Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Some Grocery Shopping Questions

Someone recently asked me for some advice on how to cut her spending. As usual, my first suggestion was to try to cut her grocery bill. Why do I suggest cutting grocery bills as the first way to cut expenses? Because its the most flexible, most of the time. You can't pick up and move apartments in a split second, change insurance policies, or change childcare fees. Most of the large expenses are non negotiable, or at least hard to adjust, but grocery bills can be played around with on a week to week (or month to month) basis. One shop try something different, and if that doesn't work, next month you can do something else.

Along that vein, if you want to cut your grocery bills, here's some questions you may want to ask yourself.

Am I happy with how much we're spending on groceries each month, or would I like the bill to be lower?
Is the amount of money I'm spending on groceries in proportion to the amount of money we bring in and the amount of other expenses we have?

Am I making any sacrifices to lower my grocery bill? Am I willing to make (more) sacrifices?

How much am I spending each month on groceries? 

How frequently am I shopping, including "quick runs for milk and produce"?

Where am I grocery shopping? A chain supermarket, or a Mom and Pop's style corner store? Ethnic supermarkets? At a cheaper store or one that is known to be more expensive?

How much am I spending on transportation to go grocery shopping? Would it be worth it (financially, emotionally, and mentally )for me to spend more money on traveling to a few different stores so I can stock up on deals in each store?

What is my grocery shopping method? Do I impulse buy? Do I shop from a strict list? Do I shop sales? Do I stockpile cheap things? Do I buy in bulk for discounts?

Am I aware of the prices of items (per unit) before I buy them?

Do I comparison shop, both between stores and within stores?

Am I a brand snob? Do I buy only brand name things, or am I willing to buy generic brands and pay less money, even if the taste might be slightly "less perfect"?

Do I buy the cheaper cuts of meat? How frequently do we eat meat?

Do I use cheaper protein sources? Which ones? Can I do so more frequently? 

Am I buying convenience foods or am I making things from scratch? If I'm not currently making things from scratch, can I do so more without sacrificing my sanity?

Am I shopping for produce seasonally?

Are there any expensive things that I'm currently buying that I'm willing to go without?

What percentage of what I buy are things we absolutely need, and what percentage are frivolous "wants"?

There's no right or wrong answer here. Everyone needs to grocery shop in the way that works for them. These questions are meant to just work as a spring board, to possibly give you more food for thought and to challenge yourself to see if you're doing all that you think you should be doing.

So, any other questions you'd add to this list?
Tell me about your grocery shopping habits. Are you happy with them, or are you trying to change them?

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