extensive list of Kroger ad, digital coupon, & credit card discount opportunities.
You have to be careful with Costco. They pull you in with good prices on bulk food and before you know it, you’ve bought a new LED TV (their Vizios are at great prices, by the way). As long as you are disciplined, you can find some real bargains on food. And there are 5 ways to shop at Costco without a membership.
- Frequency: Once/Bi-Monthly
- Items: Dogfood, canned beans, frozen pizza, frozen fruit, frozen berries, olive oil, vitamins
- Bi-monthly expense: $120
- Cost Savings: Costco mails out coupons every month. If I’m lucky enough to get a coupon for a product we usually purchase, we’ll stock up on it.
- Best Deal: 50 lb. bag of high quality Costco dog food for $25. Costco gas is usually notably cheaper than other local options.
- Why I shop there: We have Costco down to a science. Make 6 trips a year, stock up on stuff that we can’t get cheaper anywhere else, and avoid high ticket luxury goods. Costco’s alcohol prices are also great. I also get a 2% return on my Costco Anywhere Visa. It works great for us!
- Costco Coupons: Costco members will get mailed coupons on a monthly basis. You can also find a list of Costco rebates on their site.
Bonus Tip: once you have your favorite grocers nailed down, you can do a grocery price list spreadsheet, and compare costs per volume. This will really allow you to cut your grocery bill without much sacrifice.
Grocery/Food Chain Discussion:
- Where do you get most of your food and why?
- What is the best value you have seen from each of the retailers you get food from?
- Have you been able to cut back on your food expenses through a particular purchasing strategy? Please share!
- If you only had one store to shop at, where would it be?
- Anyone had good experiences with Aldi? I’ve never shopped there.