The Grocery Game

After I lost my job several years ago, I threw myself into frugality.  I became a fierce deal hunter.  I would play the drug store game.  Visit three grocery stores in a week in search of the best deals.  I loved the thrill of saving money.

But I hated it.

Mostly because I hate running errands.  And I hate Walgreens.  But that’s a story for another day…

But I did it anyway because I felt obligated to be as frugal as possible.  I saw it as my way of contributing financially to our family since I was no longer employed.  So I spent hours every week comparing prices, searching websites for coupons, and driving around town shopping sale ads.

Now that I’ve returned to the work force, it’s just not practical for me to spend my weekends running all over creation to save $0.30 on salad dressing.  The old adage “Time is Money” rings very true and I’d much rather spend my time with my family or even cleaning my house than chasing deals.  Not to give up on bargain hunting altogether, I’ve developed a “system” for getting the best prices on the highest quality items I routinely purchase.

There are three stores that I regularly shop.  Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and a local grocery store.  And much to my husband’s disappointment, I tend to buy the same foods over and over.  That’s how I manage to keep my pantry full without blowing my budget.  I also buy mostly raw ingredients.  Meaning, whole foods that are versatile enough to be used in various ways.  Not only is minimally processed food cheaper, but it’s also healthier.  But I’m sure you already know that…

Trader Joe’s is probably the most predictable stop since I have to routinely go every couple weeks for cat food.  Sure, I could buy larger quantities of cat food to make the trip less often, but then I wouldn’t have the opportunity to buy goat cheese as regularly. And goat cheese = happiness.

Some of my favorite items at TJ’s:

Uncured Beef Hot Dogs 3.99
Cereal Bars 1.69
Salsa 2.49
BBQ Sauce 2.29
Quinoa 3.99
Honey 4.49
Grape Jelly 2.49
Raspberry/Blackberry Jam 3.49
Frozen Organic Strawberries 1.99
Organic Ketchup
Frozen, Shelled Edamame
White Whole Wheat Flour

Could I get BBQ sauce for a fraction of the price at the local grocery chain?  Sure.  I think I’ve even purchased it for free.  (Can you purchase something for free?)  However, I’ve decided that it’s worth spending a little more on a higher quality product without HFCS as the #1 ingredient.  However, two years ago you wouldn’t have seen $4 hot dogs in my fridge.  I’ll admit it’s been nice to loosen the food budget a bit.

For the rest of our groceries, I use the weekly ad to determine where I will shop that week.  There are many things I love to buy at Aldi, but if I need bread, I’m going to Schnucks.

Did you know that Aldi owns Trader Joe’s?  Remember that the next time you think, “I need a quarter to shop there?”

But Aldi has fantastic prices on many staples.  They even have pure maple syrup now.  Not to mention their produce isn’t too shabby.  It’s not exactly locally grown organic fruits and veggies, but grapes for $0.78/lb is pretty alluring.

Some other Aldi deals that can’t be beat: 

Diced Tomatoes 0.49/can
Wheat Thins 1.29
Butter 2.29/lb
Bacon Bits 1.39
Sour Cream 0.99
Tomato Sauce 0.25
Tortillas 0.99
Apple Juice 1.29
Oats (the largest container you’ve ever seen!) 1.79

That doesn’t include their weekly best buys.  I’ve gotten bagged lettuce for $0.39.  Block cheese for $1.29.  Frozen tilapia for $3.99/lb.   And they have fantastic prices on chips.  Something Matt can’t live without.

As I mentioned previously, there are some things that I just won’t buy at Aldi, though.  Bread is my number one.  I also don’t like their yogurt choices.  And I’m not really sure how I feel about their meat.  I’ve bought ground beef there, but there’s a lot controversy surrounding ground meat.  So I feel much more comfortable buying something ground in house- if I can’t afford Trader Joe’s grass-fed beef.

Notice I didn’t mention couponing at all…  While I still get the Sunday paper and go through the inserts (every 4-6 weeks), I find myself less concerned with what I can get for super cheap (or free) and more focused on purchasing foods that do more than just filling our bellies.  And I know with extreme couponing all the rage, it’s hard to pass up a great deal.  But is it really a great deal if it’s not nourishing your body?

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3 Responses to The Grocery Game

  1. tanya says:

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  2. […] over 1,000 stores in 31 states, buying groceries at Aldi can really save you some bucks.  Just on milk, cheese, and chips alone I save almost $5 every trip.  Add in the juice, nuts, and […]

  3. […] over 1,000 stores in 31 states, buying groceries at Aldi can really save you some bucks.  Just on milk, cheese, and chips alone I save almost $5 every trip.  Add in the juice, nuts, and […]