Grocery shopping should be a very simple task, but it isn’t. First of all, it’s pretty much a requirement for you or someone in your family to do it—every week. They should be making a list, heading out to the store, buying what you really need, then coming back home to unload and put it all away. It’s very similar to washing your hair, according to the instructions, repeat the process, and do it all again next week…forever.
You may think you’ll be making a quick trip to the grocery store, but two hours later, you come home with tons of grocery bags and hundreds of dollars gone from your bank account. So then, how can anyone suggest that big name elite supermarkets (like Whole Foods or Wegmans) can ever be a way to save money?
Food Costs Are a Real Big Deal
Here’s a shocker to some people: Your food costs are the number two household budget item for almost all of us, just behind the cost of your rent or mortgage! Americans, as of this year 2019, spend 12.8% of after-tax income on food. That’s a number that has actually been increasing since 2010, up about 1% in that period. It translates to over $150 on average per week for all families.
I am proud to say that being good super savers like we are, our food costs are lower than average because of a host of things we do to make that happen.
But despite all we do, food still runs as our number three cost behind our mortgage and healthcare costs. We are in the minority of the general population in that situation, but regardless of its actual ranking, food is a big expense and something you just can’t possibly avoid. That makes it for me and millions of others one of the most opportune ways where saving money can actually be had.
Where to Grocery Shop
First of all, I don’t make a habit out of shopping the elite supermarkets. I almost always shop my local chain ShopRite which has a great reputation as being a leader here locally in NJ. Every place has at least one of those whose reputation draws you in and becomes your “go to” place. They have everything from great coupons and sales, large assortments, friendly environments, ethnic taste treats, organics…you can name it all and they have it. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t “cherry pick” the best deals from every other place near you and save. But even when you do that, make no mistake, all grocery stores actually strategize gimmicks to make you spend more money. So, let me get back to my focus: saving money at a fancy supermarket.
Some Basic Guidelines to Remember
When it comes to grocery shopping, the early bird really does get the freshest produce. They’re freshly stocked early in the morning and shopping earlier in the day also helps you avoid busy rush hour busyness. It then allows you the ability/time to pick the best products on the stand before someone else beats you to it. Oh and FYI, Wednesday is the best and least busy day of the week to grocery shop!
Yes, it’s true that shelf products in markets are rotated by date so that the freshest items are placed in the back. This is especially true in rear-loading display cases (usually used for things like milk and eggs). So if you want the freshest items, reach towards the back. But not always!
Some items sell so quickly that displays are frequently topped off during the day when there isn’t the time or need to rotate the product. So you still have to check the dates to be sure. Think about it. Haven’t you found that you throw out food too often because the dates have expired?
Don’t get totally sucked into the “organic” sales attraction. Organic is not fresher or less fresh than conventional items. Somehow, people have been convinced that organic just is better and that’s not at all a given. I always use the example of organic bananas which usually cost 15-30% more than regular bananas. They may not have harmful pesticides sprayed on them, but friends, they have a peel and you remove that peel when you eat them so…duh? Yes, I said it.
Seasonal buys, no matter where you go, are always a money saver. And here’s the real important thing to remember: When the price is the cheapest, that’s also when the quality is the highest! Even at the elite grocery stores, seasonal means cheap, sometimes even cheaper than the local super saver market.
Brand loyalty? The biggest mistake consumers make is being loyal to particular brands. Even if they are slightly better (which often they’re not!), the price difference usually isn’t worth it. And when you shop elite supermarkets, they have their own store or generic brands too, so you must give some of them try to see if you like them because they will be competitively priced and offer big savings! Don’t be blinded by the advertising of the big name products.
While I am checking off the basic rules for grocery shopping, please don’t ever forget this one: Don’t just walk into a grocery store without a plan, buy a ton, then get home and realize you don’t actually have the makings for any kind of cohesive meal. Going in with a shopping list and at least a few ideas of what to cook that week can help keep your focus.
Beginning in 1984, Whole Foods Market began its expansion out of Austin, Texas and now has stores all over the U.S. and even into Canada and the United Kingdom. That’s a big supermarket. But, believe me when I tell you that you can save there.
Look for the yellow 10% off sale savings signs all over the store and you will see the deals of the day and week when you shop. But that’s just one way to save and not the only way.
In 2017, Amazon and Whole Foods joined forces and when they did, Prime became a feature that saves you money at the Whole Foods grocery stores. Many people already had Amazon Prime so that there’s no extra cost to use it at Whole Foods. It will save you money: 10% on hundreds of items each week. And like every supermarket, Whole Foods has weekly specials to shop and they are usually very sharp prices, particularly on local fresh produce.
And here’s the best part: You will save an extra 10% off even the weekly yellow sign specials with your Prime discount!
My adventures in shopping took me to Wegmans last week and that is what inspired me to write today’s post.
Wegmans, now in seven states here in the eastern U.S., has literally everything there is from foods to kitchen items and even a baby care area so you can shop while the kids are attended to!
They have a liquor store, a newsstand, and full line restaurant. In fact, it’s sort of a Disneyland of a supermarket! But yet, they still offer some real bargains in a store that full of glitz, glamour, and super expensive stuff. You just have to look up, down, and sideways sometimes to find them!
End caps are important there and many of the best deals are stocked on aisle ends and displays. This past week, I saw two liter Coke at 99 cents (no limits) and boxes of Stove Top stuffing mix and store brand cranberry sauce (14 oz. cans) for the Thanksgiving holiday for 99 cents. Nobody near us had a better price.
Bread, milk, and eggs are always very competitive as well as the unreal selection of fruits and veggies which offer spectacular quality but yet great values for those of us not looking for the strangest fruits and veggies from the other side of the planet. The same is true for the fresh deli and butcher shop items.
Wegmans has a free loyalty card that always saves you money. I specifically went there to buy a bottle of wine; one that I could literally get anywhere wine is sold and I have paid between eight and ten dollars for a 750 ml bottle. Wegmans advertised it online at just $4.99 and another 10% off with their free loyalty card so I wound up paying just $4.49 and saved 50% off my local liquor store price. I picked a few of the “cherries” from their price saving tree along the way!
Conveniences Count But So Do Savings
While it’s convenient to shop at just one store for all your needs, you’re paying a price for that convenience. So if you really want to get the best deals and prices, don’t be afraid to shop around.
That can even include these “classy, elite, got to have a backpack and laptop with you at all times crowds, that only eat healthy and” wait for it… “expensive foods” . Even if you have to dodge a few Land Rovers or Jaguars to get safely in and out, it may be worth it to take such a high risk.
If you don’t keep up with a dozen circulars every week, you can still get a sense of what stores tend to have the best prices (and quality) on different product types that can help you cut down on splurge purchases. There’s always the internet to help you decide where the deals are this week, so sit down and spend an extra 20 minutes doing that instead of wandering around aimlessly hoping and praying you are in the right place at the right time.
Do you shop around and see what deals are out there beyond your local Aldi’s and Walmart? Have you shopped an elite supermarket and if so, what was your experience? Do you make the time to save some extra cash on what is a huge weekly expense like groceries?