Shopping Where? A Little Conflicted.

It seems as though everyone is talking about gas prices and how expensive everything is getting at the grocery store. One of my Mommy groups even had a discussion the other day about how there is a thing called emealz that each week sends you an email with menus and shopping lists taking advantage of the specials at a particular grocery store (like Publix, Wal-Mart, Kroger, and ALDI (which Av and I went to once and saw one brand in the whole store that we recognized. They make you bag your own things – with your own bags. And you have to leave a deposit to use a buggy. We jokingly call it “that communist grocery store” now!).

Some of the other mommies were already using emealz but it won’t work for us because they don’t have one for Whole Foods, where I try to do 90% of our food shopping at – almost all our meat (except Av has to have Oscar Mayer beef bologna sometimes) and just about everything else – plus Av is a super-picky eater so that would probably throw any other menu to the winds.

*But* there are still plenty of things that we buy at other stores…you know…Claussen pickles, Duke’s mayonnaise, Cracklin’ Oat Bran, Tide, Reynold’s tin foil, etc.

Well, that got me thinking. For those things that we can get at just about any grocery store or giant super-whatever store, where are the best prices? I mean, a box of Hefty Cinch Sacks is the same no matter where I get it, so does one certain place really have the best prices overall?

Turns out, yes.

I decided to write down the 32 things we can get just about anywhere and price them out at Publix, Wal-Mart, and Target. I really thought there wouldn’t be much difference, but there was! A lot! Wal-Mart had the lowest price in 20 of the 32 items. Target was lowest in 9. And Publix was lowest in 3 – but only because the other two didn’t carry that particular item (Zapp’s chips, Mott’s organic applesauce, Kellogg’s Product 19 cereal). When I had the spreadsheet calculate percentages as to how much the difference between the W-M price and Publix was, it was an average of 14.216%. So if I spend $200 a month on these items, I’m spending about $30 more at Publix.

Here’s a pic of my spreadsheet, but if you’re interested in how it all turned out, you can see it a lot, lot better here.

I told Av that I was surprised that there was such a big difference. He wasn’t. So I said, well the only thing that can keep anyone going to Publix, to buy the very same things at a higher price, is that they must have some competitive advantage (wheeee I remember Marketing 101!!!) right? Well, they will take your groceries to the car, the store is super-clean and bright, and the people that work there are almost always very-very friendly…whereas at W-M, they won’t, it isn’t, and they aren’t.

Okay, and not to be weird but the clientele at both places is different. People don’t cruise the Publix lot with their windows down playing music super-loud. Oh, and one time I was at W-M because they carry Shug’s Earth’s Best Organic baby food and a woman was in the baby department cursing at 140db on her cell phone. In the baby department. We left in a hurry. People just don’t do that at Publix.

I cringe a little, too, when I think about doing my shopping at W-M rather than a smaller, regional chain. I have a soft-spot for Bruno’s and Piggly Wiggly too.

But now that I know the difference in cost is so much, I’m a little conflicted.

When I was doing a Google search for Publix just now, I found this blog called Fiddledeedee! where a fellow Southern mommy has taken up “shopping strategically” and even lists the weekly buy-one-get-one specials at Publix, and other coupons of theirs too. Oh, she is really with it on this! She is also trying to buy many more organic items and gives links to organic manufacturer coupons, like Stonyfield Farms and Organic Valley. Smart.

This logo for the Organic Valley shopping community is soooo WPA! Nice!

I’m just trying to do small painless things here and there so we don’t have to one day cut back in other places. I just wonder – what is everybody else doing? Okay, I’m off to cut some coupons…

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