I’m going to share with you a few of my favorites, why I shop at a handful of stores instead of just one, what I look for in each of them, and which ones have the best non-sale prices. I also have some tips for you to get good coupons for the foods you actually eat.
Location Location LOCATION
You may have learned from previous posts that we live in the middle of nowhere. The closest grocery is 12 miles away, but it isn’t one we frequent. It is a very small, high priced, kinda unclean chain store like you’d find in any small town in a low population county. On top of that, because this is a rural area with many farms and old homes with large yards, there isn’t much of a demand for farmers’ markets. Our best bet is to drive the 40 minutes into the closest city to find the large chain stores and high-traffic farmers’ markets.
Luckily, I am a stay-at-home mom who has the time and inclination to prepare for a day of major shopping. I take the time to go through all the sale ads, seek and cut all the coupons, plan out a whole day of leaving the house with Angel Baby and hitting all my stores, and stocking up on everything we need in just two or three trips to the city per month.
Not everyone has this luxury. Not everyone needs it, either. I mean, if you live in town with a decent (or 3-5 decent) store, you don’t need a whole day like I do. Well, a whole two days: the nap on a Thursday for ad-checking and coupon-clipping and the bulk of the day Friday to drive to town then visit three or four stores, including stopping somewhere for lunch. This is an outing for us, people!
The Stores of the City
The places I regularly shop in my nearby city: Payless (Kroger)*, Target Supercenter, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, D and R Meat Market, Aldi’s, and yes, WalMart Supercenter. There are some little “nature’s markets” that I pop into on rare occasions, but they tend to have great local produce options during peak seasons. (Sometimes Kroger has little signs up around their produce department to inform shoppers that those items are grown by local farmers.)
Online Sale Ads and Coupons
Before you really, truly begin your shopping excursion, take the time to think of all your favorite brands. Then find their websites (yep, they all have one). If they have an email list or club or any sort of program, sign up for it. I regularly get coupons in my emails from Horizon and Kashi**, among others.
Next, consider where you regularly shop and if they have a shopper’s program. Be signed up for the programs or have the cards. Then set up your account for that store/program/card online. For instance, Kroger has their Plus card. They also have this great benefit where you can load digital coupons to your card from their website. No coupon clipping!
Then, go to the websites of each of the stores you regularly visit. Find their weekly (or monthly or seasonal) sale ads. I haven’t come across a store yet that doesn’t post their ads on their website. Figure out what day of the week the sale ads change. For instance, the Fresh Thyme Farmers’ Market nearby has double ad Thursdays where their ads run Thursday to Thursday, overlapping the previous ad for one day. Target’s ad changes on Sunday and Kroger’s changes on Thursday. Aldi’s weekly ads start on Wednesdays PLUS has “special buys” for Wednesdays only. Check all the ads for all your stores on whatever day makes most sense for you.
Last, get your coupons together and organize your shopping list. This is how I do it:
- I write down everything on our “need” list. Then I write down everything on our “stock up list.”
- I look through each sale ad and write down the good deals on produce and the things we usually purchase. I keep in mind all the items on the list I already made.
- I scan through the digital coupons on the various rewards sites. I check my email for any coupons that may have been sent to me from the companies I signed up for.
- I visit Coupons.com where I have an account, and select and print the coupons that correspond with all the above lists.
- I write a whole new list where I have the store, what I’ve getting at that store, and what coupons go with that stores’ items… this makes the actually shopping process (with Angel Baby not enjoying the ride in the cart) a heck of a lot easier and faster.
Got it? Let’s go buy some food!
What and Where
I had a friend*** express confusion over why I would run all over town and spend a whole day going to multiple stores when she can visit just one in an afternoon and get everything she needs… without dragging her kids in and out of their car seats and burning gas and time.
Yes, supermarkets exist. Sadly, I do not have one of those fabulous stores nearby offering all that we need and want. The first two parts of this Healthy Eating series ought to have explained plenty about our food preferences…and probably hinted at how you’ve got to search for the good stuff. This is why I recommend paying attention to your family’s eating habits, what’s in your cupboards, and how much space you really have; then buy in bulk. Try to purchase at least two weeks’ of groceries at a time to cut down on time spent driving and buying.
No more confusion: we can’t get what we want and need at one location. Ergo, all the driving around and spending an hour one day and half of the next day to think about, research about, then purchase our food. Note that I said “purchase” our food after thinking about it rather than just jotting down a few necessities on a list and rushing off to “shop” at a supermarket. Healthy Eating = Thoughtful Eating.
If you’ve made it this far into my blog, you know that WalMart doesn’t carry every last little thing we consume. It may for some people, but not for people as conscientious as us in regards to what we put in and on our bodies. Without further ado, I present to you a short list of what we get and where I find it for the best prices.
I am lucky to have two of these in The City, one on each side of town. They do carry a pretty wide selection of certified organic products, mainly in the dry and canned goods sections. They do not accept coupons, but their prices are quite low without them. I like their Simply Nature Organic salsas, marinara, cereals, canned tomatoes, boxed crackers and cookies for Angel Baby, frozen fruits, and boxed pasta. The almond milk Aldi’s carries is not organic but the best “everyday priced” in town. Every once in a while, with sales and coupons, Kroger or WalMart has their brand cheaper, but if not, I get mine at Aldi’s. And I tend to buy 2 to 3 gallons at a time. If I pay attention to my pantry and fridge space, I can easily go to Aldi’s only once a month to get what I need. Nothing against their produce in quality, I do not by Aldi’s organic produce purely on the fact that it has always been cheaper elsewhere.
It is a local joint. We have learned their sales patterns and know which week (every fifth) they put their ground chuck on sale Buy-5-lbs-Get-1-lb-Free. We get the same amount of beef, chicken, and pork each visit and know how much will get us through those 5 weeks until the next sale. We are blessed with a chest freezer that I keep organized (see post about that).
They used to keep all of their certified organic stuff in one area, but lately they’ve been moving things out to the rest of the store. For instance, the cage free and organic eggs are now over with all the other eggs; the organic orange juice they carry is now over with all the other ojs. The organic produce selection has been slowly getting bigger and better in the years we’ve been thoughtfully seeking healthier foods. What we buy here all depends on what’s on sale and what I have coupons for (both digital and paper). I like the regular sales they have on organic cereals, beverages, snacks like tortilla chips and potato chips, and eggs. They have a great “everyday price” on their organic ketchup, too. I recently was able to get 5 boxes of Cascadian Farms organic cereals for a little under $2 a box, between their buy-5-get-$3-off sale, one digital coupon, and two paper coupons. Regularly, one of the major brands of boxed organic macaroni and cheese goes on sale at Kroger 10/$10. Yes, I buy 10 boxes of it at a time. I love it and I have a toddler. Enough said. (Again, watch their sale ads. Get your coupons. Pay attention and you can get your paper goods for great prices using their buy-x-get-x-off. I think my toilet paper is the cheapest around…for the good stuff!)
Hands down, their condiments are the best priced. They also have the big brand organic mac and cheese on sale for 10/$10 from time to time, but more often than not, they’ve got it 4/$5 (not the same). I make the baby wipes we use POST HERE and can say the best paper towel for the job is Target’s Up and Up select-a-size. This is where Cartwheel comes in handy (if you have a non-Windows smartphone… you can access Cartwheel on a Windows Phone but you will get severely aggravated trying to use it). Our local Target doesn’t carry organic produce and their other organic items are kinda few and far between. There isn’t much I buy food-wise from Target anymore. However, they’ve currently got the best “everyday price” on organic wheat in 5 lb packages (and sometimes Cartwheel has a code for 5% off).
Oh, hells, yeah. This is what I’m talking about. It is small so easy to navigate without getting exhausted. They have bulk bins of so many dry goods and a lot are organic options. Their organic produce hasn’t disappointed me yet. If you aren’t lucky enough to have one of these nearby, I bet you have Trader Joe’s or some such. I don’t. And Fresh Thyme is relatively new to us, but it’s thyming couldn’t have been better! For real, it was being built around the same time as we started down this thoughtfully sought path. Talk about serendipity! Depending on their sale ads, I may or may not go straight to produce then straight to check out. Sometimes the bulk goods are all 20% off; sometimes their frozen fruit is half off; sometimes they have my favorite chips on sale and I have a coupon. Just know that for me, this is where I usually get my organic produce and bulk goods like raisins, brown rice, oats, and maybe quinoa or lentils.
I’ll keep this short: cage free eggs, almond milk if I have coupons, Wild Oats salad dressing, Cabot extra sharp cheddar cheese, and organic cereal if it isn’t on sale anywhere else. They’ve got the best “everyday price” for boxes of Kashi and Cascadia Farms.
I know, it’s a lot to take it at once. Especially if you read all 3 (4) parts of this series in one sitting. Start with the store you regularly go to, be it a grocery or a supercenter. Learn their ropes. Then add another store, like a local meat market or even another supercenter. Get an idea of how you work around a sale ad then walk through a store. Get a grasp on what coupons and locations work best for you.
You are on your own thoughtfully sought path; this series is just showing you the path we are on. Take it slow. You are breaking a bad habit after all.
Don’t give up. Don’t get discouraged. And for the love of God and your miraculous machine of a body, do not tell yourself it isn’t worth it. It is. Your body will thank you… and then your mind and soul will recognize how grateful they are as well. You will be repaid in health and happiness, I promise.
Ok, maybe not “promise.” My disclaimer: I’m not a professional, I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not an MD, I’m not a nurse or someone who can give you medical advice… I’m a liberal arts major with a masters in library sciences who stays at home with her toddler and wants the best, most nutritious foods for her family. That’s all I am: somebody thoughtfully seeking how to do everything BETTER.
Feel free to leave comments about where you find the best deals and what you’ve learned through trial and error. Also, I answer questions, so fire ‘em at me.
*Payless is one of the Kroger Company’s babies. As a girl from Indianapolis, I call them all Kroger. Most people just get it; others look at me like I’m stupid and actually correct me by saying, “Payless.” I’m not stupid, I’m stubborn. (No comments on that sentence, please.)
**Not all of Kashi’s products are organic or nonGMO. Like I’ve said, READ THE LABELS!
***My SAHM-bestie, to be precise. Every one who stays home, whether you have kids or you work from home, needs a friend who also stays at home. This is about maintaining sanity, people, as much as it is about maintaining a social network.