Friday, May 11, 2007

To Market, To Market...

So, here is a question, a not very exciting but oh-so-practical question, about the scheduling of one's shopping trips. Mine are completely unscheduled. I usually end up going on Fridays, a terrible choice because it's always busy, and then almost inevitably I end up having to go out again at least once during the week for something I forgot.
Here is what I want to do before the baby comes: Have a detailed list of things we need weekly, like bread and milk, fresh fruit, etc., and also a list of staple things like cereals, cleaning products, diapers, and toiletries, that I could maybe stock up on (to a certain extent- not a lot of storage space here) once every two weeks or even once a month, at the dreaded but much cheaper Wal-Mart. And then I would (ideally) choose and stick to certain days for each of these separate trips, days when the grocery and/or Wal Mart is likely to be well-stocked and uncrowded.
So the question is, how do you do your shopping? Are you a random shopper, like myself, or do you have it down to a science? If you have it down to a science, do you find that it has indeed saved you money and time, or do still end up forgetting things, and then also have the added inconvenience of having half a dozen bars of soap fall on top of you every time you open the bathroom cupboard?
Also: We do have a Sam's Club in our town, which is basically the Wal-Mart version of Costco for those of you not familiar. Are any of you members of these bulk warehouse deals, and is it worth what appears to me to be an enormous amount of hassle? Do you really save gazillions of dollars? Or do you just end up with gazillions of stale Pop-Tarts?


Black Sheeped said...

We avoid Walmart and anyone associated with them as much as possible. I don't like their policies and generally we get very annoyed/frustrated/depressed everytime we go there.

Lately we just go to a regular grocery store for our shopping. They seem to have much better produce and meats than the big superstores. And we go a few times a week. We seem to buy less things we won't really eat that way. Sometimes, if we plan in advance what we'll want for dinner for a whole week, we'll do the shopping for a week, but we seem to buy less crap when we go a few times a week for specific meals. It helps to still make lists for these small trips. I like going to the grocery store a lot more when I know I'm going in for a few things, rather than knowing I'll be there for a few hours. I usually just tack on grocery store trips to the end of my work day or with other errands.

I wouldn't buy in bulk, but only for the reasons you state: I wouldn't want tons of food sitting around going stale (plus we don't have much room for extra stuff). If I had a pack of kids, it might go differently, though.

Swistle said...

I'm somewhere in between random and scientific. I buy certain things at certain stores, either because they're cheaper there or because they're better there, and I stick to that pretty reliably. But I don't have a specific day or days of the week that I do the shopping. Usually grocery shopping is motivated by being out of things, and non-grocery is motivated by the urge to get out of the house.

We have a nice place for storing extras, so I tend to stock up on things when they're on sale, but I don't belong to any of the big warehouse clubs--we did a one-day pass and I didn't see enough stuff that I'd save money on. Like, if I bought the brand name of something I'd save on buying a 24-pack of it, but the store brand is cheaper and I can buy 1 or 2 at a time instead of 24.

My main problem is that I like to go grocery shopping just once a week, but then we run out of fresh produce mid-week.

Mid-Life Momentum said...

Do you remember going to WalMart once a week and Meijers once a week? That was OUR schedule most of the time and worked pretty well.
It definitely saves to buy non-grocery at WM, even if you don't particularly like them. After doing the "math" while we belonged to Sam's Club, the bulk really wasn't any cheaper than regular WalMart price, just bigger packages for those families we knew with 10 children who didn't want to shop daily for groceries. I still do WM once a week, but now I do it at 7:00 a.m. on my way to work!!! I then feel more justified in buying groceries at Ray's because I hate going to the new giant Meijers.

Kelli in the Mirror said...

I go shopping once a week, usually on Sunday nights (but sometimes Monday nights if I'm really tired at the end of the weekend) and my goal is to not set foot in the store any other time. I'm very bad about impulse purchases. During the weekend I meal plan and make a list and *stick to it* at the store.

Or at least that's the plan.

Walmart is cheaper than the grocery store on a lot of things, but I find that makes me buy more and want to veer from the list. Oh! This is only 1.99 when I know it's 3.49 at the other store! I must buy it! And then I end up spending way more. I do better shopping from the sale flyers at Albertsons or something like that.

I go to Sams about once every other month and I can't get out of there for under two hundred, ever. Some things are a bargain, but there's just so MUCH that I spend more than I intended every time, especially when I go down the book row. I came home last time with ninety bucks worth of books and education stuff.

Jess said...

We are pretty scientific with our shopping. This science came out of a need for a very strict grocery budget. Adam and I eat the same things every week and don't really have a lot of variety in our diets. So, what I did was make an Excel spreadsheet (yes, I am an Excel junkie) that lists all of the items we buy in any given week. Next to each item is the anticipated price. We added it all up and allowed a little xtra money for things like cookouts or brownies or something extra to eat on the weekends. This is all we allow ourselves to buy.

I have printouts of our list on our fridge - check it out next time you are over.

I usually grocery shop on the weekends (Sunday after church). What I do is take our printed list and mark off everything that I don't need to replenish. Then, when I go to the grocery store I only buy the things on the list. This keeps me from buying a bunch of junk food. But, this only works for us because we are pretty boring eaters.

Very rarely do I have to make trips during the week to grab an item from our list, but when I do I usually just do it at night on the way home from the dance studio.

We started taking whatever money was leftover from our weekly grocery budget and putting it in an envelope, and at the end of the month that money was what we could use to go out to eat. This worked for about a month and then we got off track. We are starting this method back up once the baby is here.

Now, my opinion on Sam's Club - only good for things like toiletries and beverages. Otherwise, seriously who needs a gallon sixed tub of mayo or 500 packs of cheeze-its? It just seems like overindulgence to me. You can get the same deals just by buying off brands and stocking up when items are on sale at the grocery store.

Oh yeah, and we shop at Rays. I only go to WalMart when I have other special purchases I need to make in addition to groceries.

Jana said...

Okay, I'm de-lurking here because this is a topic that I am passionate about (sad, I know). I've got our grocery shopping down to a science and my husband thinks I'm a nut, but it's the only way I stay sane.

I buy our produce at a local farmer's market every Monday morning. It's small enough that I can take both kids (ages 4 and 6 months) and not worry about the older one running too far away from me.

Tuesday mornings are reserved for regular grocery shopping since the store has re-stocked from the weekend; the shelves tend to be empty on Monday mornings. Also, my older child is in school so I don't have to worry about her.

I go to Sam's every few weeks or so to buy diapers, wipes and meat. I buy the meat in large quantities and then divide it into meal portions (one pound of ground beef, two pork chops, etc) and freeze it. I'll occassionaly splurge on books for the kids or name brand items (we're a generic brand house).

I always stick to my list (I make the week's menu on the other side) and allow myself only one splurge item. Between my "method" and coupons my husband calls me crazy, but he's thankful that I keep our grocery costs to a minimum.

Tessie said...

I have to agree with Jana, for me the only "worth-it" products at Costco/Sam's are meat, diapers/wipes, and soda/water.

Wal-Mart is indeed a nightmare. The only acceptable times to go there are super early or super late. One thing I did when my baby was really little and getting up constantly was to go at the truly horrifying times when I was awake anyway (4 am, etc).