Grocery shopping more often isn’t a strategy I would have thought to employ in order to save money on food. Most people would advise you to stay out of the stores in order to save money, and I would have agreed. Until…
It all started with a broken fridge.
Last year, my refrigerator suddenly refused to keep anything cold. It took 5 visits from a repairman to figure out (is it just me, or are fancy appliances just not worth it?) how to fix it.
A broken fridge with a family of 9 people who eat 3 meals a day at home is no small inconvenience. There was a lot of iffy food that that had to be thrown away, the temporary use of coolers and ice for meat and dairy products, and near-daily shopping to accommodate those small coolers.
Thankfully, our landlord sent us a small rented fridge to use in the meantime.
I learned something valuable during this minor crisis.
That grocery shopping more frequently saves me money. Ever since then, I’ve been making 3-4 grocery runs per week. This isn’t a huge imposition since the store I shop at most often is only a couple of miles away and I pass by there on a regular basis doing other errands.
I used to think that making one large weekly haul was the best use of my time. And it may be, in terms of sheer efficiency. But making more frequent grocery stops means less food waste and less money spent.
For one, having a less-full fridge means it’s much easier to SEE what I have. How often do things go bad because they were somehow pushed into the Bermuda Triangle-esque back of the fridge? Too often. Now, when I open the door, it’s much easier to see what needs to be used up quickly. If I see that the zucchini is looking limp, I can grind it up to make chocolate zucchini cake instead of tossing it.
I throw away almost nothing nowadays, which is my goal.
In addition, shopping more frequently means I can take advantage of sales that happen more than once a week. ALDI, for example, starts their sales on Sunday. Sometimes “hot” items are gone if I don’t shop that day. And then, meat is discounted on Wednesday. Being there on that day means I get great prices on meat.
Another issue is that of highly perishable items. We eat salad every day in my house, and I often buy bagged salad for convenience. It’s highly perishable and nothing is more gross than brown, slimy lettuce. Much better to pick up a bag or two each time I shop, knowing that I will eat it that day or the next. And my kids eat up all the fruit no matter how often I buy it, so if I don’t shop every few days, we will run out of healthy snacks.
Also, buying groceries weekly meant I had to mentally calculate what I had to eat first so nothing went bad, but that limited me in ways I didn’t like. Eating salad and fresh produce the first 3 days of the week but only being able to use frozen veggies the next 4 put a cramp in my style.
I would love it if our food culture in this country was more like the French, where it’s common for women to shop daily. Small, European-style refrigerators, small kitchens and the focus on the freshest, highest-quality ingredients make this necessary and desirable. That unfortunately can’t be recreated in our non-pedestrian-friendly car culture with its Big Box stores, but doing smaller, more frequent shopping hauls is the closest thing I can do to approximate that.
NOTE: Are you familiar with Checkout51? It’s a free app that makes it easy to save at the grocery store without searching for coupons, cutting them out, remembering to take them with you to the store (where you don’t know if you’ve actually saved using them or not!), etc.
All you do is tap on the application, look at coupons that are available, click on ones you want to redeem, and Checkout51 loads actual cash money onto your account – you’ll get a cash payout. You can even use the app for fresh produce if you don’t use name-brand products. For a limited time, you can earn $5 for each friend you refer. Give it a try here.