Monday, August 3, 2009

August Grocery Shopping - Experiments in Saving Money

So as I mentioned in my last post, I am determined to have a better plan heading into August than I did in July - starting with my grocery shopping. Friday night I worked at my part time job then came home and kicked back with my shopping lists, coupons and recipe books to create a menu for snacks and meals for the next couple of weeks. I ended up with a list for the farmer's market, the grocery store and a couple of spices needed from Penzy's. Saturday morning, I hit the farmer's market early. The place was hopping and up to the rafters in beautiful produce. I was thrilled to see that the first ears of corn are hitting the market, which meant I could pick them up and cross the bagged frozen corn off my grocery store shopping list! I love shopping at the market, but I hate the crowds, so I try to make sure that I am well out of there by 9:00 a.m.. Other purchases there included: tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes, cucumbers, parsley and raspberries. Yum!

After the market it was back home for coffee and breakfast (including some of my fresh picked raspberries.) Over coffee I hopped on the computer to see if there were any additional coupons I could get for my shopping list and also peeked at the sale flyers. There were some pretty good deals out there this week! Then it was time to grab my bottle returns, shopping lists, coupons and my calculator and head out the door. The first stop was to Penzy's. I try to buy all my spices there or at other small spice shops. Ounce per ounce, it is frequently less expensive than the megamart, and the quality is much, much higher - not to mention fresher. It is also frugal in another way - I have found that certain Penzy spices (namely cinnamon and cayenne) are so intense that it makes sense to use a little less (up to a third less) in recipes.

After Penzy's it was off to the grocery store, but first I decided to make a little detour and try something new...

Along my route from the spice store to my usual grocery store was a Save-A-Lot. I have never shopped there before, but had heard they were a bit like Aldi... of course, I had never shopped at Aldi before either. But I thought, "Why not?" I had my grocery list in hand and figured I could swing in and see what it was all about - and maybe find a few things for less. Here's what I ended up getting:

- One can of black eyed peas $.59
- Two cans kidney beans, $.59 each
- Two cans of black beans $.69 each
- 3 pound bag of frozen, skinless, boneless chicken breasts $4.99
- One box of aluminum foil, 25' $.79
- Ground turkey $2.69
- One bag of green lentils $.79
- 3 pound bag of yellow onions $1.99
- One red onion $.99 a pound, my onion was $.56
- Plain string-less tea bags $.99

Total - $16.00

These were all things I was planning on getting at my local grocery and none were on sale there, so price-wise, I did quite well. Now the question is quality. I've already cooked with the onions and the lentils and they were great, but it isn't as though there is much in the way of processing there. It will be interesting to see what I think of the meat, tea and canned beans. I will be sure and let you know.

Shopping at Save-A-Lot was interesting. Not all prices were low, milk for example, is cheaper at my megamart. I also noticed they were missing some things that seemed like obvious foods for them to carry - like butter and plain yogurt. On the other hand, they had a lot of Hispanic based foods, including a big endcap devoted to everything you need to make tamales. (This store is located near some Hispanic communities.) In the meat section I noticed a lot of unusual cuts - smoked neck bones and fresh pigs feet, for example. I wondered if they had them because they were relatively cheap pieces of meat, or if they were, like the tamales, a cultural preference of their shoppers. In a way this is an advantage to me - I happened to love tamarind flavored products and can usually only find them in my Middle Eastern market. They had quite a selection at the Save-A-Lot and while I stuck with my shopping list this time, I might give something a try next time.

I will certainly say this in favor of the store - it was clean, well lit, and the people working there were very friendly and helpful. Since I am not a fan of crowds, I also really appreciated the wide aisles and the fact that was pretty quiet compared to most grocery stores. Their selection wasn't a large as a regular grocery, but if I end up being satisfied with the quality, I will certainly go back there again.

What about you? Are you an Aldi or Save A Lot shopper? What do you think?

Photo by: Alicia Griffin


Kari said...

I shop Aldi and Save-A-lot quite a bit. I love the two nearest to me most (I have to really plan when I shop there as they are totally out of my way).

So far the meats I've had there have been good. My Save-A-Lot at least I don't care for the meats at Aldi though. At my Save-A-lot there is butter and plain yogurt and its both really cheap compared unless I get a good sale. I do think I shop mostly meat there and get mostly canned goods/boxed goods at Aldi's.

I do a semi 3 tier system so I go shopping 3-4 times a month but I stop at one store one week, another one the next... always filling up on items needed.

This is in my que of posts to talk about so I will do that son.

Dawn said...

There are a couple of Save-A-Lots that are on my regular route, so I am tempted to check out a different one next time and see if they have different merchandise. I like your idea of a 3 tier system. I tend to make 2 stops each month (one every two weeks or so) to the big grocery store. (I hit the farmer's market every week.) I might start hitting Save-A-Lot each time before I go to the big store, just to pick off what items I can, like I did this week.

Miss M said...

We don't have either store but we do have supermarkets that cater to the hispanic market and they do tend to be cheaper. But, I confess I still shop in the nice part of town at a more expensive store :( I may have to switch soon, prices keep rising faster and faster and I'm having trouble sticking to a budget.

Jessie said...

I havn't heard of either of these stores (Canadian here), but my partner and I routinly try to mix up where we buy groceries so that we can find the best prices overall.

Angelica said...

I shop in neither of them because I live abroad :)

It´s interesting you´ve written about grocery shopping when I was about to ask you to write something on the subject. Could you write some more on food planning and menus? I tried menu planning but it turned out to be a total failure: I plan what I should eat, buy everything, and then always want something else :) Maybe I should base on not what is needed and useful, but what I usually tend to eat. After scrupulous writing down all my expences I discovered I live mostly on fried rice! I was really, really surprised that I eat rice that a lot. Sometimes I cook something else, but I have to kinda force myself. Maybe this month I should use my habits as the guide and buy more rice and some things to cook risotto, paella and the like (a chance to learn to cook them, too) :)

So, could you please dwell some more on your eating habits and menu making? If that´s not a secret you don´t want to tell :)

Dawn said...

Miss M - My megamart store is in a nicer part of town too, and I have been keeping track of prices (on a spreadsheet even) to compare it to other stores. So far, in the overall grocery area, it is doing better than most, but certain things are better elsewhere.

Jessie - They are discount grocery stores. Save-A-Lot says its food is typically 40% less than at regular stores. They have some name brand foods, but a lot of off and odd brands. You have to do your own bagging and the food was out on specially designed crates rather than traditional shelves. It is a little odd to shop there, but not bad.

Angelica - I will be happy to write more about grocery shopping and how I make menus - and how to fight that problem of planning one thing, but wanting something else. Tomorrow I will grab my menu for the week and use that for an example. Thanks for asking!

Frugalchick said...

I am so bad at sticking to the places I prefer instead of venturing out to check other stores. I did check out an asian supermarket last summer, but the prices were quite high. There's a small health food store, though, that I hould really check out. This will be my reminder!

Dawn said...

Frugalchick - glad I could be a reminder... much better than a dire warning! :) I usually stick with my favorite places to shop too, but I have been branching out lately.