Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Special Spend Report: Shop Small, Save Big

During the month of February I didn't shop at any major chain grocery stores. I did all my shopping at smaller grocery stores. I assumed prices would be crazy expensive and that my monthly grocery bill would skyrocket. I was wrong.
So, where did I buy my groceries?

I shopped at:
Probably the best deal I found was black forest ham for just .99 cents/100 grams at the Holland Shopping Centre, which has a deli. (That seems to be the regular price for it.) Safeway's was $1.79/100 g.
I did most of my grocery shopping at Donald's Market. I found that on produce and regular priced items, Donald's was very competitive with Safeway, which is where I usually do my big grocery shops.

For example: 
  • Philadelphia soft cream cheese: $4.49 at both Safeway and Donald's.
  • Bananas were .79 cents/lb. at both Safeway and Donald's.
Some items were cheaper at Donald's, like Eggo Waffles, which are $2.99 at Donald's, but $3.29 at Safeway.

It is hard though to beat the big stores' sale prices: Safeway sells Eggo waffles on sale for $2. I bought a big box of Froot Loops at Donald's for $6.49; the same box at Safeway is regular priced at $7.11, but on sale, it's just $4.99.

It was tough to find a deal on milk. I'm used to paying about $4.50 for 4 litres. It was a lot more expensive at Uptown Market—$5.99 for 4 litres—and a bit more expensive at Donald's—$4.99 for 4 litres. And the wonderful glass bottles of Avalon Dairy milk are way more expensive, I think about $2.99 for 2 litres.

But sometimes it's worth it to pay for the quality. That's what I found at Queen's Park Butcher, where I got a pound of ground beef that cost about $1 more per pound than at Safeway. But there was such a noticeable difference in quality, I know I'll go back. When I cooked up the ground beef and went to drain off the grease, there was nothing to drain off. Not that it was entirely fat-free, but there was not enough to drain.

Was there any cheating? You bet. My husband made a couple of morning runs to the nearby Price Smart for milk. I felt a wee bit bad about this, but while Price Smart is part of a big chain, it's a B.C. chain. Plus the store near our house is always being threatened with closure so I always feel good when I shop there because if it closes pretty much the only place to buy milk near our house will be Wal-mart.

Other than avoiding big chains, I did make one other big switch to my shopping habits in February: I meal planned. Every Sunday, I figured out what we already had in the fridge, freezer, and pantry and I planned my meals around that. Instead of buying things I thought we might need, I was buying only the specific items I knew we would.

According to one blogger, after she started meal planning, her grocery bill was cut in half. Mine didn't go that low, but I did spend less, and I did use up way more of what I had in my pantry, fridge and freezer.

In total, I spent about $380 on groceries in the month of February. In January, I spent just over $450.

I have to admit that after February I pretty much reverted back to my old grocery shopping habits and I've abandoned meal planning. That's something I want to start doing again.

I'm also hoping to make my way back to the smaller stores on a more regular basis especially now that I know I can get:
  • reasonably priced ground turkey at Uptown Market;
  • great meat at Queen's Park Butcher; and
  • a made-in-Vancouver laundry detergent at Donald's Market that is formulated for this area's soft water and is priced comparably to big name detergent brands.