I'm not one to hop from store to store looking for the greatest deal, and I'm not interested in spending my free time pouring over coupons or ads to save a few quarters. Between work and chores, grocery shopping is something that needs to be done as efficiently as possible. My solution until now has been to shop at Aldi for pretty much all our groceries, with an occasional jaunt elsewhere for the few things we can't get at Aldi.
That said, I, like everyone else, get the mailings from Kroger, Meijer, Marsh, etc with their weekly deals. I look over what they're advertising and think, "Wow! That looks like a great deal!" But, then, I slow down, and think, "Do I KNOW that's a great deal? I mean, I haven't the slightest idea what that costs at Aldi. It could be that price or less all the time! Is it worth stopping at the second store?" I've fallen for the flyers a few times, but I mostly resist.
After enough of these conversations with myself, I broke down and did it: This weekend, I started a price book. I had been reading all over about the importance of having one of these, and I never bothered to make one. Every now & then, I'd reference Amy's Aldi price book, but I figured those prices were approximate, since grocery prices change over time & location. I wanted my very own! Well, this weekend, Sunday evening, I did it. I only wrote down things we buy regularly (where shopping a sale somewhere else & stocking up would make sense). Saving money on pie crusts or ice cream isn't worth a trip anywhere, since I wouldn't buy them otherwise, and only buy them very occasionally, with a specific purpose in mind. Of course, if they were in the house, I'd eat them, but that just means I'm eating more, not that I'm saving money.
I'd also read some lately about shopping & buying in bulk. Thanks to my mother, we have a Costco membership, and, except for a few things, have really not found a way to use it very well. I hope, when we have a bit more storage space (and a chest freezer) we'll be able to use it more efficiently. Costco wasn't far from Aldi, so I wrote down a few items there, just to compare- because it's always less expensive to buy in bulk, right?
Here's the results.
What did I learn?
- It's not always cheaper to buy in bulk. This surprised me. Aldi's business model allows them to price items below even the "economy of scale" prices at Costco. Without my price book, I would never have known this.
- Quality matters. Even though, for example, dishwasher soap at Aldi is cheaper, I bought some at Costco a while back and discovered it works better, so I use less of it. Yes, it costs twice as much per ounce, but I'm seriously probably using half as much, and coming out with cleaner dishes, so the price evens out.
- I cannot buy things in bulk that I will not use in bulk. A huge container of salsa from Costco may or may not be cheaper, but it would take us forever to get through (and would go bad in the meantime). This is true of many items. Non-perishable and frozen items, this isn't (as much) an issue, except for storage space. Also, there is the consideration of using-it-just-because-its-there. If I buy Oreos, we'll eat them, sure, but we won't miss them if I don't. If I buy soda in bulk, we'll get through them, but we'll drink more soda, just because they're in the house.
- I can now confidently decide if the deals on the mailers are worth my time. This is what I'm most excited about. Some people just know what things cost, in their heads. I haven't been doing this long enough, so I've written them down. Now I'll know whether a "sale" is really a sale, or if a coupon is really going to be worth holding on to. I am vehement about not buying things "just because they're on sale", but actually considering if its something I need, and whether the sale is worth it.
I'm always learning, right? Lately over at Sunflowers in my Kitchen, I've posted a couple recipes with cost breakdowns, so I can see the price of these meals per-person. Doing this is kind of a fun exercise- and a great motivation to keep eating at home!