“Shop Around” is part five of our series from the original Food Allergies and Budgets post:
Do not be product or store loyal, if possible. Shop at many stores in order to get the best deals (Asian grocers, Aldi, Costco, etc).
While shopping around to get the best deal is not a new concept to anyone who sticks closely to a grocery budget, I find this to be particularly true when shopping with food allergies. Most new food allergy shoppers (or non-food allergy shoppers) believe you are stuck to shopping only at one very expensive specialty shop. This is not the case. (You can read the series on where I shop and where I purchase particular allergy-friendly foods at The Willing Cook. You can find this series in the category “budget tips” on the sidebar.)
Benefits to Shopping at Multiple Stores:
- You are able to shop the grocery ads to get the best prices.
- You can take advantage of the cheaper store brands that are allergy friendly. For example, Costco carries a lot of allergy-friendly foods that are Kirkland brand. Of course, the same goes for Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods that carry their own brand of food and are often allergy-friendly.
- Don’t stop with the “specialty” stores. The big supermarket brands can often have store brand allergy-friendly food as well. You just have to read the labels. For example, Meijer carries a great selection of Meijer Organics and Meijer Naturals food that are sometimes allergy-friendly.
- Asian supermarkets often carry gluten-free flours or whole grains that you can make into homemade gluten-free flour that cost much less than the pre-packaged gluten-free flours at the big chain stores.
- There are also local health food stores or fresh produce markets that can offer good deals on allergy-friendly products as well. I have found some of these stores to be particularly good at offering “manager special” deals.
All of the above points lead me to say that you cannot be brand loyal, unless you have to be. Now, as far as allergies go, sometimes you have to be brand loyal. In that case, that is fine. But if you don’t have to be loyal to any particular brand, this is an area where you can save a lot of money. Personally, there is rarely a difference between the name brand and store brand products. In some cases, I prefer the store brand over the name brand.
Some of you might say, “I cannot go to multiple stores a week, especially with kids in tow or I work a full-time job.” However, shopping at multiple stores does not have to become a 2nd job as long as there is a little planning involved.
- Try to review the store ads for the upcoming week before planning your grocery shopping for the week. You can then map out if you want to hit a couple of stores based on those ads. If possible, avoid weekend grocery shopping because it is so busy. Night time is a great time to have some peace and quiet in the store.
- Make out a grocery list to save you time (especially if you have kids in tow). This list will also help you stay focused on your budget with what is “needed” and not what can end up in your cart from “wandering.”
- Be practical about shopping at multiple stores. You have to take gas into consideration when driving from store to store. If you only save a small amount on one product at one store but are purchasing multiple products from another store, it might be worth your time and gas to just buy everything at one store. This is where planning ahead comes in handy. Be smart about it.
- Don’t hit every store, every week. Costco/Sam’s Club, Trader Joe’s and Asian Grocers do not rotate sales, so you can plan a trip to those stores every 6 weeks or so (less for Asian stores if only buying flour/grains). Try to stock up on their products to last you until your next trip.
What if you live in an area with only one store option?
- There is always online shopping. Again, compare the prices.
- If there is a warehouse store or other specialty shop (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s) in a city close by, figure out the gas-time-cost savings of making a trip there a couple of times a year to stock up.
- Don’t limit yourself to just grocery stores. You can often find a small selection of allergy-friendly foods at Dollar Tree, Big Lots and Drug Stores.
So, I think that covers all my points for Shopping Around. Is there anything that you would like to add?
Up next week in the Frugal Food Allergy Living Series: Avoid Restaurants