I live in a small town now, so I’ve had to get more serious about sticking to my grocery budget. I used to be able to shop at one store to get all the best prices. That’s no longer the case, but here’s how I discovered the best deals in my town. (Hint: shopping multiple stores!)
I’m in a small town, UT, and there are 3 grocery stores. We have a Walmart Supercenter, a Smith’s, and a smaller, local grocery store. After one trip to Walmart, I knew I’d need to shop around and make sure I was getting the best deals. Some things at Walmart really aren’t that cheap!
I made a price comparison chart on the top things I buy. (Yes, it was tedious.)
If you have more than 3 stores, then I’d choose the 3 closest to where you live or your 3 favorites. If you live in a small town, then maybe you don’t even have 3! In making my chart, I chose my most common purchases in the categories of my shopping list (produce, meat, dairy, etc.). I then went to all the stores and compared. I soon discovered that the small, local store doesn’t have the cheapest prices on anything except for overripe bananas, so I will never really shop there unless there is an advertised sale that’s a really good deal.
Making the chart gave me a basic enough idea of what’s cheapest where in order for me to make my first shopping trip. During my trip, I noted all the aisles in the two stores. I also compared further on some items that I hadn’t before.
Tips for making your own grocery list:
1. Arrange stuff you buy by aisles. You will never have to backtrack again (unless they move everything around!) Walmart just did this to me in 2019, but I redid my list without too much trouble.
2. Make the list according to the store you shop at most. 80% of my purchases are from Walmart, so I set up the list according to their aisles. I put the Smith’s aisles in parentheses and underlined things that are always cheaper at Smith’s.
3. Check the sales the week you go shopping. I get free flyers in the mail, so if something is really cheap at Smith’s, I note that on my list by underlining that item and writing the sale price off to the side.
4. Consider a food co-op for produce. In the Intermountain West (plus a few other states), we have Bountiful Baskets. Since produce costs about 30% more here than in did in Idaho yet Bountiful Baskets cost the same, I am most definitely saving money on my produce!
Update in 2019: Bountiful Baskets are no longer available in my area. 🙁
5. Get the store card. It fits on your key chain and you gotta have it to get the sale price. Some people complain, but hey, at least it’s free to get one. Store cards also track your purchases so they can send you customized coupons, which it definitely a good thing.
6. Never assume that one store has the cheapest of everything in a category. Like I said, I got a good general idea for my first shopping trip, but I’m really glad I checked further! Sometimes, Smith’s has a cheaper version simply because Walmart only sells the name brand of the same product.
Another update in 2019: My shopping trip to Walmart every other week is so big now that I alternate weeks with Smith’s. When I go to Smith’s, I take all the coupons they send me in the mail, put them in order by aisles, and use those as my list. I also check for sales, marked down bread, and marked down produce. I usually save about 50% on my total bill this way.