Let’s Go Shopping with Heather

 Posted by on August 5, 2010  Add comments  Tagged with:
Aug 052010

(Fans of the Tightwad Gazette might recognize that I borrowed this title).

Since writing about our July food expenditures, and my price benchmarks for grocery shopping, I’ve received quite a few e-mails. Most were from people who wanted to learn more, but a couple expressed skepticism about the prices I claim to find, or great distaste for the idea of shopping at several stores to get the best deals, because who has time to do all that?

It’s OK. The way that I shop and plan meals is not for everyone, but I wrote about it because I was asked to. As with everything on this blog, take what you can use, and ignore the rest. Also, it’s worth noting that I live in the Midwest, in an agricultural state. We produce a lot of food here, and food prices tend to be lower because transportation costs are lower. Food prices vary geographically, and it’s for this very reason that I encourage you to create your own price books, and determine your own price benchmarks.

For those who asked for more information about how I put my smart shopping principles into action, I documented my grocery shopping trip last night. Before I left, I spent 15 minutes reading the sale flyers for the two grocery stores that I like to shop at, comparing sale prices to the recorded prices in my price book, and clipping store coupons.

I also went through my Savings Notebook to see if I had any manufacturer’s coupons that I could combine with store coupons or sales. I made a list for each store, indicating the items I wanted to purchase, including brand, size, quantity and price. If the item required a coupon, I made an asterisk next to it.

I drove 20 minutes to the city, arriving at 8:40 P.M. My first stop was Fareway, a grocery chain unique to the Midwest, and my favorite place to purchase meat. Here’s what I bought:

Wheat cottage bread, (6) 20-ounce loaves at .88 each – $5.28
Boneless rump roast, approx. 9 1/2 pounds at $1.99/lb – $18.83
Smuckers grape jelly, 32-ounce jar – .97
Dole baby carrots, (2) 16-ounce packages at .77 each – $1.54
AE lemonade, 2 half-gallon containers at .78 each – $1.56
Generic oxygen stain remover, (2) 16-ounce containers at $1.00 each – $2.00
Sales tax – .25
Total – $30.43

This store visit took exactly 20 minutes. I then went across the street to HyVee, a store that I visit every week, only to purchase their terrific sale items. If you’re a local reader with kids in school, I encourage you to pay HyVee a visit this week, because they’re having a terrific sale on school supplies:

Here, I purchased:

MCF 1% cottage cheese, (2) 24-ounce containers at $1.68 each – $3.36
MCF 6-pack peach applesauce, (4) at .99 each (my kids love this stuff) – $3.96
MCF tomato sauce, (4) 8-ounce cans at .28 each – $1.12
MCF sugar, 4 lbs – free with store coupon
Van Camp’s Pork and Beans, 15-ounce can – .19 with store coupon
Top Ramen, 10 packages – $1 with store coupon
Starkist tuna, 5-ounce can – .39 with store coupon
MCF apple juice, 64-ounce bottle – .88 with store coupon
HyVee cinnamon applesauce, 24-ounce jar – .88 with store coupon
Distilled water (for my Shark Mop), 2 gallons at .50 each with store coupon – $1.00
Huggies diapers (for travel and nighttime), (2) 96-count boxes. These were on sale for $18.88 each. I applied a $3.50/2 manufacturer’s coupon, and a $5/$25 store coupon – $29.26
Crayola crayons, (2) 24-ct boxes at .19 each (the glue sticks were all gone!) – .38
Sales tax – $2.32
Total – $44.74

This store visit took 30 minutes. I then drove a few blocks to Wal-Mart, and bought 3 spools of thread for my husband, who is working his way through our giant mending pile (because he’s awesome!), and some materials for a project I’m working on. I was there for about 20 minutes. Then I went home.

You’ll notice that I bought only what I considered to be the best bargains at each store. I can do this because I buy items in bulk when they’re cheap, and shop to replenish my pantry – not to make specific meals. I currently have in stock 7 boxes of cereal, 6 boxes of spaghetti, 6 packages of shredded cheddar, 20 pounds of rice, 8 pounds of butter, etc. – all purchased at great prices – so I don’t need to purchase these kinds of staples every week.

Also, because I did some planning before I left home, my entire shopping trip took only one hour and 50 minutes (40 minutes of it was spent driving). Of course, if my children had been with me, this trip would have taken 3 hours or more, which brings me to another smart shopping tip, and I think all of you Moms will back me up on this one…

Leave the kids at home!