I am a bargain shopper to the core. This isn’t to say I don’t sometimes pay more for some grocery items, such as low-fat cheese and Campbell’s brand cream soups for cooking (so good!), but in general I scout out the bargains. This entry is for like-minded folks who’d like to shave more off their grocery bills.
Bag Your Own
First, you can save by shopping at Aldi Foods. Aldi Foods is a bag-your-own discount retailer owned by the same company that owns Trader Joe’s. They carry everything from canned goods to frozen seafood, along with fresh produce and dairy products. You’ll only see one brand of each type of food, and most of the time it will be one of Aldi’s private labels. They also have a constantly changing assortment of hard goods including cookware, pruners, gel pens and clothes, to name a few recent offerings. We have one of the $9.99 Aldi-marketed Tevion 6-in-1 media card readers and it works great.
Aldi Foods’ private-labeled stuff is quite good, some even bordering on gourmet. They stand behind their products, too; if you don’t like something, they either take it off your current purchase, or they give you a refund. If you have an Aldi Foods near you, but have never considered shopping there, give it a try and see how much you get for your money.
Price Matching at Wally-World
Here’s the next big secret. Did you know Wal-Mart matches prices on grocery items? The item has to be in a competitor’s ad and the sale price must be a dollar amount, not a “buy one, get one free” or percentage off deal. Let me tell you about my system.
Each week I go through the “shoves” (one of the euphemisms we have for the weekly Ad Bag) and put together a basic spreadsheet in Excel. I’m fast at data entry, so this works well for me.
I have the following columns set up: Store, Department, Item, Price and Unit. I zip through the ads, entering the information for items I want to buy. If I come to a lower price in a subsequent flyer, I just change my data in the spreadsheet. When done with the data entry, I sort the list by Department then Item; this way, it’s easy to shop by department.
I’ve been doing this for a year or two and most of the cashiers know Howie and me by now. I think just having my spreadsheet shows them I’ve done my homework. At any rate, they don’t ever question what I quote for prices. From what I’ve heard, they don’t bother making customers present an ad if the price difference on an item is $3 or less.
NOTE: Try to be courteous to the cashiers by holding back the price-matching items for last. Cashiers have to average so many rings per minute, and it can really slow them down if they must stop every other item and do manual price overrides. They’ve all told me they appreciate being able to do all of the overrides at one time.
I save a good deal this way, and it certainly beats driving around to various stores just to pick up a few sale items here and there. There’s less impulse buying when I stick to one or two stores, too.
It does not seem to matter if the brand name differs if the items are from the produce, dairy or meat departments; if Tyson boneless skinless chicken breasts are on sale at Meijer, Wal-Mart will match the price on their version, which is packaged as Purdue. Milk’s milk, chicken’s chicken. Parts is parts.
Wal-Mart may not be the only store in your area that matches prices, so check around. In our area, Meijer matches prices on hard goods, but not on groceries. Giant Eagle, a pricey store with a great seafood department and a nice selection of ethnic and organic foods, does not price match at all. I don’t believe Carnival, Kroger or our other local stores do, either.
I don’t understand stores not being competitive and offering this service to customers. There are probably not all that many of us shoppers who bother with price matching, at least not regularly. If Giant Eagle did offer this incentive, I’d do almost all my shopping there. It’s close to my home, open 24-hours, and their selection is so nice. Thing is, it’s also terribly expensive overall.
One caveat if you’re shopping at Aldi: Have your sales list ready before you go in there. Do go to Aldi first, because you can get some things cheaper there. Just don’t count on that being true for all items. In the past, Aldi was always cheaper, but rising fuel costs have driven even their prices higher. Nice thing is, if you have your advertised specials list with you, you’ll know in advance whether Wal-Mart will be cheaper. For example, Aldi charged $2.38/pound for seedless grapes this week, while another store had them for 99-cents/pound. When I got to Wal-Mart, I saw they them for even less, only 84-cents/pound.
What About Coupons?
Okay, I’ve ignored the obvious here: Coupons. If you clip coupons, you can save even more. I clip them once in a while, but truthfully, we tend to avoid most of the pre-packaged kinds of convenience foods manufacturers promote in coupons. Mainly, though, I end up feeling overwhelmed by all the variables when I go to the store with a bunch of coupons. Is the store brand cheaper even without coupons? Oh, wait, don’t I have a coupon for that? Dig, dig, dig…I am just not a good coupon person. Ask my husband – he’ll tell you. We hardly argue during grocery shopping trips now that I don’t bring an accordion-file wallet of coupons with us every time
That’s something else I love about Aldi, by the way: Less decisions to make! Need green beans? There’s one brand of canned green beans, and they’re 35-cents. Cottage cheese? One brand. Easy, sweet relief for the OCD soul (is it just me, or does that sound like a good Chicken Soup for the… kind of book?).
Buy Coupons and STILL Save
If you ARE into coupons and there are items you buy regularly and/or in large quantity, check out eBay for coupons. People sell groups of identical coupons there. They advertise that you’re bidding on the time it too them to go through the ads and clip the coupons for you. Whatever. If you have a local store which doubles coupons up to $1.00, you can save quite a bit if you buy ten $1.00-off coupons and only shell out 1.85 including shipping. Just search eBay for something like gillette coupons or peanut butter coupons, for instance.
Ready, set, shop! But first do your homework.