Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thrift Shopping

I'm headed back to New York today, and, while I can't wait to get home and see JM, I will certainly miss how well taken care of I am when I am home visiting my parents. Instead of iced sparkling water delivered to me in the hot tub by my mom, I'll be back to self-poured tap by the kitchen sink. Instead of lovely meals prepared by other people, I will be back at my three-meal-a-day cooking regimen. And, most unappealing of all, instead of "placing an order" as my dad runs out the door to the store, I'll be back into my old daily grocery-store routine. Especially around the holidays, when the markets jack up their prices, grocery shopping can be a daunting and expensive venture, and is never my favorite part of the day. Far too often, I have ducked into the store to grab some chicken breasts for dinner, and left with twenty bags cutting off the circulation to my hands and a receipt longer than my arm and my leg (and costing as much). It's easy to justify these costs as things we "need", but truthfully, there is no reason a family of two needs to spend our future children's college tuition on groceries. Could we spend less? Aisle say!
Happily, I have developed a few strategies to help cut costs at the grocery store, and, in the spirit of holiday giving, I will share them with you. If I play my cards right, these little changes could add up to a big chunk of change. Hopefully one big enough to cover two plane tickets back here in January. Warm up the hot tub, mom!

Make a List: When I go to the grocery store with a list of the items I need written down, I end up spending about 50% of what I spend when I go in without one. It makes me feel like an idiot that I make this mistake again and again, but it is marginally comforting to know that statistics show that everyone else makes the same mistake over and over again, too. Don't be an idiot like me: Always make a list and stick to it.
Shop Around: I go to two different grocery stores- the nice one and the gross one. At the gross one, I buy everything that is packaged, boxed, canned or bottled, as well as laundry detergent and paper towels (personal goods like toothpaste and shampoo are always cheaper from the drug store). At the nice store, I buy fresh meats and produce, which are worth the splurge. But, I have noticed that the same brands of canned beans and jams are sometimes $2-4 more at the nice store than they are at the gross store. For savings like that, I can tolerate aisles that smell like ammonia and surly checkout girls.
Price Check: Always look at the cost per unit (CPU) price of packaged goods, which is usually printed on the shelf label beside the net price. Bigger containers aren't always cheaper than small ones, and sometimes there are surprising price discrepancies between two equally "good" brands. And consider store brands for basics, like flour or rice- you will never know the difference (but your credit card will).
Prep Your Own Produce: As I have mentioned before, it pays to avoid the pre-cut or packaged produce. By simply spending a few minutes after your shopping to wash lettuce and cut up fruit, you can save a ton of money, and end up with fresher food. That's what we in the business call a win-win, people.

Photo credit:

No comments: