The Frugal Grocery Shopping Game

by Maria Ferguson

I have found that the most challenging area in which to save money on a day-to-day basis is grocery shopping. I view this challenge as a game, not a sacrifice and feel that I have beaten the system when I pay less that most shoppers. I choose 3 grocery stores either close to my house or on my way home from work whose sale ads I study each week. I have a favorite store for my usual shopping, but study the ads for the other two for specials which are discounted enough for me to justify shopping there.

Also, a co-worker living in a different section of town pools her efforts with mine so that we shop for each other on greatly discounted items. Buying these items in quantity is also helpful. It's not unusual to find 6 bottles of Dove in the pantry or 20 packages of chicken in the freezer. Don't forget comparative shopping between your grocery store and discount department stores, such as Wal-Mart. Toiletries are usually cheaper at discount stores and I find even better deals when articles are on sale.

A well kept secret in our area is the "auction and salvage store." Until a friend clued me in, I had no idea that this store bought damaged goods and store close-outs on dry goods, toiletries, canned goods, and, on occasion, perishables. While I shop carefully in this store, making sure boxes are unopened and cans aren't dented. I come away with some great deals. National brand cereal sells for $l.49 a box. Granted, the boxes may not stand upright in the pantry, but you're not eating the box. I definitely buy in bulk here since I never know what will be available next trip.

Although the experts advise against frequent trips to the grocery store, I take exception to the rule when I'm shopping for soon- to-expire goods. I "cruise" the perimeter of my favorite store several times a week, starting with the vegetables, checking out the meats and ending up in the bakery section. I have come up with some novel ways to use soon-to-perish vegetables. I never buy meat at full price, but usually receive a $1.50-$200 discount since the expiration date is the next day. I either cook the meat that night, or freeze it. There is absolutely nothing unhealthy or distasteful about it. I find bread at $.25/loaf and quarts of brunswick stew for $.99, with the usual price of $3.69. All of this goes in the freezer for future use. I make sure I don't get distracted during these "cruising trips" by not going down other aisles.

I also save by making many of my own cleaning solutions and carefully measuring any cleaners I use, but that's a whole other story.

Just remember to keep it fun and view thrifty shopping as a challenge.

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