Is This Where All The Money Is Going?


I’ll admit it.  I’m a grocery store impulse shopper.  I stroll the aisles mindlessly picking out things that look good and peak my interest.  Oooh the blackberries, the kiwi, the rib-eye steaks and then there’s the wine aisle with all those labels…don’t even get me started.

I make a grocery list and 99% of the time leave it on the kitchen counter.  Then I proceed to “wing it” at the store. 

Shopping on autopilot is one of my many talents.  I buy the same brands, not making substitutions for products that might be better or are on sale. 

Does this mean I’m not flexible? 

Maybe that’s the problem, I’m not flexible! 

I’m pretty sure in my “cruising the aisles with a latte” mentality I buy WAY more than I need.  If it looks or smells good it ends up in the basket without consideration to cost, need or longevity.  Stupid I know.

Last week the Wild Boar and I were having a conversation about tortillas. 

I asked him if he likes the brand they sell at Costco or does he prefer the ones from our local grocery store.  He went on and on about all the things he likes about the different one’s…blah, blah, blah.

Yes, this was one of our daily riveting conversations but then he asked, “How much do tortillas cost?  Is it better to buy them at Costco?”

Ummm, I had absolutely NO IDEA!  None!  Why?  I told you, I shop on autopilot.  They could be $17 a dozen and I wouldn’t know it.

Hmmm.  I need to pay attention. 

I need to stop going to the store hungry.

I need a meal plan.

I need to stop taking the hooligans to the store with me and letting them fill up the cart with Ho-Ho’s and Lucky Charms.

I need to buy fresh foods that are in season.  What a concept right?

Wow, this is a lot to concentrate on but I think I can handle it.  I think it would be worth it.  Wouldn’t it?

So what does everyone else do to save money at the grocery store?

Do you shop specials?

Use your club card?  Don’t you think they should just give you the sale price if it’s on sale?  I mean what the heck.

When somethings on sale, do you buy boatloads of it?

Coupons?

Store Brands vs. National Brands?

Stick to a list…one of my biggest flaws?

Buy in bulk?

Rebates?

Holy cow, there are so many ways to save.  Maybe I should look into doing some of them. 

What’s your best strategy?

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35 Comments

  1. Ruth 1

    I shop on auto pilot too! I tend to make a basic stuff of anything i need (bread, milk) but with some stuff I write down a general idea of what to get ie. cheese and then decide what sort to get when i get there.
    i sometimes go for whats on sale, but i never buy huge amounts. my mum’s different, if somethings on sale she’ll buy loads, especially if its something like bacon that she can freeze.

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  2. Gah! I never remember my list. I like Costco, but end up buying way more crap than I went there for in the first place. I try to notice what is on sale, but when you need something, you have to get it. I am so envious that you can get wine at the grocery store…but maybe the fact that I have to go to a liquor store for my booze keeps me somewhat respectable.:)

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  3. philly 3

    My hub doesn the food shopping, so all I do is make a list!

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  4. My number one rule is to leabe all family members at home. Saves me a ton. There are some things that I can get away with buying store brands, but some I def. can’t. It was a hard lesson. I try to clip coupons, but forget to use them.

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  5. I always use the card. I always shop the specials. I always bring a list. I always spend too much.

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  6. Steph 6

    I shop at Costco most of the time. Everywhere else I go, I try to buy things on sale, but I usually end up buying the same brand items I am used to. I tried the whole meal planning and list thing, and it never stuck.

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  7. Margo 7

    I’m afraid I’m in the same boat as you, but saw that I wasted more than I used, so I started having a produce box delivered each week from a local organic coop. That forces me to work with what’s available and it makes me be really creative. I’ve also had meat orders to keep that under control, too, but haven’t done that lately. I don’t do Costco, I spend wayyyy too much there, so if I need paper goods, I scan the ads for the sales.

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  8. I do shop with a grocery list.. I have a pad of snarky paper hanging on the side of the microwave and everyone is supposed to write things down as we run out…
    We buy lots of vegies… fruits… real food… try not to buy too much ‘interior isle’ stuff (processed)..
    I’m lucky because we raise our own meat… and I ‘work’ at farmers markets so usually get lots of great stuff at the markets too… This past Sat. was Asparagus!!! YUM!
    But when I shop when I am hungry.. look out…

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  9. I went to the grocery store for four things on Sunday and spent $170 and had a cart full! I’m horrible.

    I stock up on favorites that are on sale. I spend way too much time on the aisles that aren’t food. Ya know, the cookbooks, cosmetics, shampoos, lotions.

    If we are even close to running out of Italian seasoning, I buy three more so we never run out, only to find my previous stock already in the pantry.

    And that’s not even my COSTCO trip. I have one whole closet in my laundry room stocked floor to ceiling with paper towels and toilet paper. And I buy more everytime I go to COSTCO. It drives my husband ape crazy. And I can’t help it.

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  10. Sharon 10

    Though I start with a list, I generally buy on average 3x’s the amount that’s on the list. My other problem is that I tend to buy certain things from certain stores. I buy Asian specific items at an Asian store, organic items from our local Henry’s, every day items at Ralph’s….you get the point. When I buy 3x’s the amount I need from each of those stores it gets ugly! :) I do try to use coupons when I can. That’s my only strategy!

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  11. When we lived in Wichita, we lived very close to an Aldi. I shopped there first and at Walmart or Dillon’s (Kroger) last. I saved so much money that way. At first I loathed going in there. It takes some getting used to. You have to have a quarter for a cart (you get it back), use empty boxes or bring your own bags or pay for theirs, and use cash or a debit card. Some of the stores, like the one close to our old house, are dirty and have some very interesting (and sometimes equally dirty) patrons. Look at it as an adventure or pretend you’re writing a novel and need some extra characters and it isn’t so bad. Some of the stores are very nice, especially when they’re new and in nicer areas of town. It also takes a little time to learn what to buy there. Most things are the same as the regular stores. Some aren’t worth touching. Often there are more gourmet type items for very cheap. Produce is pretty inexpensive and often as good or better than the other stores. Now that we live so far from an Aldi, I probably spend $50 a week more for groceries. Maybe it would be worth the extra drive to start shopping there again.

    When we had a Sam’s membership, I found that I really did not save money. Things were often the same price, but I had to buy them in bulk. Sometimes things are more expensive there. Bulk is not always cheaper.

    I detest the Dillon’s (Kroger) cards that I’m forced to use to get the sale price. I was getting the same price or better before they had cards.

    Finally, I think the one thing that really causes me to spend more money while grocery shopping is that I get sidetracked by all the other aisles in Walmart. I really need to stop wandering over that direction!

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  12. Julena Jo 12

    A plan. A list. Alone.

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  13. I’m HORRIBLE at the grocery store. My grocery bills are outrageous. Really outrageous. Our financial advisor asked my husband if the total we gave him for groceries each month was a mistake!! Nope. I do make efforts at following a grocery list, but I wing it and my cart is loaded by the time I leave the store. Paper towels on sale? I grab three giant bunches. I’m a little nuts so I can’t help ya there.

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  14. i always take my own bag. i walk to the store. i don’t buy more than i can carry home (made that mistake only a few times before i learned). it has saved me a TON on what i buy and what i end up throwing out.

    i know not everyone can walk to their grocery, but maybe look in to taking your own bags and only buying what will fit.
    :)

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  15. grace 15

    the grocery store is one place where i have no self-control. i always buy things i don’t need (and forget things i do need) and stick with the more expensive brand because i know i like it. i stubbornly buy produce out-of-season because darn it–sometimes i want some winter squash in april.
    i redeem myself by using coupons and making sure that nothing i buy goes to waste. that makes it all okay, right?

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  16. I am a militant list shopper. If it’s not on the list, odds are it’s not coming home with us. This drives my hubby crazy (because he shops like you!), but he’s learned to make detailed lists. Also, if you’re picky, you have to be specific. 😉 In his defense, he did all the shopping for us for years, since I worked from home and cared for our girl. He had more time. Now that I’ve quit my job and focus on her full time, I do the shopping. Luckily, she’s just two, so she’s happy sitting in the cart and not demanding for all kinds of foods. But, because she’s two, I stick to the list, make it in and out in relatively good time, and no one is the wiser. :)

    We do most of our shopping at SuperTarget or Safeway. If there are health/beauty items on the list, we go to SuperTarget, because at times, their groceries are cheaper. (Plus, they send us really good coupons.) Safeway is closer, so if it’s just groceries, we go there. I use coupons if the price makes it cheaper. They are tricky sometimes, so it’s a good thing that I’m good at math. :) There are some things that we have to get specific brands of, so I get those items regardless of price. Example: Claire had a reaction to different types of yogurt, but with one type of yogurt, she’s totally fine. So, that’s the one we get.

    We buy store brands of things, too. It just depends.

    Our big money-saver is sticking to the list, using coupons and store cards, and doing the math at the shelf. (Sometimes the milk is cheaper when you buy two 1/2-gallons and sometimes it’s cheaper when you buy one full-gallon.) Etc. Sorry for the long comment! :)

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  17. I am the exact same way, I have NO IDEA what anything costs. I would totally lose at the Price is Right. I am a bad American.

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  18. Hoo Boy. You asked for it…
    I make a menu plan for the week, based on what meat I have in the freezer. I wing the produce, buying it at a farmer’s market on Saturday. (Except apples and bananas, which are necessitiy items here) I shop at a bag it yourself place and buy meat at a warehouse store. I try to stay on the outside perimeter and away from the processed stuff but with kids, that’s folly. I make my own bread, which winds up saving me a few dollars every week and we get much better bread in the bargain.

    Hi, My name is Jennie and I am anal.

    Reply
  19. Kathy from NJ 19

    I leave my husband in the car so only buy 10-12 items at a time (so I can use the express line). His nutrition is (store brand) Ensure plus, I mostly buy things that are easy to make for one person. My husband got me started using store brand stuff many years ago but only some things. I will use only Tide laundry detergent, Bounty paper towels, Charmin extra soft tp and Kleenex brand facial tissues. I buy many medical supplies, disposable underwear & comfort bath disposable washcloths on the internet for about 2/3 of what I would pay in the store and it’s nice to have those things delivered. I stock up when certain items are on sale, never use coupons and do use the stupid store card, expecially when there is a free ham or turkey involved. The free item usually goes to the food bank in town. I love “free” things, if someone is giving malaria away for free, I would take it.

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  20. OOOHHHH I’m bad. I don’t take a list. Once when I was sick I made meal plans and lists and other people went to the store for me. I saved $600 in one month. Eye opener. Did I change my ways? No. Do I browse the isles looking for some new gourmet item? Yes. Do I nibble on chocolate covered banana chips at $7.99 a pound? Yes.
    Do I buy items on sale? YES. Especially organic stuff on sale. I do cruz the clearance racks. I do buy more produce than anything else. I do shop the perimeter and avoid processed stuff. I do not buy junk food. Chocolate is not junk, chocolate is a balm to a womans soul.
    You know the more you say the more I think we could really help you save money. Write us.

    Reply
  21. Tipper 21

    I must be a miser. I always check prices, I buy store brand if I can-somethings I pay for the “real” brand. In the area where I live there isn’t many choices to shop around. Although there are 2 discount grocery stores that have better prices on some things. And one has much better cuts of meat at much better prices. But I hate to go to more than one place-so I only go to the discount places every once in a while. I’m such an “organization freak” I don’t think I could shop without my list. I would rather be like you-instead of feeling the need to straighten the shopping carts at Walmart before I leave.

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  22. Alisa 22

    Coupons don’t always save you $$. Most of the time, the store brand is still cheaper and it’s usually manufactured by the name brand co’s. You can look into thegrocerygame.com It is a pay website that tells you when the best time to use your coupons is and when to stock up on those sale items. I used to use it a lot, but we’ve switched to organic and natural foods. Needless to say, there aren’t a lot of coupons for that. You can save a ton of $ on cleaning supplies. I agree that Sams club doesn’t save us money. I’m so sorry we paid for that membership! Also, I purchase most of my household stuff at Wal-Mart. I shop with a list and only stray from it if there’s a really good sale. I still spend way more than I’d like to though. Especially when some of you post such tasty recipes on your blogs and then I have to run out and get the ingredients so I can make it TONIGHT because it sounds so dang good and it’s just so easy! Thanks for keeping my family well fed…

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  23. Three weeks out of four, I kind of know what I want to make for dinner that week and buy with that in mind. Like if I buy ham, am I making turnovers, or will I freeze it and make soup, or are baking potatoes on sale. If I see my italian chicken sausage on sale, do I want to make meatball soup? Lentil? If sour cream is on sale, do I want chicken soft tacos or tortilla soup? If I buy a big bag of yukon gold potatoes at Costco, I know I’ll be making corn chowder and potatoe salad at least… maybe a roast in the crock pot. So I try to be strategic.
    One week a month, I seem to fall apart and I’m driving home from work with no idea what’s for dinner. This is where we end up with creamed tuna or chicken soft tacos because I usually have that kind of stuff on hand.
    Which is why I feel challenged by some of your recipes, because I don’t carry some of that as staples! I still haven’t found malt. I even looked in organics!
    Although I shop at costco, I don’t buy bread products or tortillas there… or things that we would use in smaller quantities. I do buy chicken breasts in pouches and freeze those. I buy some baking stuff there.
    I don’t use club cards and avoid safeway like the plague. Their day to day prices are awfully high. I like Winco but their selection isn’t what it could be although their produce is nice. I shop mostly at fred meyer, owned by kroger. Reasonable price, good selection and I get the sale price no matter what. I use my member card and every 3 months they send me around 25 in coupons. ($5.00 off your next purchase). I try to avoide spontaneous purchases unless I know we really need something (toothpaste) or I know I’ll use it in multiple items (Flat leaf Italian Parsley)
    I used to get the sunday paper coupons and shop the heck of stores, but anymore my time is worth a lot more, so I just try to be practicle and eliminate foo foo… no ho ho’s, no oreos, etc.

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  24. Jessica 24

    I have that problem too. I always but everything that looks cool and interesting. This drives my mom absolutely crazy!

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  25. Rachael J 25

    Listen. To. Me.

    http://www.thegrocerygame.com

    don’t skim this website…really read it. Try it one week and see what you think.

    Reply
  26. Flea 26

    We’ve pretty much always been a one salary, 3 kid family, and the Hunny is an educator, so I cut corners everywhere I can.

    My ADD self has to shop with a list or I forget what I need. I also shop at Aldi’s for most of my groceries – a little box of a store with off brand stuff. I buy my brand name stuff afterward, so I’m not tempted to shop for everything at someplace more expensive.

    Not a coupon shopper – too ADD to remember them. And most of the time the brand isn’t one I’ll use.

    I buy dairy at Sam’s since it’s cheaper there. Also cleaning supplies and seasonings. LOVE their chili seasoning, rosemary/garlic, etc. in the big bottles. I never buy produce at Sam’s because it’s never fresh, or has fruit flies. But I hear their berries are to die for.

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  27. Deborah 27

    I was just telling my husband that I need to make a budget, because we spend way too much on food! I tried coupons once, but really all you can find coupons for are all of the processed things that most food bloggers don’t use. I tried it once, but ended up with a pantry full of items that are now expiring and will probably never be used. But I am pretty good at making a list and sticking to it. My biggest thing is to make sure and not take my husband with me – we will end up with twice as many groceries!!

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  28. pam 28

    I used to shop with a weeks menu planned and a list. I adhered faithfully to the list. But since I have started trying to eat more locally and carefully, I pretty much wing it. There is no saving money really, but I feel better about what I am buying.

    Reply
  29. Stephanie 29

    Since we’re trying to save money, my husband now double and triple checks my list and does the shopping. Granted half the time I need something that can’t be found at our “new” local stores. That is so far the biggest problem I have had with this move to the country. Also, since the store we had been near had the “Buy $100, get $.10 off per gallon of gas with each fillup” we’re hurting in that department, too.

    Reply
  30. Liz C. 30

    If I don’t take a list, there’s no telling what I come home with. Besides, if I have to rely on my memory, then our boat is sunk. Or else I’m on the phone asking hubby what we need.

    My daughter can’t understand why I don’t get a Blackberry and just make my list on that. Well, if I could work one of those things, I’d have one. The buttons are too tiny for my eyes and my fingers.

    I hate going to the store anyway. I prefer to make the breadwinner go get the bread, lol.

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  31. Kevin 31

    I don’t know about saving money but I like to go to the store with a list and I try to stick to the list. Impulse buys are still a problem thoug…

    Reply
  32. I always have the BEST of intentions, but “I make a grocery list and 99% of the time leave it on the kitchen counter. Then I proceed to “wing it” at the store” I’m with you on this one.

    HOWEVER, I am a coupon clipper and I download them online. I try to stick with a list that I make religiously on Sunday after coming up with a meal plan for the week and perusing the Sunday paper. Usually, the coupons you clip on Sunday will be best used TWO WEEKS later when those items go on sale.

    I go bulk, but I am careful to make sure it is something I will use soon or that it will keep long enough. I HATE waste.

    And yes, I always make sure I eat before I shop . . . otherwise it could get crazy.

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  33. I am kinda lucky… As a military wife I have access to the commissary. Name brands at “off brand” prices. They sell stuff at almost wholesale… they just make enough profits to pay the cashiers and stockers…. The baggers work only for tips from customers! Also I get wic… so that helps alot. It also helps that I cloth diaper… saves me $50 a month in supplies a month per kid! My other money saver at the store…. Everyone gets to pick ONE “processed” food… that is it. Everything else is made from scratch!

    Reply
  34. I’m like you. I’m TERRIBLE. BUT, in my defense, we have one of the rockinest markets around… the freshest produce (like a friggin’ farmers market), gorgeous flowers (my friend is one of the flower growers, and make many of their bouquets – gotta support my friend!), the wine section is impressive… fresh seafood, great coffee shop, free cookies (the size of the kids’ heads, and they even let the mommies have ca cookie too), fresh tortillas, and olive bar, bakery, prepared meals – soups, bulk foods, a flour grinder, peanut-butter-maker-thing… BBQ… It’s a regular field trip! We go at least 4 times a week. Sometimes I feel funny – I know every worker there, some may think I am stalking. Did I mention the coffee shop rocks too… I know you’d love it :) We’d have so much fun browsing the aisles…

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  35. I do the same dang thing! I buy what I know we like or what The Hubs and Darling Daughter will eat, or what REALLY LOOKS GOOD. We are a family of specialized diets and picky eaters – and impulse shoppers.

    My dad was a retailer for a large chain – I know all about product placement for best impulse buying, etc. Which means, as I am succumbing to the temptation, I know exactly why. Mentally I congratulate the employee who put the product there. And I buy it anyway.

    Reply

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