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Ask, and ye shall receive.

Darcy Lenz
May 17, 2018

I recently shared a bit about my own grocery shopping habits, and the growing sense that I need a slightly more intentional/strategic approach. The short of it is this: I include specialty stores, such as Aldi or Trader Joe’s, in my weekly grocery shopping routine in order to save a few bucks… but I hit the pavement most Sundays without much of a plan beyond a loose shopping list of the items I know I will need for my daily smoothies, and maybe a dinner dish or two I hope to make. I think I’m oftentimes spending more time than the fiscal savings on a few things justify via my loosey-goosey approach. SO, I asked for your input, hoping a few folks might share some grocery shopping savvy that I might be able to adapt for my own purposes. And I have to say, I’ve been completely wow’d by the volume of insightful advice that has rolled in.

Obviously, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to grocery shopping… it’s an activity that inevitably has to be carried out differently from one person to the next, based on household, budget, availability, etc. However, for anyone who’s looking to refine their own grocery system, I can almost guarantee you’ll be able to glean a tip or two from this sampling of the pro-moves submitted. I sure enough did. 

Insights on Single-Store Shopping

Absolutely nothing is more important than my time

“I  too used to spend hours finding bargains and hopping between stores to save a bundle. Now in addition to the family, my mother has moved in with us, and I realized that absolutely nothing was more important than my time.

Now, during lunch I check the list I’ve made with Alexa and add those items to my Kroger ClickList. I swing by and pick them up on my way home from work. I save myself time, and money because I bypass the spur-of-the-moment purchases. The family knows to add anything they need to Alexa, and I can use online coupons at Kroger.

Life is good and shopping is done by Friday evening.”

—Lisa Frederick 

Amazon Fresh—It really doesn’t get much better than this

I do my grocery shopping while on the bus on my way to work and it shows up at my door. On the rare occasion they don’t have what I need, it’s a short walk to Lucky’s for targeted shopping. 

Totally worth the $15 a month and whatever their markup is.

—Luke Duncan

How I gave up being a multi-store shopper (or at least look like it…)

“Here's what I do to kick the habit:

I plan my shopping according to the store I'm going to that week, yes that week. For example, Aldi can cover most my grocery needs but they don't have an olive bar or deli, and I don't care for their fresh meat. So while planning my menu for the week, I plan according to where I shop. I shop Mariano’s when our 2 week supply of olives from the olive bar runs out; there, I also stock up on my meat for the next couple of weeks and other things I can't find at Aldi or Trader Joes. I hit up TJ's when I know I am well stocked with meat, olives, etc., and at this point I treat myself with some TJ specialties (this is probably 1x per month or every 6 weeks). 

It's been stressful figuring this out, but once I did I tell you, it works! I get to enjoy all the benefits of being a multi-store shopper without the hassle every week. Don't get me wrong, I love grocery shopping just don't want to spend all day doing it. I hit up my favorites week to week and feel like I've won!!”

—Joann Jagla

WATCH: Mom vs. the Supermarket

Insights on Multi-Store Shopping 

It’s a way of life

“My only hint is to look at the stores' weekly specials; and if there is nothing I need that week, I skip that store. In order to do this, it does require stocking up. 

For example, I buy bags of iceberg lettuce for my work salads (I know it's not fancy, but I like the crunch) for under $1 each at Aldi. So I buy 7-8 at a time, depending on the sell-buy date, which puts me at shopping Aldi about every 10 days. While there I buy several boxes of the granola bars my kids like, and enough snacks, eggs, and Greek yogurt so that my bases are covered.

If there are no specials at Target, I skip it. Fresh Thyme has double sales on Wednesdays (last day of last week's specials + first day of this week's specials), so I save both ads to see if I need to go. If it's just one thing, I might skip it. Cub is my most traditional grocery store with the widest selection, so I am usually there weekly.

We also belong to Costco, but only go monthly, or when their coupon book has something I need. I'd say I shop at Trader Joe's the least, so every time I go, I do stock up.

It's a way of life!”

—Pam Bernstein

How to cope with being grocery store promiscuous

“Because of my pickiness as a shopper, I know I could never be a single-store shopper. To summarize, my best tips to cope with being a multi-shopper (or ‘grocery store promiscuous,’ as I sometimes call it) are the following:

  • If you must shop multiple stores on the same day, choose stores that create a logical ‘loop route.’
  • Tackle one of the stores on a different day of the week on the way home from some other event or activity (including work).
  • Divide and conquer: send another family member to one store combined with an event or activity or theirs.”

—Jennifer Anderson

Your shopping should be organized

I make weekly menus, based on what's on sale and what's in the freezer, and make my shopping lists in advance, based on what the various stores have the best prices on. Is there one store where you'll be buying a lot of frozen stuff? Stop there last. Carry a cooler in the summer for frozen and dairy stuff. Try to organize your stops in a continuous loop, so you don't have to backtrack; if you're stopping at the ABC store or the wine and beer store, factor it into your loop, or try to get it in early in the process, so your produce isn't wilting and your ice cream melting while you pick a pinot noir for dinner. Maybe pick one day just to shop the specialty stores, like Trader Joe's, ALDI, LIDL, New Grand Market, etc. You already know which stores you like best for produce, meats, etc., which ones have the best manager's specials, and who carries the ONLY cereal your child will eat. A little preparation ahead of time will save you time as well as make meal planning and prep go more smoothly.

—Michelle Hutchinson

A Word On Coupons

I recommend them heartily for things you already want to buy, and occasionally to try a new item, but not as a regular thing. I'm not tempted to use a coupon just because it's there, and will save me a whole $1 on something - unless it's something we already like and use. You can get sucked into a lot of shelf-space-wasters that way.

—Michelle Hutchinson

All responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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