As a well-known bargain hunter, I’m often asked, “How do you do save so much money?” (I’m also asked, “Are you a model or do you just look like one?” [insert laughter] Does anyone else remember those Barbizon School of Modeling commercials?) I’ve been a “cheapskate” for so long that it’s just become second-nature for me to always find a deal. I strive to save, at least, 75% on my grocery bill and I’m usually successful — sometimes even hitting upwards of 90% off. (On the rare occasion, I have hit the most-coveted 100% off. However, it’s typically on a few select items, such as shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste or soap.)
To me, it’s just one big game: They’re trying to get my money and I’m trying to keep my money. There’s no better feeling than walking out of the grocery store with several bags, knowing you’ve only spent $20 or so on $100 worth of groceries. (It might help that I have a bit of a photographic memory. I can match up coupons with sale prices rather quickly.) Okay, I’m boring you now. Are you ready for my #1 tip? (Drum roll, please.)
You cannot be brand-loyal or store-loyal. You must go to the savings — meaning you cannot expect to shop at one store, always buy the same detergent (for example) and get the best savings. I shop several stores each week for the best deals on specific items, including Target, Walgreens, Rite Aid, King Soopers and Safeway. (I like Albertsons, too, but it’s a bit trickier because they have so few locations.)
I know, I know. The first response I get is that it’s too much time and a waste of gas. Not so, if you plan ahead. I make my shopping list for each store based on its weekly circular and my coupons. Then, map out my errand route to ensure I’m not backtracking.
Now, this requires focus — you cannot get distracted. That’s why I usually shop solo and on a full stomach. I’m in and out at each stop in about 20 minutes, so my entire trip takes a few hours. Of course, it helps to shop in the morning or late evening to avoid long check-out lines. (You can also save time and gas by taking advantage of price-matching policies at select stores, namely Target and Walmart. There are no grocery stores that price match, as far as I know.)
As for not being brand-loyal, my shopping list is solely based on what’s on sale and what coupons are available. If one week Tide is on sale, that’s what I buy. However, if next week Gain is on sale, that’s what’s in my cart. In my opinion, most national brands are the same quality and get the same results. (This is the part where others disagree.)
Unless you have an allergy or specific health needs, you just need to break away from all the marketing noise or family traditions. (I know people that buy a specific brand for no other reason than that’s what they grew up using.) If you’re not a regular bargain hunter, it takes practice. However, once you see the savings add up, you’ll be hooked. Trust me.
Do you have any tips for saving money in the grocery aisle?
I look forward to our next chat. And, remember, there’s always a deal, you just need to look for it. :-)