How do you choose your grocery store? Is it based on selection? Prices? Convenience? Size? Sales? Redeeming of coupons? If you’re like me, you shop at a number of stores. Each has its advantages and disadvantages; as a frugal shopper you’re probably trying to maximize the gains while minimizing the expenses.
I’d like to share my grocery shopping strategy with you. Of course unless you’ve lived in or visited France, these stores will be unfamiliar to you, but I’ve chosen to talk about categories of stores- the store itself is not that important. (And for your cultural treat of the day, I’ve linked to a few of their websites. If you want to have a virtual French shopping experience, check out the frommage!)
High-end grocery store
These stores are the nicest; they have in-store bakeries, fully stocked wine aisles, lots and lots of selection. Plus, they’re nice to shop in, clean, well organized, with friendly staff and short(ish) lines. Think this is all a dream? Our neighborhood Carrefour is like this. Of course, you end up paying for such lovely surroundings, but I continue to shop there for two reasons. The first is a 5% discount on store brand products, some of which are available much more cheaply than anywhere else, and the second is their line of green cleaning products, again, cheaper than elsewhere.
How do I maximize my spending? I only buy store brands and I usually only shop when there’s a sale going on. Every few months Carrefour will offer thousands of products for half or two thirds off, and then I stock up. Otherwise I try to avoid the place- it’s too expensive!
Mid-range grocery store
There’s another large grocery store chain in France, LeClerc, that I often shop at. The selections aren’t quite as nice nor as extensive as Carrefour, but there is a wide range of products nonetheless. Most importantly, they’re cheaper. I tend to do a lot of my shopping there because of one factor; one of the stores close to me gives â‚¬5 in store credit for every â‚¬50 spent on Thursdays. Last year I saved quite a bit of money this way, nearly â‚¬400.
Low priced grocery store
These are stores like WalMart, that compete solely on price. While we don’t have WalMart here, we have a few rock-bottom priced chains like ED or Lidl. The shopping experience isn’t quite as nice (products are piled high on pallets on the floor for example), but who really cares when you can get such good prices! I buy a lot of staples at these kinds of stores: cat litter, spaghetti sauce or yogurt for example.
Unfortunately, this kind of grocery store isn’t very present in France. How I would love to go to Costco!
Online grocery store
There are a few that I shop at, mostly for the convenience factor. I love being able to shop for groceries in my jammies at 10 pm on a Saturday night (yes, I have nothing better to do than grocery shopping at 10 pm on a Saturday night, sad isn’t it). I love having the groceries delivered to my door. What I don’t love is the lack of selection, nor not being able to pick everything out myself. The last time I ordered groceries online, for example, the oranges weren’t ones I would have chosen myself, and the honey was slightly crystalized. While the shop cheerfully reimbursed my money, it was still a hassle.
One of my favorite online stores however, has a unique proposition; it offers locally produced (and sometimes organic) products from the region in which I live. I love being able to support local businesses, not to mention the ease of being able to buy from multiple producers online.
When shopping at multiple stores, the most important tool is a price book, or at least an understanding of the per unit cost of each item. For example, I know that I can buy regular price diapers for â‚¬.09 per diaper at LeClerc, so when I see them on sale for less I know to stock up. The same goes for all our commonly used products.
Another important tool in the money saving toolbox is the store loyalty card, without which you won’t have access to many of the discounts available. Originally conceived as a way to keep shoppers loyal to one store and one store only, these loyalty cards are now goldmines of data for the companies. But they can be goldmines for the consumer as well, as long as you understand their policies clearly.
I probably rotate through all the above stores on a monthly basis, without a formal pattern. Although it might seem complicated to some, doing so saves me money!
What’s your grocery store strategy? How many stores do you shop at? Are you a member of any of them? Do you use coupons? Let’s hear your money saving food shopping tips!