For reasons of competition, store policy, or who knows what, some stores just offer better prices on certain items than other stores. Shopping strategically across several stores means that we can really save ourselves a few bucks in the long run! Still, we don't want to spend all day hopping from one store to another, so here's how we manage it:
We didn't set out to do our grocery shopping at multiple stores, but fell into the habit over time as we figured out which stores sold our favorite products more cheaply. Our breakdown right now runs something like this:
Farmer's Market: Fresh produce
Trader Joe's: Pantry items like canned beans, canned tomatoes, and flour
Local Co-Op and/or Whole Foods: Bulk items like spices and grains
Commercial Grocery Store (that's Kroger for us): Fresh produce in the winter, commercial products (like cereal), and supplementary pantry items
Our routine is to shop for fresh produce once a week, whether it's at the farmer's market or the grocery store. We go to Trader Joe's roughly once a month and stock up on pantry items. And then we make a stop by the co-op or Whole Foods only occasionally when we run out of a bulk item.
We never go to all these places in the same day. At most, we'll make a stop for fresh food and then one of the other places for pantry items. Now that we're in the habit of rotating between these different places, it doesn't feel like a burden or an imposition on our time. We don't have a set schedule, but base our shopping plans on what we're running low on and what we need that week.
There is a bit of a balance between cost and quality in our shopping routine. For instance, farmer's market produce isn't always cheaper than grocery store produce, but this is one of the areas where we seek compromise. Overall, we'd definitely say that shopping at multiple places saves us more money and gives us more diversity in our shopping than buying all of our groceries at one location.
Do you have a similar grocery shopping routine? Please share!
Related: Weeknight Meal Tip: Quick Grocery Shopping Tricks
(Image: Flickr member ginnerobot licensed under Creative Commons)