Groceries: Choosing the right store

I don’t know how it is in your neck of the woods, but where I live there are six grocery stores within a few miles of my house. Plus, we have warehouse clubs and stores like Wal-Mart and Target that sell groceries. It’s hard to decide where to shop. Well, in order to make the right decisions, you need to do a little research.

First, I’m not a huge fan of traveling a great distance to buy your groceries unless you have to. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a grocery store within a few miles of their home. If you are one of the lucky ones, like me, you have a lot of choices close by. With the price of gas predicted to start going up again in the spring, the savings you might get driving a long distance may not be worth it. Plus, factor in the time it takes to get there. Try to stay close to home.

Figure out what is important to you to have in a grocery store. Do you buy a lot of organic products? How about ethnic foods? Are you a fan of prepared foods? Do you like having your bank inside your grocery store? There are a ton of different factors that make someone choose one store over another.  I personally do the majority of my shopping at two grocery stores. Both of them have a good produce department and decent sales. The difference between the two stores is price. One of these stores has awesome sales every few weeks (buy 1, get 2 free and buy 1, get 1 free), but their regular priced items are expensive. I don’t tend to buy regular priced items unless for a special occasion but I wouldn’t buy them there. The other store has decent sales and a lot of items on sale each week. Typically, I do not go to both stores  each week. I’ll pick the store with the better sale and that’s where I shop. Some weeks I don’t go to either store and instead head to my local bargin basement, no frills store.

That reminds me. There are a few different types of grocery stores out there:

There are your no frills, no ads stores (Aldi, PriceRite). These stores do not have ads in the papers on the weekends. It’s difficult to do all of your grocery shopping there, but you can get some incredible deals. The stores are not pretty or flashy.  Most of the products are store brand, but I’ve only ever disliked one item I’ve purchased that was their brand. Great for stocking up on staples. Most of these stores do not take coupons.

There are you typical grocery stores with ads and pretty displays. They take coupons. Most have delis, meat counters, prepared food, pharmacies, and 800 different brands of ketchup.

There are also stores like Wal-Mart and Target that are not supercenters but have a grocery section. Some of the prices are really good. I use these stores for items that don’t go on sale at the grocery store, like Little Debbie Snacks, which are discounted at the Wal-Mart. Check it out next time you go. The cereal prices are also very good at these stores. Both Wal-Mart and Target accept coupons. These are also good places to by cleaning and health and beauty items.

When picking a store, make sure you know the in’s and out’s of doing business there. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Do they double coupons? If so, what is the limit? In my area, stores double coupons up to 99 cents. It’s very rare to get a coupon for less than $1 here.
  • Do they accept internet printed coupons?
  • How about competitor’s coupons (some stores do)?
  • Do I need a rewards card? There are very few stores that don’t make you sign up for one now.
  • Are there any additions rewards for shopping here? A few of my local stores have gasoline rewards. One store gives out coins for discounted items and coupons for your next trip ($5 of a $40 purchase next week). It can make a huge difference in your shopping bill.
  • Do you have coupons in your circular? If so, how do I get that circular? The ones in the stores are usually different than the ones you get in the paper. The ones in the stores don’t have the coupons.
  • What day does your sale start? We’ve got stores here that start Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Make sure you know if your sales are still valid.

There may be other questions you think of as well (I’d love to see them in the comments). Call the store or stop by the customer service booth at the store to ask your questions. Make a list of all the responses and see which store is the best for you. Remember, I shop at three different stores on a regular basis, plus one of my local warehouse clubs.

Don’t forget that Sunday, March 8th is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. You’ll want to spring your clocks ahead one hour before going to bed on Saturday night. Also, check your smoke detectors and CO2 monitors to make sure they are working correctly. It’s supposed to get into the 60’s this weekend in Connecticut. I’m so tired of the cold.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.