I know some people have personal problems with shopping at the major chain store, Walmart. I personally do not have any problem with shopping there, but right now, for this season, I'm finding I do better financially if I stay out of the store. Since I'm intentionally working to save money by trimming grocery costs, this is a big revelation for me.
It all started a few weeks ago when I read an enlightening coupon column in the Sunday paper. The coupon expert said that most shoppers will do better shopping the sales at their local grocery store than shopping at the major chain store. The reason is because the everyday low price at a store like Walmart will be lower than 50% of items at the grocery store but higher on other items that are on sale at smaller stores. While Walmart will price match a competitor's ad, many of the sales one finds in the grocery stores are in-store specials and not advertised in the weekly flyer.
Plus, while it may be purely psychological, when I'm going through the grocery store, I proceed with caution. I feel like the prices on some items may be higher than what I could find at say, Walmart, so I do not buy them. When I'm at Walmart, on the other hand, the selection is huge (if the products are on the shelf!), and I feel a green light to grab items I avoid at the store, simply because the price is lower. Yet, in the end, I spend more, because I'm buying more. Sure, it's a self-discipline issue, but if I know this about myself, and am trying to save money, I need to avoid temptation.
Lately, I have been saving money by shopping at our small, local Safeway. It was built in the 1920's and hasn't changed much since. I love the fact that there's usually few people in the store at any one time (making it easier with my boys), the other shoppers are usually in their 80's (which is kind of neat, and most of them enjoy seeing young boys), and I know the cashiers--and they know me.
Generally, I think Safeway's non-sale prices are quite high (I think Kroger has the lowest everyday prices), but recently the store has advertised some really good sales; pairing the sales with coupons (which they double to $1.00) makes for some really great deals (like .79 for a box of Cheerios). I've saved the most money, though, on dairy products. At our store, dairy is marked down 50% off five days before the expiration date. That means I've snagged gallons of milked for $1.25, yogurt for about a dollar (Yoplait 4-packs, Dannon 8-packs, Lucerne 6 packs of 6-ounce yogurts for a mere $1.10). I've also found sour cream, cottage cheese, and blocks of cheese half-price. (I've never found dairy close to the expiration date marked down at Walmart).
I may venture into Walmart when I need laundry detergent (unless I make my own), cleaning supplies, and diapers. I may check for produce deals and grab a few items while I'm there (like dried beans), but other than that, for right now, I'll keep more money in my purse if I just say no.
What about you? Do you love to shop at Walmart, or do you find you do better with your budget if you stay out and shop your local grocery store?