Friday, May 27, 2011

Money-Saving Grocery Shopping Tip of the Week: Convenience is Costly

When you walk into a grocery store, do you know what the store wants to sell you the most? I'm sure we all have really good guesses, but unless you answered "convenience" you'd be wrong. That's right, folks, grocery stores are in the business of selling convenience to shoppers. As our lives become more and more simplified with high-tech gadgets and services that do practically everything for us, we are in jeopardy of spending ourselves into debt without even realizing it.

Let me relate one of my typical grocery shopping trips of the not-so-distant past:

Run in around lunch-time and grab items I need to make dinner for that evening (yikes!). My usual suspects were (1) pre-washed and packaged salad blends, (2) pre-sliced veggies, (3) fresh, skinless & boneless chicken breasts and (4) packaged seasoning medleys. Any avid couponer can only look at this list and cringe at the very thought of what all this would cost retail. Can't really blame them because I cringe when I think back to all the money I threw out the window just to pay for convenience. A trip like this would easily run me anywhere between $25 - $30. That's what I spend now on a weekly trip for groceries that should cost me $80 - $100. When you look at it that way, it's impossible not to see the waste for what it really is - convenience at a premium. Couponing and living more frugally has opened my eyes to the areas where we as a family were wasting money.

We still eats the same meals, we just go about buying and preparing them in a way that maximizes every dollar we spend. Instead of buying pre-washed salad blends, we grab lettuce and spinach on sale and wash and cut them ourselves. We end up getting more salad out of the deal. Our family can usually squeeze out two dinner salads for every member of the family from a single packaged salad, while a large head of lettuce can easily provide us with four salads for each person. BIG difference when it comes to getting the best value for your dollar. Of course this implies putting in a bit more time and elbow grease when it comes to meal preparations, but the savings you'll acrrue by implementing this simple tip will definitely add up over time.

Pre-sliced veggies are EXTREMELY expensive. Let's just think about the notion of pre-sliced ANYTHING for a second, shall we? How hard is it to grab a piece of squash and slice it up yourself? My local store had yellow squash on sale a few weeks ago for 99¢ lb. I grabbed two for $1.07 and decided to go back and quickly check the price for a pound of the pre-sliced version. It was $2.99 - nearly triple the price! Are you getting the picture yet? CONVENIENCE IS COSTLY!

If you still can't see how important it is to cut out some conveniences when it comes to grocery shopping, I suggest you think about my last example - chicken. We eat a lot of chicken around here. I would purchase two skinless, boneless chicken breast packs every week and pay anywhere from $14 - $18 for both. I usually prepared them in recipes that called for serving one breast per person. Most of the time, the breasts were so large that none of us were able to finish them off, especially the kids.

Skip to the present: I now purchase the same amount of chicken, but I do so when they are on sale BOGO. I also buy the breast with skin and remove it myself. Novel thought, huh ;-) I rarely ( and I mean RARELY) spend more than $6 - $7 for the chicken I used to spend up to $18. See what buying on sale (in advance) AND eliminating unnecessary convenience did for that costly grocery expenditure in my home! I also reduced the times I serve chicken by the piece. Instead, I chop up or slice the breasts and use that as an ingredient of another meal. By doing this I'm able to get more meals out of my chicken purchases.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to take the time and analyze your shopping habits. I'm certain most of us will discover at least half of our spending at the grocery store can be attributed to convenience. Hope this tip helps and encourages everyone to look for ways to eliminate some of the "convenience" shopping we are all prone to do.

Look for more money-saving grocery shopping tips every Friday on Confident Couponing.

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