Comparison Grocery Shopping

by Ken Shainker

We have been shopping at the Tom Thumb grocery store in Plano, Texas for the past 2 years. We seemed to be finding 'good' prices. I had a little extra time on my hands last week (that can be dangerous). I needed to get about $100 worth of groceries and it had been bothering me that two other groceries (Kroger and Albertsons) were a mile or two closer and might be less expensive. I decided to do some price comparisons.

I went to each of the three stores without buying anything and marked down the price for each item on my list. I had heard that some stores don't like you to do this, but no store employees said anything to me. Some stores didn't have the same size items available. When this was true, I marked down the cost per ounce or per pound to make the comparisons equal.

After completing this information, I found out that no one store (out of the three) had lower prices on more than 50% of the items I wanted (and buy on a regular weekly basis). I circled the lowest price for each item from the three stores and decided to go to each of the three stores and buy only the items that were least expensive at that store. This wasn't too time consuming but I don't think I would want to visit three stores each week.

The cost of the items I purchased were $67.00 when I went to the three stores and only purchased the items that were cheapest at that store. If I had purchased all the items from:

Kroger, they would have cost $79.00
Albertsons would have cost $81.00 and
Tom Thumb would have cost $95.00!

I know that costs change from week to week and depending on what you purchase, another store might be less expensive for someone else. I think the major lesson I learned from this experiment is that information can save you money but information takes time to gather. Based on what I learned from this experiment, my shopping habits have changed in a couple of ways.

We have changed our primary grocery store to the two that offered the overall lowest prices for the items we usually purchase (Kroger and Albertsons). As luck would have it, they are both closer to our home and right across the street from each other. It doesn't seem that hard to visit two stores when they are so close to each other. We purchase the items that are less expensive at each of the two stores based on our price comparison chart created earlier. We also ensure the prices have not changed. While shopping, I keep my list updated, in order to be aware if (when) the store's prices increase. My chart also grows as we need to purchase items that are not already on the list. One other note, even though the total price for my list was very close at Kroger and Albertsons ($79.00 vs. 81.00), some items were much lower at each store. One example was butter cost $1.19 per pound at Albertsons, but was $2.09 at Kroger. This is why it still makes sense for us to visit two stores.

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