Monday, October 11, 2010

Two Opposite Strategies

When I shop for groceries, I use two different stratgies, depending on what I"m shopping for and how much time and effort I can put into it.

The funny thing is, the strategies are complete opposites of each other!

Strategy 1:  Buying store brands in the largest packages available
This was my main shopping strategy for many years, until recently.  I would shop at Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ's, and buy their store-brand items.  More recently, a Super Walmart opened nearby, and I would buy their Great Value-branded merchandise.  Super Target also has their Market Pantry items, which are often at a good price.

These store-brand items are almost always less expensive than the shelf price of their brand name counterparts.  They are usually just as tasty as the name brands (in fact, they are often manufactured by the same company!).  And larger items usually (but not always) have a lower per-unit cost than a similar smaller item.

This strategy is good for those with little time (I still revert to it when I get too busy), those who have little interest in watching for sales or coupons, or for those living in areas with few shopping alternatives.  Also, depending on how the larger items are packaged, this alternative might create less packaging and thus be better for the environment.

It also works well on items which almost never go on sale or have coupons.  And it works well if you are out of an item, there are no current sales on the items, and you can't wait until a sale to replenish the item in your pantry.  But if you can wait, I've found that strategy #2 works better.

Strategy 2: Buying brand names in the smallest packages available, on sale and with coupons.

Strangely, this is exactly the opposite as strategy 1: instead of buying store brands, buy brand names, and buy the smallest packages, not the largest.   Typically, this advice would lead you to a larger grocery bill... this will only work if you buy during sales and use coupons.

Why brand names?  Because, I've found, usually the best sales are on brand name items, since the manufacturer helps pay for the cost of the sales promotion.  I've found that store brands don't go on sale nearly as often, at least at the grocery stores in my area.

And why smaller packages?  Because then a coupon will cover a larger percentage of the cost of the item.  As an example:

  • You have 2 $1 off coupon for a particular product which can be used either on a 1-pound package or on a 2-pound package.
  • The 1-lb. package is $1.50, and the 2-lb. package is $2.50.  (So per pound, the larger package is a better deal.)
  • You can buy two 1-pound packages, use two coupons, and pay $3-$2 = $1 for two pounds. 
  • Or, you can buy the 2-pound package, only use one coupon, and pay $2.50-$1 = $1.50 for two pounds. 
Clearly, with coupons, the smaller package is often the better deal!

I try to wait until there is a buy one, get one sale, and then use coupons to lower the price even more.  For instance, last week I bought twelve boxes of brand-name pasta.  They're normally $1.39 for a 16 oz box.  With the first strategy, I'd buy 5 lbs. of pasta at a wholesale club, paying around $4.00, or 80 cents for the same 16 oz..   So without the sale or coupons, clearly strategy 1 is better.

Instead, I bought them at a buy one, get one free sale, splitting the cost to 70 cents for 16 oz.  And then I added 6 coupons, each for $1 off 2 boxes.  So my total was 39 cents for two boxes, or less than 20 cents for 16 oz.  Strategy 2 wins!

This strategy is good for people who like checking deals and collecting coupons (i.e., you, most likely), have the time to do so, and have a variety of places to shop.  The down side is that, of course, not every item goes on sale, or at least not when you need them.  If that happens, revert to strategy 1.  Also, with smaller packages comes more packaging, so be sure to recycle if possible.

What shopping strategies do you use?  Leave a comment below!

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LivingABonaFideLife October 12, 2010 at 8:44 AM  

Great strategies! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. :) Have a great day!

Coupon Teacher October 14, 2010 at 4:06 PM  

I definitely do the coupon thing, but I hate the packaging waste it creates!

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