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price surveys over the years


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For the last 5 years I make an annual survey of the three cheapest grocery stores I go to.  This allows me to plan my shopping to take advantages of the best prices, and to better recognize whether a sale is a genuine savings or not.  I learned several interesting things:

 

1.  Prices were all over the place.  Meat went up, overshadowing savings on fruits and vegetables.  The more processed the food, the more the prices went up; plainer food prices went down.  Overall, more prices went down than up, but the savings did not amount to much when you averaged them out - less than $1 on my standard grocery list!

 

2.  Stores specialize in certain things.  One store in my shopping circle has superior prices on bulk rice, beans, and pantry items, and a superior international food selection.  Another store has superior meats and excellent service from the meat cutters (they give me heads up on upcoming sales, cheerfully cut the meat the way I want it, and order special things for me without complaint or extra charges.  Oddly, their meat prices, as long as I buy on sale, were also the lowest.  So I shop their meat sale cycles regularly.  (They also do not limit how much you can purchase on meat sales, which to me is valuable, when I am bulk buying for the freezer at a good sale price.) 

The third store has the best prices on brand names and canned fruits and vegetables.  So these surveys pay off in discovering my local food patterns. I don't mind shopping at multiple stores to take advantage of sale pricing.

 

3.  Cheaper is NOT always better.  One store with the cheapest produce also had their produce go bad much more quickly, and the employees tended to throw around the food, bruising it.  One store with a sale on meats tended to require you purchase a certain amount of other things, then limited how much you could buy (to me, that's not a sale, it is 'price re-alignment'). 

Another store I tried that had extremely low prices on meat had extremely tough meat.  Fine for pot roast, and I canned a lot of it; but it was not so good on the grill - we actually could not chew it! 

So I have learned to consider meats sales cautiously.

 

4. House brands DO vary from store to store, so there are certain things I buy brand name:  ketchup, cooked salad dressing, margarine, bratwurst and cheese are things I do have a particular brand that I favor.  Brands are pretty much the same on plainer foods that have USDA standards, like canned peas, butter, or pasta.

I am more willing to experiment with different brands on those things to see if I like them or not, and I have many house-brand favorites (Shur-fine is popular in this house).

In my younger (and broke-er days) my husband and I would prioritize our shopping: generic aisle first, then the house brands to fill in what we could not find generically.  The checkout clerks always were amazed at how much food we bought on our limited budget, and used to literally take bets on how many carts of food we could get for our $50 monthly budget (the record was three piled high carts, at the time).  I don't see generic (black & white) labels much any more, but they rarely let us down.  I always taste test the new, cheaper label brands when I find them.  Some are worth it, others are not (more stems in the green beans, tomato skins left on some of the canned tomatoes, and the like).  

 

5.  If you live near a food processor (Johnsonville meats, a vegetable canning company, a spaghetti plant) call to check and see if they have a company store to sell their 'seconds' or imperfect in appearance food.  You can save a bundle buying spaghetti bends (where they drape it over the rack), mis-cut short lengths of sausage sticks, dented cans, and the like.  Cosmetically imperfect foods still taste the same, and the savings are amazing.  (I have noticed the meat prices drop when they have a new meat cutter learning to cut it up, LOL.  I'm there with bells on to take advantage of those crooked chops or steaks!) 

 

So this year, my survey will include the Aldi's down the block, as well as Wal-mart (good pantry food pricing, not so good on produce and meat), and Woodmans (bulk food price leader).  I will continue to shop at the store with the superior meats, but will not survey them this year, as they have never been the loss leader on anything except meats.  But I certainly consider the drive worthwhile to stock up on items where each store excels, and my price studies pay off because I can now spot a good sale price from 3 aisles away! 

 

Edited by kappydell
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WM has their generic products named "Great Value".  We started trying the instant coffee and it seems less bitter than some of the name brands.  DH has only found one of the GV branded item he wasn't thrilled about.  They also price match any advertised sale around here.  I got 16 ears of corn for $2.00 when WM was selling it for 2 ears for $1.00.  Found an advertisement for bagged Brisket and standing rib roast at  $1.25/lb.  WM's regular price was well over $4.00/lb.

 

It takes longer at the checkout, but is well worth the effort.

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I do a bit of shopping at WM.  Agree that some of the "Great Value" products are good and some not so good.  I definitely use the price matches.  There have changed it so you can show the advertised prices on your cell phone.  I have "heard" that they will be going to a point that if you can't show it on your cell, you are out of luck but that hasn't happened here. 

 

One WM that I go to will only match advertised prices in the same town.  They are the only town with a grocery store in the county. 

 

Haven't really noticed a large difference in the checkout times.  If I don't have a price match, I usually go to the self-checkout if I only have a few things. 

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Wow, Kappy.  That survey would take a lot of effort but certainly produced great data!  :thumbs:

 

Interesting how the more processed food prices went up and plain ingredients to cook yourself went down.  Hard on families with most adults working but great for us who home cook anyway.

 

MtRider :cook:

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On ‎6‎/‎1‎/‎2017 at 0:43 PM, Mt_Rider said:

Wow, Kappy.  That survey would take a lot of effort but certainly produced great data!  :thumbs:

 

Interesting how the more processed food prices went up and plain ingredients to cook yourself went down.  Hard on families with most adults working but great for us who home cook anyway.

 

MtRider :cook:

Makes me glad I learned how to cook!  I pity the multitudes who do not know how to do it - you save sooooooo much (and the food is much tastier, besides).  I am not amused by the fact that the restaurant prices are now sky high in my town.  Sit down dinners start at $10 for a minimal plate (3 oz meat, 1/2 c potato, 1/2 c some other veggie -- no gravy or butter on the taters and certainly no butter, salt, pepper or condiments on the table; and the food tasted like it was warmed up in the microwave, not cooked fresh).  $10 for something I can cook for $2.  Needless to say, I don't eat out very often.  I'm too spoiled by my own cooking. 

Edited by kappydell
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I go to about 4 different grocery stores.  Most of them I go to monthly.  I have a master list in my head of where everything is cheapest or the best.

 

I go to Publix normally once a week on Wednesday.  I shop the BOGO's, use coupons (that they double) and get the Sr. discount.

I usually go to Aldis every week or two.  I buy bread, eggs, cheese, DH's snack foods and some sale produce there.

I use Wal Mart on my monthly trip to fill items that are seldom on sale or just not available elsewhere. Things like a special diet bread I eat, salsa etc.

If a local grocery store has an exceptional sale and I happen to be nearby, I will stop in for that item only.  It has to be a good deal for me to bother to stop in...like when pork chops are 99 cents a pound I will get about 10 pounds and freeze them.

 

Some Great Value products are really great and some are actually more expensive or lesser quality.  You just have to try each product and then remember which ones are worth it and what isn't.  Our WalMart quit price matching way back.  I never really used it cuz it was a hassle to me to keep the ads in my purse all the time.  I know they used to do it because I use to see women show the clerk the ads.

 

It really isn't time consuming if you can be organized.  It isn't everyone's personality to be organized though..DH sure isn't and he readily admits it.

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Sounds like you have a good system going for you Momo! I wish we had a Publix around here. We only have a Giant Eagle and a couple of Acme grocery stores. And 2 Super Wal-Mart centers I like Giant Eagle okay but some competition would be nice.

 

Where my son lives they only have a Strack and Van Til. They are a regional company with less than 40 stores. And a Wal-Mart. No other choice unless you want to drive 25+ miles away. I would have thought a town his size would have had at least a Kroger.

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Our wal-marts don't price match anymore either.  I was pleased when down in Georgia last winter to find that the Kroger was almost exactly like the Pick N Save I shop at in Wisconsin (my meat place).  The meats were excellent there, and the seafood display was amazing!  Even if I can only afford lobster once a year, I love to look at it now and again. 

I could not find dehydrated hash browns easily down there, though; only one brand and expensive.  Made home fried for breakfast instead.

 

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I get some from Amazon when they've got a sale.  Most of my Center Aisle stuff from Publix, some meats/dairy/produce from Earth Fare, and some from Zaycon or farms.  Lucky's and Trader Joe's are just out of the way, and Winn Dixie has burned me too many times with outdated or buggy items.  If I want to ignore the "by" dates, I have a really good bent can store nearby, where the prices reflect the risk.  We're supposed to get an Aldi's soon.

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Aldis will be one of the stores I survey next; folks who go there say prices are excellent, and their brand names, though unfamiliar, are good in general.  I'm looking forward to see how well they compare. 

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