Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Saving Money by Staying out of Walmart

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?


  1. I'm on both sides of this fence! Occasionally I'll make my meal plan and just buy everything at Walmart just to get it done, and knock detergent, staples, etc. off my list all at once.

    If I have time to plan before needing the items I'll shop our local store Carrs (owned by Safeway)and buy just the sale items, getting the rest at a later trip to Walmart. Carrs won't take internet coupons, and no one doubles in Alaska, so sometimes it's worth saving the time and gas to just get it all at Walmart :(

  2. I'm torn about this myself. I live in a very small town where we only have Walmart and Safeway to choose from. The next closest grocery store is at least 20 minutes away and is a really small store. So I find I'm at Walmart far too often. I try to go to Safeway to take advantage of their sales (especially when I combine with coupons). But I do exactly what you say - I go to Walmart to save and end up with more than I was planning to buy. This year I'm trying to make sure every week I buy with cash since that is the main way I don't overspend. And I will also try only going to Walmart twice a month instead of 4-8 times.

  3. I stopped shopping at Walmart a couple of years ago when I first started couponing. I had always thought that Kroger's prices were too high, but I soon found out that when I shop sales and use my coupons, it's cheaper. I also utilize store/generic brands, as I've done at Walmart with some items. I also shop at Aldi and stock up on the items we like from there, while loading up on bananas and other produce they have for MUCH cheaper.

    By not shopping at Walmart and buying my groceries at a grocery store, I'm not tempted by the Merchandise side of Walmart. Always before, I'd wander all over the store, buying everything from nail polish to clothes to CD's to groceries and was NOT saving any money at all. My Target store is not a super Target, so I shop for my household items such as detergent there. I love that they combine their coupons with manufacturer's coupons.

  4. With six children and usually having to take all of them shopping with me, sometimes I just resort to Walmart to get it all done and get home. The only grocery store I live close to is a Bi-Lo and I don't coupon very well. I agree, though, I buy less when I shop at Bi-Lo because I feel their prices are higher and I will just do without.

  5. Well it's all really just a matter of self control.

    I use Walmart, and save money that way. I have a list, and only buy the stuff on that list. I don't go looking at the other merchandise. It's pretty sad when as adults we "can't" say no to something we don't need (although I think it's more a case of we don't want to say no).

    Couponing is a waste of time, effort and money, and I don't see the point of buying stuff in bulk just to hoard it. If you hoard it you need a place to store it. I also think that certain aspects of couponing are extremely unethical, and almost stealing. I also have not seen coupons for healthy food (although avid couponers swear they exist, but they have never been able to show me one, nor do they have anything healthy amongst the hoarded crap in their pantries).

  6. I find that I spend more when I buy in bulk - laundry detergent is much cheaper in smaller containers with coupons at my Kroger.

    Recently I started shopping in smaller batches, more frequently - 4 15 minute trips a week instead of one hour long trip. My weekly expenditure for two has gone from above $100 to $60.

    I also shop manufactures coupons but refuse to clip for products that I don't want to consume. My big successes are for organic products, laundry detergent & dental floss.

    No matter what you do I think it takes balance, perspective, a pretty good head on your shoulders and a healthy dose of self control.

  7. Katy-Anne, no need to be so harsh. While you seem to exercise fantastic self control, not everybody is militarian disciplined and likes to splurge once in awhile! I am an avid couponer and keep track of my savings each week. How is getting a box of cereal for only 0.79 a waste of time? It takes hardly any time to cut a piece of paper out of a flyer. I have gotten cereals, yogurts, milk, bread and household items for extremely cheap or sometimes free! and we get coupons for healthy items all the time. Umm, just because I coupon doesn't mean I hoard 'crap'. If you would like to come see my pantry, you would be surprised. :) Either way it's our choice to coupon and yours to not...respect that, not call us down!! :)

    I also don't shop at Wal Mart, only for the simple fact that their produce is mainly chemically engineered (I watched a documentary on it once, it was sick!), they're beef is FULL of dyes and I find shopping at a grocery store much more relaxing and not near as busy usually!!

  8. That is hilarious! I just told my DH last night that I'm experimenting with only going to WalMart every other week, instead of every week. If I go to WalMart with a list of 5 things, I'll end up with 10 things. If I go to my slightly pricier hometown market with the list of 5 things, I get maybe 6 things and spend way less money. I'm glad I'm not the only one with this issue! :D

  9. Hi everyone,
    I think the most important thing is to carefully consider our options and arrive at the best decision for our families. That may be what saves the most time, or the most money, or makes us the least stressed. The main question is--what can we each do to stretch our family's food dollars the farthest? Maybe for you that is shopping at Walmart, and that's totally ok :)

    Katy-Anne, I am curious to know why you think certain aspects of couponing are unethical? If one is using the coupon as stated, I don't see how that's possible. But I'd love to hear your thoughts. I agree that, as with anything, people can go overboard. I think most people, though, fall in the middle.
    If I get a Sunday paper, I look at the coupons. If there is something I may use, I put it in my purse and may use it (or may not). I like to check coupons.com. It really doesn't take any extra time (maybe a few minutes to browse through), but they frequently have $2-$3 off Huggies coupons, and $1.50 off wipes. Right now, for example, our Walgreens has Huggies on sale for $6.99. That, with the coupon, beats any store-brand price.
    But, just so you know, I wrote a post about a year ago evaluating the issue of coupons. Here's the post if you'd like to read it sometime:

    Have a great day everyone!

  10. I prefer to not shop at Wal Mart.I just always feel a little overwhelmed with all of the stuff. ;o) I also have had many experiences with seeing moms that treat their children poorly while shopping. It bothers me. But, on occasion, living in a smaller town as opposed to a city. There are certain items that can only be found at Wal Mart, so when I must, I go there. I don't over spend though. Just the opposite! I'm always in a hurry to get in and out.
    I love Aldi and find it a very efficient way to shop. I also go to our Kroger store for some items that we feel strongly purchasing in the organic variety.
    The biggest way we save money is, meal planning and cooking from scratch. Not so much with couponing.
    I also make my own laundry soap and dish washer soap and use a lot of vinegar and baking soda for household cleaning.
    Everyone has to find their shopping/saving style and use it to the best of their ability.
    The only thing that really, really gets me at Wal Mart is the Better Homes and Garden candles.
    I stocked up on some yummy ones after Christmas at around $2.50 each!!! Woo Hoo. So I should be good until this time next year!

  11. I had always thought that the best way to save money was to shop at Walmart or for store or generic brand items at the grocery store. A few months ago I discovered some money saving blogs that match store sales with coupons. I was excited to find out that I could buy name brand items at a very low cost or in some cases get them free. I've made a few mistakes along the way and am learning as I go about what items I need to stock up on. I do not "hoard" but have extra items if my family needs them and was able to donate to a food drive last fall.
    There are a few things that I have to get at Walmart but I don't go there very often . There are never enough checkouts open and it is too crowded.
    Thanks Cheryl for this website. It would have been great to have this when my 3 children were younger and I needed the encouragement. God bless you!

  12. Katy-Anne, do you realize that the companies pay the store for accepting coupons? It's not like the stores are losing money. If they did, they wouldn't accept them.

    As someone else has said, most people use coupons only for the items they use frquently. Store execs know that the more promotions they have, the more likely a customer will come in to take advantage of them and that they will likely buy other things. Most people don't hoard items or buy items they don't use, and though there are lots of coupons out there for junk, there are also coupons out there for more healthy food. My favorite coupons are for oatmeal, cereal and orange juice, as well as laundry detergent and household cleaners.

    Aside from the excess of Walmart, I take issue with their business practices. I'd encourage you to watch MSNBC's show about Walmart and how they basically go to China and say, "We'll pay X amount of dollars for this item. Who will make it for that?" THAT is unethical, as it usually means that people are paid less than a fair wage. Not to mention the garbage in their meat (most of the hamburger they sell is full of fillers, namely lard). And as someone else pointed out, their produce is basically plastic.

    I prefer to shop at my local farmer's market as often as possible, which also saves money.

    While I always welcome a great conversation, I have to say, I don't appreciate the comments you've made about shopping and couponing. Conversation is one thing; attacking is something else.

  13. We refer to it as the dreaded Wal-Mart and try to avoid it as much as possible. In our town, we have 2 Wal-Marts and no matter the day or time the parking lot is always full. I find it hard to shop with children there just due to the size of the store and the crowds. We try to limit trips there to just once every month or two.

    I prefer to shop at Aldi and Kroger. We do both stores most weeks. Aldi is for a lot of the basics and Kroger for the good "deals" and some things that we prefer to buy there instead of at Aldi.

    Sometimes when we are at Wal-Mart, I like to compare prices just to see if we are really saving money with Kroger/Aldi and in all most all cases, the answer is yes.

  14. I completely agree with that study, which is why I rarely set my foot in Walmart.

    I actually did a grocery price comparison list between Aldi, Publix and Target, the places I shop the most because of convenient locations, and Aldi has some phenomenal prices on the products that I cannot use coupons on.

    I would like to invite you to join me at the Fantastic Frugal Fridays blog hop at Frugality Is Free.

  15. I try to stay out of WalMart because I always end up with one or two (or more!) things in my cart that weren't on my list. Besides, the stores are HUGE, and I can never seem to find what I'm looking for.

  16. Our Walmart does not really sell groceries. I do not shop there. Ours is always busy and they never have enough check-outs open. It is always crowded and I always leave frustrated and feeling I've wasted my time. It's much easier to shop at the smaller shops.

  17. I don't like shopping at Walmart either, I try to avoid it if possible. Although living in a rural area its hard not to, but I have been shopping more at Walgreen's, Price Cutter and the Dollar Store. I have also been price comparisoning and Walmart is not always cheaper, even without a coupon compared to other stores.

    As to the commentor about couponing being compared to stealing is pretty harsh in my opinion. There is no way to "steal" using a coupon. Yes, you may get things free but that is not stealing. Its called marketing between coupon manuf. and stores. Simple as that.

    As far as being a waste of time, that is up to each individual person. I myself, see couponing as saving money. I look at it like this-I certainly do not make 10 to 100 percent return on my money in a savings account but I can couponing.

    ~Cheers :)

  18. I've been shopping at Wal-Mart since 1974 and I love it; I've saved thousands of dollars. No, I don't love everything about it but I seriously doubt that there's much difference in corporate practices. When the media does an expose on a company - watch out! How slanted is it? What is their agenda? I remember how Diane Sawyers/ABC helped put Food Lion out of business in our area - and then we found out it was all a set-up. ABC lost the lawsuit but the damage was already done. So I feel about the media the way some of the commenters feel about Wal-Mart - it makes me feel a little ill.

  19. I don't shop at Walmart and haven't in close to 10 years. I'm fortunate to live in an area with a lot of alternatives, and if you visit my blog, you'll see that we're living on a very low income but I'm able to make it stretch even without shopping at Walmart.

    I'm a marketing student and Walmart was an example in one of my classes last semester as a company with a corporate culture that negatively impacts surrounding communities. Crime increases around Walmarts, small businesses go out of business because they can't compete with Walmart's economy of scale, which can be devastating for small towns, and they undercut suppliers. Google "Walmart Rubbermaid" if you want an example of how they undercut suppliers. It's definitely *not* all the same at every corporation.

    As for coupons, I do use them and am able to get most of my health/beauty products and household products free with coupon and sale matching. I don't hoard, but have bought more than I need so I can resell later on Ebay. I have seen coupons for healthy foods, like tomato sauce, whole grain cereal, frozen vegetables, occasionally even milk and eggs. Have you seen the blog of the guy who lived on $1 a day using coupons? He definitely ate a healthy variety and got a lot of food for his $1 a day!

    I tend to shop at the Grocery Outlet, Trader Joe's, Winco, and Food Maxx. I venture into Safeway occasionally with coupons.

  20. Katy-Anne, your tone seemed almost hostile, and your comments a bit rude. We are all just Moms who are trying to feed our families without going broke. That should garner your respect, not disdain. Having said that, has anybody tried the Grocery Game? If so, how was your experience?