How I Simplified My Grocery Shopping

Several years ago, I spent grocery day in a mad rush from one store to the next.  I averaged shopping at least 6 stores, during my shopping day.  Every thing I bought was on sale and often at a very good price.  So why was I spending so much money?  Wasn't I shopping sales?  Wasn't I only going in to pick up the items we'd normally use?

Yes, I was.  The trouble was that often, and I do mean often, I picked up a little more than was needed.  I was 'stocking up'.  If I went in to purchase four items but came out with twelve, I'd spent a good bit more than the four items would have cost me.

Too, there was the tendency to indulge in one or two items that were exclusive to that store and not the others.  Even if I were spot on my targeted spending amount I might have foregone those impulse items and saved a little more.

And then there was the wearying burden of it all.  If I made six stops then the likelihood that I was going to need nourishment or hydration was great.  Naturally I was going to go to a fast food place or snag something at the deli or from those handy little drink cases/candy displays at the register.  Another added expense.

When I began shopping at Aldi, I found great relief in no longer stopping multiple times during a grocery shopping day.  True, we don't purchase every single thing at Aldi.  I had a long list two years ago of things we couldn't purchase at Aldi.   I find more and more, though,  that the non-Aldi list is growing shorter and shorter.  Not because Aldi suddenly started carrying all these other items but because we've determined that we can, after all, live without a good many of  them as long as we have plenty of the basics on hand.  One thing Aldi is very good for is basic food items.

It doesn't matter if you don't shop at Aldi.  It's not just that Aldi has such good prices on so many good items.  No, it's giving up the idea that just because I can access a dozen groceries, I don't need to.  Do you understand that?  I gave up the notion that because I could didn't mean I had to.  I decided a couple of years ago to focus hard on Aldi as my main grocery store.  We purchase a few things at a second grocery sometimes on the same day for bakery bread and pet foods.   I stop in one or two other stores on occasion.  By that I mean that I regularly go to two other stores.  I visit one about once every two months and the other about once a month.  At both I purchase only a select few items and I don't wander the aisles to look at any other items nor do I read the sales sheet.   Again, it's not that Aldi carries every single item we need.  It's more that we've decided to live with the more limited selection. 

Do you know that the average grocery carries a whopping 43,000 items? And that figure may be low because it was based on 2014 figures, not 2017!   This article was a real eye opener when I googled to get an idea of the number of choices we face in just the grocery store.  Imagine seeing that number of products times the six stores I used to visit.  No wonder I felt overwhelmed and dazed by the end of a shopping day!  By simplifying the process of shopping, I  cut down on the number of decisions I had to make.  Cutting down on decisions actually keeps my mind sharp to make GOOD choices.  Studies have shown that the more choices we have to make the less likely it is we will make the best choice but merely give up and go for the item that seems the most familiar.

Did you realize that for every grocery shopping trip the average time spent is over 1 1/2 hours? 

As well, the amount of time saved,  the lack of need to compare prices against many competitors and the slow down in coupon usage overall was an added time bonus. The typical shopper goes into a grocery  1.5 times per week.  This is where our living far from our store of choice is a huge bonus.  I average less than 1 trip into the grocery per week with only two of those visits being anything near a major shop. 

Having fewer choices has also made me keenly aware of when an item is truly a steal.  Like the year I found a certain brand of tuna on sale at a store we visited only occasionally because of a shipment error.  I bought 24 cans for 33c each when tuna was going for easily 80c a tin even at Aldi!  Or the time John spied a case load of butter that was marked $1 a pound.  Now there was a sale worth taking advantage of!  Over shipments can put a store in a bind and they must get rid of the items before they spoil. 

Mostly I don't look for sales.   I don't spend hours scanning ads, anymore.  Unless I have something specific I plan to purchase I don't bother to watch sales sheets.  And that means I less often feel the need to run to the store. 

The less often we run to the store, the less items we tend to think we can't live without.  It's been incredibly freeing of time and money!  Try it.  Next time you think you must just have something on sale, ask yourself: "Is it a basic food item?"  "Is it something I can make myself?"  "Am I really saving by stocking up on this item?"  If the answer is "No" to any of them, stop and reconsider.  See if you too can't begin to save a bit more money by not shopping.

Try an experiment.  Choose to shop at just one store for one month.  You can choose any store you'd like: the one closest to your home or the one that consistently has the best sales.  Give it a good try and see if you don't find it incredibly freeing of time and if you don't save a few dollars in the process.  If you don't save but spend no more then it's still a win in the saving of time for you. No one could have been harder to convince than I was until John started shopping with me and insisted I cut out the craziness with the multiple stops.

Try this experiment and let me know what you find. 


Lana said...

I shop just like you. It has gotten easier now that Aldi has expanded their product line. My big gap is bread flour so I do watch for deals on that when my stock begins to get low. For some reason my Sam'S doesn't carry it or I would just pick it up there.

Christie Hogan said...

I shop like you too, for the most part. In our town, we have these 3 major markets--Winn Dixie, Harvey's and Pubkix. I am a Pubkix girl, but since Harvey's is closer to our home, that is where my husband will stop in for milk or bread as opposed to a convenience store. I will glance at the sales papers to see if there is a very good price on something we need and IF I'm in town I will stop in (never Winn Dixie because it's way too far from my house) or my hubby will since he works . Aldi is opening here in about 3 weeks and it is across the highway from Publix! I am so stinkin excited about this because we have been shopping at them in the town our son lives in 40 minutes away.

I shop every two weeks. Since it is just the 2 of us now, our grocery budget has gone way down. I keep a running list of things to get from SAMs and make a trip about every 3 months and a running list of things from Walmart (we do have one of those here in town but I do not like it!! Ones in other towns near us are much iced and cleaner!) So I only go there when I absolutely have to. Not going into stores "just because" saves sooo much money. We spend about $325--$350 per month on food. We eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables. And we are starting to cut out as many processed foods as we can. I cook almost every day with a scheduled leftover night or two to eliminate food waste. I'm like you, not spending a bajillion hours shopping sales has freed up time for me to do things I really want to be doing! :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recommendation of the vegetarian chili at Aldi. Our Aldi did not have it this week but I will look for it. We do check out the veggies each time we are there as we have noted extra markdowns off and on there. The 10 lb bags of potatoes that were on sale for $1.99 were marked down to 75c and even 59c. Bell peppers 10c each one night. Aldi has been here less than a year but we have come to really like it.
Here there are so very many different grocery chains and lone stores. Too many! Some have double ad days when the sale ad from the past week and the week ahead can be used. If they are both extra good with things we need we try to stop there when we are in that area. This store is super good with rain checks. If they are out of an item they readily give one to you and they Never Expire.
We also have cut back on many things we used to get. Making them instead ourselves. As the grocery ads come in the mail I do glance at a couple. Many weeks we don't go to any stores. Once in a while we might go quickly to three IF we are in that area already and their sales are extra good. I understand your thinking. By the time you shop then come home and get everything away it takes a lot of time. Then if you have to turn around and cook the food and clean up after etc! Then you are really tired. When you have prepared some of your 'box' meals and perhaps a few freezer meals ahead {and thaw one! :) } that would help. I really don't like having too many choices. Every manufacturer tries to gain as much shelf space as they can by having so many different sizes and kinds of every product. Ugh. :(
It helps I am sure that there are just the two of us. We have never been big eaters and so what we do buy goes a long way. Sarah

Debby in KS said...

I don't think we have 6 grocery stores! My primaries are Aldi, Sam's, & Dillons (Kroger affil). I occasionally go to sprouts if I'm at a friend's home nearby. I don't have set days to go, but Sam's & Aldi probably average once a month each, on the same day. For milk, we have a dairy nearby. They save me a ton of time and probably money by avoiding the market.

I typed up lists of our commonly bought items at each store so when I'm going, I use the lists as guidance. Mostly so I don't forget something like whole chickens or cheese blocks at Sam's. The other stores just don't carry them. My husband is the primary Dillon's shopper. He drives right past one near work and it's much easier for him to stop for the couple of items than it is for me to go. He's a typical man. A hunter. Locate hunted item, go in the for kill, and leave. It works well for us.

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