My Grocery Shopping Secrets:
Where to Shop and What to Buy
Part 5: The Master Guide to Freezer Meals
This is Part 5 of a series of posts that explain in detail how I stock my deep freeze every 3 months. Here are links to other posts in this series:
We’re now getting ready for your BIG shopping trip! So, let’s talk about PRACTICAL ways you can save money. As I mentioned previously, I don’t typically use coupons. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing like an episode of “Extreme Couponing” to ignite a burning urge to get a binder, a good pair of scissors, and all the newspaper inserts you can find; but in all practicality, to me, couponing isn’t worth the investment. First of all, to get good at couponing, people usually take courses or spend hours researching the best methods. Then it takes hours upon hours to find the coupons and on top of that, couponing limits what you can buy at the store, with most coupons being for processed foods. Therefore, I don’t see it as a valuable use of my time or money. Instead, I typically spend my time comparing numbers from different stores, so I generally know where the best prices are for high quality products. Do I get my toothpaste for free like many couponers? No, but I don’t typically pay the highest price either.
Currently I do almost all my shopping at 3 stores: Walmart, Sam’s Club and Aldi. Before I had kids, I used to shop at 6 grocery stores! I know that sounds crazy, but on average I saved 30-40% at each store! During this time, I would go through the ads of all the stores while I was planning my meals. I’d make sure to incorporate as many items from the ads as I possibly could. This process was exhausting; I spent quite a bit of time looking through all the ads and then quite a bit of time shopping. After a few years of this, I now realize that Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Aldi generally have the lowest prices for most items. In fact, during the time when I was shopping at all those stores, I typically found that the “sale” prices at other grocery stores were identical (or very close) to the everyday prices at Walmart. I basically decided the time I spent driving to each of those stores and standing in various checkout lines was not worth it. Not to mention, you can always use price matching at Walmart or the Savings Catcher app to save money!
So let’s talk about what I buy at each store. I’ll start by saying if you don’t have a Sam’s Club or Aldi nearby, I would suggest buying everything at Walmart. You can always price match other stores in the area (or as mentioned, use the Savings Catcher).
If you have all three of these stores in proximity to you, here’s a detailed explanation of how I decide what to buy where. First and foremost, I buy everything I can at Sam’s Club. (One tip for shopping at Sam’s Club is to use their FREE Club Pickup service. You order your groceries the night before and schedule a 2 hour window the next day when you want to pick them up! This completely eliminates impulse buys and saves time!) At Sam’s Club the prices are generally a little lower than Walmart and because most things I buy have long expiration dates (or never expire), I find buying in bulk to be the best deal.
- Paper Products – I buy the Member’s Mark (store brand) paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, and tissues. The quality of these products is awesome, as well as the price. For comparison, if you buy the Bounty brand paper towels from Sam’s Club, the price is nearly double that of Member’s Mark paper towels.
- Dishwasher pods – I buy the Member’s Mark dishwasher pods. They are just the powdered dish detergent in a dissolvable plastic seal.
- Dishsoap – I buy the Member’s Mark liquid dish soap.
- Laundry Detergent and Fabric Softener – I buy the Member’s mark HE Laundry Detergent and fabric softener. In my experience, this laundry detergent works really well. You do not want to buy laundry detergent based only on price because you want to make your clothes last as long as possible!
- Stain Remover – I buy Shout stain remover, which comes with both a normal sized spray bottle, refill bottle, and hose with sprayer. Based on how much Shout I use (to get all the stains out of my boys’ clothes), I probably should’ve invested in the company years ago.
- Fresh Meat – I buy all our fresh meat at Sam’s Club. Staples in our house include beef chuck roasts, ground beef (90:10), chicken breasts, and ground turkey.
- Turkey Bacon – I buy the 3 pack of Oscar Meyer turkey bacon.
- Frozen Diced Chicken Breasts – We top the salad kits mentioned below with Tyson diced chicken breasts to make quick and easy lunches.
- Salad Kits – I cannot express how much I LOVE the Taylor Farms salad kits at Sam’s Club. The kit includes the greens, various toppings (nuts, cranberries, wontons, etc) and dressing. The selection changes, but I’ve consistently seen an Asian salad, cranberry kale salad, and stir fry kit. All of them are awesome!
- Produce –The prices for Sam’s Club produce aren’t as low as Aldi’s, but I find the shelf life at home to be significantly longer.
- Eggs – I buy the box of 7.5 dozen eggs. You cannot open the box in store (well not easily), but I’ve bought 3 boxes and never had a broken egg.
- Milk – I buy our milk at Sam’s Club (or Aldi), their prices are typically lower than Walmart.
- Butter – The 4 pack of Member’s Mark butter is a great price.
- Chocolate Chips – The gigantic bag of Nestle’ chocolate chips is a great price.
- Frozen Veggies – Sam’s Club sells big bags of steamable veggies that contain 4-6 smaller bags of veggies inside. For example, they sell a 1 lb bag of broccoli that contains 4 bags.
- Frozen Foods – We stock up on the Sandwich Brothers Chicken Flatbread Melts and Mesquite Chicken Breasts for quick lunches when we don’t have time to pack one. We also buy Eggo Waffles, Member’s Mark French Toast Sticks, and Jimmy Dean Egg White Sandwiches for quick breakfasts.
- Bread – I buy our tortillas, hamburger/hoagie buns and sandwich bread at Sam’s Club. They have a variety of brands and the prices are lower than Walmart.
- Protein Powder – We buy the Muscletech protein powder for quick breakfasts.
- Wet Cat Food – I buy the canned Friskies cat food from Sam’s Club, it beats the price of the same product in smaller quantities at Walmart.
- Baby Formula – The Member’s Mark baby formula is the VERY BEST price for formula I’ve ever found. Better than Costco, Walmart, or even the Target brand during sales.
Shopping at Walmart:
Basically anything not on the above list gets purchased from Walmart during my big shopping trip. Things I routinely buy at Walmart include lunch meat, cheese, canned veggies, pasta, pasta sauce, yogurt, and cleaning supplies. As you read this list, you might have been thinking that Sam’s Club carries all of these items and yes you are right. The reason I don’t do all my grocery shopping at Sam’s Club is because they typically only carry a couple of each type of item. Take canned vegetables for example. We buy the “no salt added” canned veggies (do you know how much salt they add to canned veggies?!?) Although Sam’s club sells cases of various canned veggies for a good price, none of them are no salt added. For that reason, I buy our canned veggies from Walmart. For yogurt, I like to buy the Light Greek Yogurt that is approximately 100 calories per container, at Sam’s Club they only have regular Greek Yogurt that’s closer to 200 calories per container. Also, the cheese selection is much better at Walmart, we like “Sharp Cheddar” and Sam’s Club only carries grated Mild Cheddar. Little things, but because of that I go to Walmart.
One other big savings I love to take advantage of at Walmart is the Prima Della Deal. With this deal, you get 1 lb of any Prima Della brand lunch meat and ½ lb of cheese from the deli for $9.00! The roast beef alone is $9.56 per pound! They also have a couple “lower” sodium options available for lunch meat.
Shopping at Aldi:
Aldi is where I do a lot of my “little shopping trips” between the big ones. Their prices for milk and eggs are pretty much identical to Sam’s Club and their produce is always very reasonably priced. In general, I do think their produce has a significantly shorter shelf life than what I buy from Sam’s Club (but maybe that is based on my location). Things I love to buy at Aldi are snack foods; like Simm’s Turkey Sausage Snack Sticks (only 45 calories each!), fruit snacks/strips, and fruit pouches. I’ve found that Aldi’s line of products, Simply Nature, typically has no sugar added.
I’ve now divulged the practical ways I save money shopping. None of them are huge savings in and of themselves, but all of these little savings really add up! Perhaps more importantly the take home message from this is that you need to know what a good price is for everything you buy. Start keeping a mental note of prices (or start writing it down) so that you know when you should or should not buy something. If I’m randomly out at the store and see something on sale, I will look up the price on Walmart’s website for comparison. I’ve found that Walmart’s everday prices routinely beat sale prices at other grocery stores. By being a smart shopper, in addition to decreasing your number of trips to the store, you can save a lot of money (and time!) I would be happy to answer any questions you have. Feel free to message me on Facebook or send me an email (supersavvysarah at gmail.com).
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Did you enjoy this article? Here are links to the other posts in this series!