Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Another way to save money at the grocery store

I usually try to do my grocery shopping alone because trips can get kind of crazy when you have a toddler along.

Occasionally on the weekends, we'll make grocery shopping a family outing. While I do like to have my husband's help lifting heavy items like sodas, I have noticed that when he tags along, we spend more.

I will confess that in our marriage, I'm much more likely to spend than Bruce is. But at the grocery store, his urge to spend seems to kick in. I think it's something inherent in most males. Whenever my dad goes to the grocery store, he always comes back with a pack of Big 60 cookies (which no one in our family likes) and other things that weren't on the list.

Bruce is the same way. He doesn't stick to the list when we go shopping.

And that was OK before I was playing the Grocery Game and being really frugal about our grocery bill. But it drives me batty now. These days, my list is my shopping bible, and if something's on the list, it's because it's available at rock-bottom prices. And I've probably pulled a coupon to make the sale even better. If it's not on the list, then I'm not buying it because the deal isn't good enough.

Here's what usually happens when the family goes shopping:

We'll be in the grocery store, walking down an aisle and Bruce will say, "Do we need Rice-A-Roni? It's a good price. "

I'll stop the cart, give him a glare and reply, "No it's not a good price. It would be if I had printed a coupon for it. But without the coupon, it's not a good deal."

Usually, he'll wear me down and we'll buy it anyway.

Sometimes, though, I win the battle.

We ran out of ketchup last week, but I've got a coupon and a raincheck that will allow me to get it for 37 cents a bottle. Twice in recent weeks, in Aldi and at the grocery store, Bruce has nagged me to buy ketchup at full price. And I've told him that I'll buy it as soon as the store is back in stock with the brand that's on sale. (Where is my cheap ketchup, Harris Teeter? It's been two weeks. The ketchup lovers in my house are rioting! Will I be forced to slip some ketchup packets into my purse the next time we're in a fast-food restaurant?)

Mind you, we haven't cooked anything this week that needed ketchup, but I guess Bruce can't stand the idea of being without his favorite condiment should he have a late-night French fry craving. (Which he never has!)

Maybe I need to hand over Grocery Game duties to my hubby for a week or two so he understands why I say no to purchases that aren't on the list.

I'm sure some people reading this will think I'm a horrible person, denying my family the sustenance of ketchup, Rice-a-Roni and other essentials. Well, think what you will. I take pride in being able to maximize our savings at the grocery store, so if we have to wait to purchase some things, so be it. We're definitely not going hungry. Our pantry is stocked, and so is our stockpile.

And truly, I wouldn't mind buying the things that Bruce would like me to buy. But I wish he would tell me before we're pushing through the aisles with a wiggly toddler. At home, I have time to pull and print coupons, but that's often not an option at the store.

I've also noticed that when I take my son, Jackson, with me to the grocery store, I always end up buying something extra, often to stave off a tantrum. The boy isn't yet two, but he knows what Lucky Charms and Gerber Juice Treats (yummy yummys, he calls them) look like. And if we pass them, he'll have a terrible-two meltdown until he gets a 'nack. I don't give in every time, but sometimes he wears me down...

Just this weekend, we were in Food Lion, hoping to take advantage of a great BOGO sale on cereal. No sooner had I set the box of cereal down than Jackson had opened it. Almost instantly, I realized that I'd picked up the wrong size. This box wasn't BOGO but was full price. Instead of getting cereal for $1.34 a box, as I had planned, I paid $4.29 for one box. The cheapskate in me was steamed, not so much at my son but at the store for not doing a better job of separating sale merchandise from regular price merchandise.

On this site and others devoted to saving money, we talk about how clipping coupons and shopping sales can pay off. But as I've discussed in this post, certain behaviors (and people) could be derailing our efforts to save.

Do you have any people who you won't shop with? Or any unusual tips for how to save money at the store? I'd love to hear what you're doing to keep your wallets green. Please post a comment.


  1. Hmmm...I think I'd better just leave it at "No comment!"

    (But we really needed ketchup....)

  2. I'm like you, if I don't have a coupon for it and it's not on sale, it doesn't need to be in my cart. I also drive my DH nutso with that, but I don't really care. ;)

    One way I've noticed I save money is by using self checkout. If I'm the one scanning my items, I am more inclined to pay attention to the price scanning on the screen, and therefore I notice if an item has rung up incorrectly. (not that this worked this last week - I did self checkout and still missed being overcharged 59 cents on a can of soup)

  3. Great post.

    I am the same way. There is no way I am going with the hubby.

    Even though he is all on board with the grocery shopping and coupon savings, he always finds stuff he just insists he needs when he is with me.

    Funny, if I went myself and didn't buy it..the item wouldn't even enter his mind all week.

    I also love to shop by myself in the evening..the late shift.

    There is hardly anyone in the store and I spend quality time without the kids and can stop in the magazine/book section to browse/read for a bit before grocery shopping.

  4. We spend more money when I have my hubby with me too. Our two girls, I can handle. But him--we go over on our budget!

    Glad to know I am not alone!


  5. i am COMPLETELY behind you! i pretty much insist on shopping alone with my GG list (this morning i went to the store at 6a to stock up on some great sales + coupons; spent $31, saved $70!). my husband was skeptical at first but now he loves it because we always have a house full of food and we spend less.

  6. I hear ya! I love to go by myself. I'm less tempted to just give in and let the kids have something to get them to be quiet after I get tired of saying that is not on our list (which usually works the first half of the trip.)

    Plus, I like to go to multiple stores...and its a pain getting everyone in and out of the store.

  7. Do we have the same husband? LOL, I go through the same thing. He thinks that I get kind of ridiculous with my sales/coupons/rebates, but then I come home with a bunch of food for cheap, while his runs to the store involve two small bags of items for twice as much money. Granted, I've gotten him on the savings wagon (he always searches for sales and coupons before buying something...even on the internet!), but I do spend more when he shops with me (and spend more time at the store!). I've learned that and go alone now. I'm linking your article to my blog.

  8. I am a SAHM now to a four month old. My household no longer has the income from me working any longer, but my hubby wants to continue spending like we do! I try and explain, we cant eat out EVERY time, ha not even once a week anymore, and at the store you cant just pile whatever you want into the cart, because money matters now, we have less income and more bills ( diapers, wipes, baby food ) but something about him, he just DOESNT GET IT!!! it drives me nuts, so recently i have found you all's blog and started telling him its tips from you guys, leave hubby at home when shopping!

  9. This is so well written...and so very, VERY true!! My neighbors and I were just having this very discussion. I ALWAYS spend more money than necessary when I take my two kiddos (7mo and 2.5yo) to the store with me. I take my coupon book and my list... I pack snacks and put the baby in the Ergo...but alas, I cannot think straight enough between saying "sit down Brendan" "Put it back Brendan" "No ice cream, Brendan!" I, too, usually end up with an impromtu snack (usually Goldfish) a shameless bribe to keep my son sitting and in the cart.

  10. Carrie:

    I love going to the grocery store at night, too. I hate fighting the crowds. The only bummer about shopping later is that deli at my local stores close relatively early. So, if I need something from the deli, I have to go during normal hours."

  11. Jenn & Briana:

    I hear you. I'm always buying something extra (goldfish, cereal) to keep Jackson happy while I shop. I will say that I love Harris Teeter because they have free cookies -- one per customer. I get two and sometimes I have to let Jackson each both of them!

    And going to multiple stores with a kid and husband in tow is a hassle. I much prefer shopping alone.

  12. Good posts everyone! I'm relatively new to using coupons but feel that I have done very good. As far as shopping with my husband or my son, they rarely go! My friend and I go each weekend together and we love it. We can find the best deals! As for spending more at the grocery, I tend to spend more if I go to the store hungry!! (So my friend and I find that we need to have a "coupon shopping day lunch". We generally go to CVS or Rite-Aid first then eat lunch before we go to the grocery store. We have even found some good deals eating out!!