A question for frugal shoppers: Is it worth the bother to grocery shop at more than one store? If another store offers certain products at lower prices than your regular grocery store, is it really worth the extra driving to capture those savings?
Unfortunately, the answer is “it depends.”
Here at Casual Kitchen we almost never go to different stores to save money. Instead, we control our grocery shopping costs by avoiding branded products and prepared “second-order” foods, limiting meat-heavy meals, and so on.
Then, we select the one grocery store in our area that best meets our needs. We want a conveniently located store offering the best selection of the goods we typically buy at generally the best prices. As we've seen in a recent post here at Casual Kitchen, we can easily measure this by occasionally skimming a couple of grocery store circulars side by side. Sure, certain items might, at times, be cheaper at other stores, but the store circulars help us make sure we get good value for the preponderance of the items we buy.
In today’s post, I want to share a recent example where I actually did drive to three different grocery stores in a single shopping trip. That’s right: three! I want to show how, once in a while, it is very much worth it to explore other grocery retailers.
However, it’s not worth it to do this every week, and certainly not worth it if your grocery trips cost more in time and fuel than you reap in savings.
Let’s get into our example. Within a 3-4 mile radius of our home, there are four standard grocery stores: Kings, Acme, Stop and Shop and Shoprite (there’s also a Whole Foods, but we’ll ignore it for obvious reasons: this is a post about saving money after all).
Recall that we can let the stores tell us what products to buy, by letting their circulars do the talking as we skim them from home. During one recent week, we saw two legitimate doorbuster items on sale at Acme: a two liter jug of olive oil for $8.76 and a 5 pound bag of potatoes for 99c (perfect for a delicious batch of Easy Potato Peanut Curry!).
But we’re not done. Yet another local store, Shoprite, had its own doorbuster item: 1 lb, 13 ounce cans of tomatoes (crushed, diced, whole tomatoes, etc.) for a paltry 34c a can. So I decided to head over there too, where I picked up a dozen cans, enough to stock my pantry for several weeks.
Thanks to a recent post, we all know the secret to doorbuster sales: buy the doorbuster item(s) and nothing more. But nobody says you can’t spend a few minutes briefly walking around the store to get a sense of the store’s products, their prices (beyond what you see in the circular), and the general experience of shopping at the store itself. Are the prices generally better? Is the store run well?
As an empowered consumer, you don’t just want brands and products competing for your consumer dollar, you want entire retailers competing for you too. Which is why it pays to check out the competition occasionally. Stores will often change up their strategies or their pricing to improve their competitive position. And of course, a store you may have deemed uncompetitive or not worth going to at some point in the past can always improve and become much more competitive later.
In this case, you’re using a doorbuster sale item--and the trip to a different store--as an opportunity to let that store show you what it’s got. Does your “favorite” grocery store still deserve to be your favorite? Why or why not?
Empowered consumers never allow mere habit to dictate their purchasing decisions. This is what makes it worth it, from time to time, to stop in at a competing store and take a look around, while you also capitalize on a genuinely valuable doorbuster sale. Make those retailers compete aggressively for your consumer dollars!
Read Next: "The Consumer Must Be Protected At All Times"
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