Monday, January 30, 2017

How I Grocery Shop

I'll start by saying we drive a gas-hog SUV because that's what we could pay cash for last summer (it's a 2004) and haul our family with some extras.  Fortunately, we seldom drive our car because we live in walking distance of most of what we need and my husband's firm pays his travel expenses.  But when I realized that my local grocery store would give $.10 off per gallon of gas per $50 spent, I started making some changes to how I shop.

I aim to get as close to $50 dollar increments as possible.  This usually means I shop twice or three times a month, $50 each time.  I also shop at the farmers' market twice a week on the walk to school and about every other month, do a large bulk-food shop at Amish stores out in the country.

For the grocery store, I keep a running list and start planning a shopping trip when I think I can hit $50 and can do it without kids.

I never take my kids grocery shopping.  Never.

Even though I look at the store circular and my coupons before I go to the store, I still have to concentrate and make decisions on the spot, and kids would distract me.

I only take my kids on short errands when I have a short list and know exactly what I need so I don't have to make decisions with kids milling around me.  That is probably my biggest thrifty tip for shopping! (And I realize not everyone can work their schedule that way, but I'm sure they have their tricks for making the shopping work with kids).

I also look at my calendar before I go shopping to see what events are coming up so I know if there's anything I should stock now or seek on sale.  I'm grateful to have a large pantry and freezer space so that I can take advantage of good sales.

I carry my grocery list and coupons clipped on a little clipboard I made out of cardboard and a binder clip; I used to get so annoyed with trying to use my hand as a hard surface under my list to cross items off my list.

Also, since I am trying to get just over $50, I keep a running total on my list as I put items in the cart, so I'm writing on my list frequently. The clipboard is a wonderful help. Sometimes, I have to put some items back when I get close to $50 because there are some necessary items on my list yet and those other things will just have to wait until next time.

I also try to go shopping when I have the energy and time to not only go through the store and checkout, but also to deal with all the putting-away at home.  On a good day, I even get the cloth bags back out to the car trunk.

I would love to hear how you grocery shop!  I'm sure we can pick up tips from each other.


Polly said...

This is so fascinating!

I grocery shop weekly at a grocery store that also gives me fuel points. I can't walk out without spending at least $100, but this is where we buy our produce now. :( There's a farmer's market in the city, but it's far away on a day when we literally have NO time to go there. For a few years we shopped there weekly. I look forward to the day when we can do that again. (Of course in summer we have a small local market with SOME produce, and we grow some stuff ourselves also!) I am hopeful that one day our schedule will shift to allow us to get back to the market each week.

I shop at the bulk Mennonite :) store once every two weeks or so, and go to Sam's Club once a month or so for the big saving-items. We just re-joined Sam's late last year after a many-year hiatus, and I'm so glad we did. I tend to snub the big box stores, but during this season of life, there are some benefits and some things that are helpful for me to get there.

I buy my chicken from a "nice" grocery store in the city but only about once every 6-8 weeks, as that's the only window when I can buy it on sale (Tuesdays, on days when Finn doesn't have, not often). I buy my organic beef at Kroger if I'm out, but generally get beef from our farm. That's one of the benefits of living on a beef farm, right? But we eat very, very little beef. Sausage is purchased at the Mennonite store.

Once every month or two I go to Aldi and stock up. I also have a few items that I subscribe to on

I keep a price book with unit prices on things so I know if I'm looking at a good deal. I have a typed list with all the usual things for each store on it, organized by section, and as we go through life we highlight the things we need. Then when it's time to shop I look through my coupons and add any of that (with a little "c", like the copyright symbol next to it, to denote what takes a coupon). Then I take my milk bottles and water bottle to return and the cloth shopping bags (when I remember them) and we GO! It's super easy with my list to get through the store fairly quickly, and I'm training my children to help look for the sale tags and such.

Grocery store shopping isn't my ideal (in terms of purchasing most things at a chain store), but again, it's a season of life for me now, and I'm just grateful, so grateful, that I can walk into a store and buy food. For so many people, both in history and now, that is not reality. It's a gift to be able to shop so easily, and I try to remember that.

And I had to laugh because I would revise your sentence to read "I always take my kids grocery shopping. Always." Of course, I don't have a cute little muffin like Phoebe to distract me, so it's not a big deal anymore. But yes, I always, ALWAYS have company.

Polly said...

Oh! And I buy eggs either from the Mennonite store (local) or a neighbor, but come summer I hope I will be acquiring all my eggs from our own land....we hope to get hens this spring!!

Becky said...

I go to one Kroger because they have the best wine selection. Another Kroger because that's the pharmacy we utilize. (They are less than a mile from each other and both are right about a mile from the house.)

I go to the local health food store for any produce I need this time of year - during the warmer months, all our produce comes from the farmer's market, which is open April - December.

I will sometimes run up to the mom & pop grocery store for small things I need, to avoid the headaches of Kroger.

And since Wegman's opened, I go there once a month with my list of what I know is cheaper there. Bread flour, sugar, etc, etc.

Tammy said... shopping! Not my favorite thing in the world to do! Our new house has very little in the way of food storage in the kitchen (or elsewhere). I don't have a pantry or extra freezer. Not complaining...just explaining. :)

Shopping is most always done with my 7-year old daughter in tow. I do try to shop by myself but usually it works out that she is along. Her questions and requests break into my thought process on the whole matter, and often I find myself buying things that I might not have otherwise because I don't have the concentration needed to read the label and see that it is something I don't want, or she asks for something (her favorite things to beg for are sardines and Brussels sprouts...true story!).

On the whole, I need to get better at planning meals and grocery shopping. I feel like since we moved (from Michigan to South Carolina) my whole system I had in place was just thrown out the window. The stores are different here, my storage is different, my routines/schedule are different.

e said...

What an interesting topic! At least, for those of us who find domestic minutia interesting... :-)

My method is to survey the pantry and fridge weekly, and then review the advertising circular that comes with the Sunday newspaper. I'll cut out any coupons that I might use, and make note of the sale prices on foods I might be interested in.

I make my list on the back of a used envelope (typically one that a bill came in), I write down the sale price next to the item and if I have a coupon I will put an asterisk next to it. The coupons go into the envelope.

I almost always shop at a local chain called Fred Meyer. It's been bought out by Kroger, but it still feels like our Freddy's. They have a 'rewards' program that gives fuel points, extra savings and special coupons, and an actual rebate quarterly. The nice thing for me is that the store is only two blocks away. I walk nearly every time, and I have my very handy 'old lady cart' to carry the food home.

I also prefer to shop through the store in the same pattern. For some reason that keeps everything in order for me and I don't have to backtrack too often.

That Phoebe! The pictures with the shoes made me laugh!

Rozy Lass said...

When we homeschooled and before the oldest was old enough to be the babysitter I took all five of our children everywhere. I looked at it as a way to educate them on how to act in public, how to shop wisely, how to interact with other adults, and just generally how to get along. I had three rules: Stay by Mom, close enough to touch her, no whining or begging, and we stick to the list. Yes it was hard, and yes they were brats at times; but they eventually got older and we had great times together shopping and running errands. They are all now adults and are competent shoppers, wise and frugal. My philosophy of parenting is that it is my job to prepare my children for adult life, and it's an eighteen year process. The more time parents spend with children, modeling adult behaviors and teaching them the better the children turn out. Just my viewpoint.

Lisa said...

My shopping habits are un-interesting. But look at Phoebe standing in her big shoes!!

jenny_o said...

We live two minutes from a chain grocery store and I often drop in on my way home from work or errands to get just a few things that have risen to the top of my list in terms of need. I find it less tiresome than doing a big shop, and I have less waste. My elderly mother, who likes to get out of the house every day, shops the same way. Whatever works, right? :)

Alica said...

You are so disciplined and organized!!
I will admit, I don't do a very good job of planning my grocery store trips, and I have a hard time sticking to my list. But...there's an awesome Amish hardware store nearby that has a small grocery store inside. It's the absolute BEST place to buy cheese...large bags of shredded cheese, or large chunks of swiss, farmers, muenster, you name it at fabulous prices. Their butter is also as cheap as it gets, and I stock up there when I can!

Christy said...

Aldi on Mondays after school drop-off. Cheaper and more organic items all the time. Then I swing by Lemon St. Market to or from school/work. That's it. I wish I could do Central Market, it's on my wish list. =) I take my kid to Aldi occasionally. He pushes the cart, and it's been a lesson on patience & self control for both of us.

Nancy In Boise said...

I remember the good old days shopping with 3 kids! With just the 2 of us now I shop primarily once a week on the weekend at a low cost "bag your own" grocery store, with an excellent bulk section. I always have a running list on our fridge for needed itmes. I go to a "grocery outlet" where I buy artisan breads, organic frozen lunches and misc. foods about once a month. We got to Costco once a month (maybe), mostly for cat litter, supplements, and other specific items. I go to Trade Joe's once a month, again specific items. They are all close to work or home, except Costco. I never use coupons. I just never saw huge savings, but I do buy a lot of what's marked down and I'm a good cook. I also freeze a lot of sale items. We just roasted a chicken I bought at the height of summer low prices. I also can/freeze our own fruits/veggies from our home garden. We're looking into buying a 1/4 of a steer, local grass fed, organic thru my hubbie's co-worker. I need to have him break down the per lb. dressed/packaged price to see if it's a good deal or not. Good ideas! I may add alink back on my blog! Nancy

Lana said...

I am primarily an Aldi shopper with only an occasional shop at another store if there is a great meat sale. We do have a Fuel rewards store and I shop there when they are giving 15 cents per gallon for $50 gift card purchases. We buy all of our gas with gift cards so we are sort of double dipping. We also buy Lowes and Home Depot gift cards there if we are doing a big project and that really pays off even if it is not a bonus rewards week on the gift cards. You may want to check into gift cards too as it can really pay off.

Anonymous said...

When I had a full house, I shopped at Costco every three weeks. I always kept a list at home of what I needed. When the cart was full, I checked out. I usually couldn't buy everything I wanted. I was only buying food, tp and soaps. I'd fill in with grocery store shopping as needed.
Now that I'm on my own, I shop a little differently. I still keep a list titled 'monthly'. Once a month, two of the chain stores offer a 10% off everything once you've spent $35. That's when I stock up on non-perishables.
I keep a list of pantry meals or what I want to cook on the refrigerator. I then go to the store as I see those items on sale from the week's flyers and buy the ingredients. I almost always am buying what is on sale now. Did you ever read the Tightwad Gazette lady's Pantry Principals? That article was life changing for me. The idea being to shop for your pantry rather then for a specific recipe.
Thanks for this post. Both your post and the comments have been a fun read. SJ in Vancouver BC

Sarah Barry said...

I went grocery shopping yesterday and used your idea - cardboard and a binder clip. That's a game changer!

I don't have a great system at all, and I'm constantly working on it. My issue is stores. There is no store that is a one stop shop. Price, convenience, food quality, shopping experience, etc. are all out of whack. I'm currently trying to revolve my meal plan around only going to one store...and taking advantage of that store's good points and stocking up when it makes sense.

We do the farmer's market all summer and well into fall.

I do shop with kids. It's gotten easier the more we do it. Saturday is the only time I could go without and stores are so crowded. Of course there are nights, too...but I'm too tired.

Going back to read all the comments now and hopefully get some ideas!

Margo said...

So many great ideas and methods, you all!

Rozy, I do take my children with me on other errands and other food shopping trips, just not the complicated process of shopping with this gas rewards program. I know the limits of my patience and concentration and try not to test them unduly.

Lana, I love gift cards! I often am able to buy them through my drugstore to use at other stores.

SJ, I have read the Tightwad Gazette before, on and off, but I will specifically look for the pantry principles you referred to. Thanks for the tip.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention that one of the stores where they do the monthly 10% off day will also price match. By price matching, I don't have to run all over town and I also qualify for the 10% off. Another stores loss leader plus 10% off, score!

Also, I organize my coupons in an old, small, flip-style photo album that I bought at the thrift store. I've organized the coupons to correspond to the different aisles in the grocery store. I put a binder clip on the front and clip my list there. My version of your clip board.
Cheers, SJ in Vancouver