Do you do the grocery shopping in your house? An unofficial survey among my circle of friends has shown that in most homes, the mom does the grocery shopping. In our house, my husband and I share the chore, but in his childhood home, his dad — a.k.a. my father-in-law, Bob — always did the grocery shopping. An avid tightwad (and I say that with the greatest of affection!), Bob is a master of shopping the loss leader sales, and he graciously passed his wisdom in that area along to us.
In case you don’t know, loss leaders are the items in the grocery store that are drastically reduced. The store does not make much, if any, money on these items when they’re on sale; the point is to get you into the store to save big bucks on paper towels or breakfast cereal or frozen chicken or whatever is on sale that week. While you’re there, they bank on you spending another $20, $50 or $100 on items which are not on sale.
The general premise of shopping the loss leaders involves gathering all of the grocery ads each week. In some areas, they’re delivered in the Tuesday or Wednesday mail, and in other cities, they come in the Sunday paper. Look at all of them at once, and make a list of what’s on sale at which stores. Also, keep in mind that there may be smaller specialty stores in your area that have lower prices than the grocery stores. Sometimes these are ethnic stores; in my area, we have a German butcher who has excellent prices on meat, and a Latin American produce stand with good prices on fresh produce, some of which is organic. Make your grocery list based on these sales. For example, you might go to grocery store A for cereal and bread, grocery store B for several boxed items, a local butcher for meat, and a produce store for veggies and eggs. My husband and I have done this on and off for several years, and I can attest that you can certainly save a lot of money!
Now, obviously this will work better in some situations than in others. Bob lives in southern New England, where there is quite a bit of competition between grocery stores, as well as what seems like a grocery store on every corner. He also works in a medium-sized city, so while on his commute to and from work, he passes no fewer than four grocery stores. And (and this is a biggie!) he has no young children at home who must accompany him on his shopping expeditions. We, however, live in a town with three major grocery stores, but one is several miles away and not in an area in which we frequently find ourselves. This limits us to two, most of the time, plus the produce store, which is nearby.
Also, we learned these tricks before we had children. When our kids were toddlers and preschoolers, though, we did not really go out of our way to hit more than one grocery store. If you’re reading this, you probably have already gone through or are currently going through the shopping-with-toddlers phase of mothering, and might be incredulous that anyone would suggest that you go to more than one store. And that is perfectly understandable!
If you do find yourself in the stage of life that allows you to shop without little people, or if your little people are one of the approximately 12 in the United States who are happy to trudge along in the grocery store, and if you live in an area that is conducive to doing so, consider shopping the loss leader sales. It takes a bit more time at first, but once you get into the routine of doing it, visiting more than one store each week will become simply another habit.
What are your best tips to save money at the grocery store?