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April 20, 2009


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Looking at the results, the key seems to be to have some kind of plan. Good planning can save you a lot of money.

I was surprised that the store-brand shopper did better than the savvy-shopper, given all the hype on websites like couponmom and grocerygame. I assume that the store-brand shopper can be compared to the impulse-shopper in terms of time and energy spent. That's a pretty big deal to be the cheapest and easiest at the same time, in my opinion. I tried to make the coupon thing work, but I just can't seem to maintain the discipline required. This post has convinced me to reevaluate the generics on some of the foods that I usually buy name-brand. The problem is that taste is the only factor for everyone else in the house, so cost and time variables do not receive an equal weight in our decision making.

We do a combination of the last three items. Costco relatively close by and we shop there about once every 4-6 weeks for the stock up stuff. We have always been pleased with the Kirkland brand and always get free samples. We use coupons and grocerygame that tracks stock up prices. I like that they compare to Costco prices so you know when it is a really good deal. We always check to see if the store brand is a better deal but with the website we usually combine coupons with stock up prices. This last trip we ended up knocking over $75 off the total.

When my wife was pregnant and bed-ridden a couple years ago, I got to do all the grocery shopping for a change.

I figured out pretty quickly that I could save a TON of money by buying in bulk, waiting for store sales, using coupons, and buying store brands. So I started doing all those things. I also figured out pretty quickly that I could keep saving money to the extent I was willing to dump more and more of my scarce time into the exercise of trying to save on groceries.

Eventually, the marginal benefit in terms of dollars saved did not justify the marginal cost of endlessly combing the web for coupons or endlessly combing the store ads in the paper for sales.

So I figured out what gave most savings for the least investment of time:
1. Figure out what items you buy most frequently (for us, that was breakfast cereal, frozen dinners, Clif bars, and the staples - milk, bread, eggs, etc).
2. Track multiple stores' prices on these items over time using a spreadsheet or simply a notebook. Figure out the best buying strategy for each (i.e. Clif bars are 89 cents apiece in bulk at Costco, frozen dinners go on sale at a couple of stores for $2 each roughly every four to six weeks, cereal coupons are in the paper almost weekly and some kind of cereal is on sale all the time, etc).
3. Adjust your buying habits accordingly

Interesting to see data put to it! I too do a combination of all three. Key is to buy what you need.

i'm a blend of savvy and store brand. i'll use the coupon on the brand name only if the unit price comes out lower than the store brand

This is another great summary of a usable study done by Consumer Report. Maybe it will convince my wife that we don't need to be members of a warehouse club.

I think that the first step in saving money when buying groceries is realizing that more consumption doesn't equal more happiness. Then, the next step is to pay cash, and don't use a credit card.

Very useful post. I linked to it in my 30 Quick, Green and Frugal Meal Planning Resources list.

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