In most places in the United States, there's at least one grocery store that can supply most of your grocery needs at a good price. In New England, I used to shop at Stop & Shop or Shaw's. In California, I prefer Safeway. On a rare visit to Florida, there's a Publix. For the most part these stores are interchangeable. One or two might have better deals depending on your prefences, but they are minor. From when I started shopping on my own until about four years ago, I did about 98% of my shopping at these places, until I found a better place to shop. In the last two months, I have found yet another place better than that. What is the grocery store hierarchy when it comes to "expensiveness"? Read on...
- Convenience Store - This is the place that might be just across the street. They'll happy sell you a 12-pack of soda for $6 when you might be able to get it a grocery store for $3. It kills me to shop here, but with gas being expensive, if you only need one item, it might be worth it. I try to plan ahead to avoid the convenience store
- High-end Gourmet Stores - Whole Foods is probably the best well known, but there's a Draeger's near me that bills itself as "an Epicurean Adventure." You are paying more at these places but you often get more as well. Much of the food is organic and/or of the best quality. For some people this is a fair trade and I respect their decision... it's just not for me.
- Standard Grocery Store - These are the ones that I mentioned in the opening paragraph. You can usually find some good prices, weekly specials, and a variety of generic foods that are just as good as the brand name. Where I've lived there has always been at least two competing stores. I usually find that I like one much better.. doing 70% of my standard grocery shopping there. The other has occasional deals which make up the remaining 30% of this category.
- Bulk Wholesale Stores - These are your typical warehouse stores: Costco, Sam's Club, or B.J.'s (a New England chain). You can get some good values here, but the problem is always the bulk. Do you really need a keg of ketchup? Most people don't. Whenever I go to Costco, there's always something that I didn't plan on buying that finds it's way into my cart.
- Wal-Mart - This is the tip that four years ago changed how I shop. In Boston, Wal-Mart hadn't really made a name for itself. There are some in the suburbs, but it's not like the rest of the US, where it is THE place to shop. I was surprised when my friend said that started carrying groceries. I was more surprised about the prices. I could pick a case of Sam's Club soda (the 24 pack) for $3.96. I know it doesn't taste the same as Coke or Pepsi, but for the price it stretched my dollar more than ever before. All the generic foods are good and the prices are right.
- Military Commissaries - My wife and I have been together for more than 4 years now. Though we stop at military bases a few times a year on vacation and such, we never went into the military commissary. She said that it wasn't that great a value and the hours are limited. I believed her until a couple of months ago when we went to San Deigo. We stayed the base and my wife used the car to get to the professional conference she was attending. That left me alone to fend for myself.I was shocked at the prices in the commissary... Hamburger Helper for 75 cents, 93% lean hamburger for $1.89 (even in small one pound packages). Earlier in the month, I bought some Snow's Clam Chowder for $3 a can at a grocery store... 99 cents at the military commissary. There a military commissary about 20 minutes from my house. Yes, I buy my groceries where Google parks it's airplanes... I never would have thought. I wish more of you could take advantage of this deal, but you need to be in the military. If you are in the military, don't miss out on these savings like I did.
Where do you shop? Did I miss a place? Let me know in the comments....
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