Trader Joe’s too, for that matter.
There are two types of grocery shoppers in this world: The intentional one-stop shopper and the I’m-going-to-as-many-grocery-stores-as-I-need shopper. By and large, I fall into the second category. And I’ve never much questioned it or considered it as anything other than necessary—savvy, even.
Both grocery shopping approaches are valid strategies that offer distinct merits, but in recent conversations with colleagues (I work with food-focused people who fall on both sides of the fence with this issue), I have come to realize that by including the distinctive “specialty” grocery stores like Aldi or Trader Joe’s in my weekly grocery shopping ritual, I do embrace a very real drawback that my one-stop-shopping counterparts don’t deal with—time spent behind the handle of a grocery cart.
Given, the multi-store shopper is able to take advantage of the undeniable pricing deals and specialty products that can only be found at these stores… like if you want to save a dollar or more per pound on certain staple produce items, such as onions or avocados, Aldi is where it’s at. You just can’t count on Aldi, even with its legitimately great German import products and cheap-as-hell wine, to be the only store you hit to pick up all of your essentials for the week. For example, if there are certain fruits you basically have to buy each week, regardless of seasonality, because those are the fruits your kid will actually eat, you can’t bank on the fact that Aldi will have them or that they’ll necessarily look like something you want to buy.
Same deal with Trader Joe’s. I have attempted on more than one occasion to make make this my single grocery stop to prep for the week—and I legitimately can’t manage to succeed. Yes, they offer variety like no other when it comes to grade-A frozen foods, and if it’s cheap cheese and flowers you’re looking for, buddy, TJ’s has your back. But say you want a plain, nut-free, no-crazy-flavors bag of granola… psh, may the force be with you. It’s also not the ideal spot for purchasing fresh meats (IMO) or average shelf stable staples, as your options are fairly limited with these items and I find they’re oftentimes a bit more expensive, (and, to be honest, not necessarily on point in terms of flavor) as compared to what you’ll find at a more standard supermarket like Publix or Kroger.
I can hear the dedicated one-stop shoppers out there at this point… Yeah, no joke, this is why we go to ONE standard store; and look, we have managed to survive, even paying a few bucks more for bananas and without having a stash of those addictive dark chocolate peanut butter cups in the pantry.
As much as I truly do enjoy grocery shopping (sometimes), I also genuinely love this idea of not making a two-store excursion on Sunday, i.e. shopping day. So, what’s the solution?
Honestly, I think before I commit entirely to the hardcore one-stop lifestyle, I will experiment with making more intentional stops at the specialty stores with lessened frequency, keeping some weeks entirely contained to one grocery store.
I raise this question of grocery shopping strategy as I’m looking for ways to put time back into the week and I realize that others have the art of grocery shopping personalized and mastered at a level I can’t quite yet fathom. So I’m putting it out to you—what’s the grocery shopping approach you’ve found works best for your family? Are you a one-stop or a multi-stop shopper? How do you strike a practical balance between taking advantage of great, budget-friendly deals and not spending what feels like half your day in a checkout line? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter, or send your best shopping tips directly to me at Darcy.Lenz@Meredith.com. Your strategy could be featured in an upcoming story highlighting the most profound grocery store wisdom we’ve ever received.