I noticed a post on Wise Bread the other day called “Buy Your Groceries European-Style”. I clicked into it, because the title sounded interesting. I was hoping for some frugal shopping tips.
The central argument the post makes is that it’s more frugal to go shopping for groceries every day, as you can avail yourself of the best deals that way.
Yes, you read that right – the suggestion is that you shop for groceries every day. But is that really more frugal?
The idea is that you’ll walk by the meat counter, and see some meat that’s been reduced for quick sale. You can buy that, and have it for dinner that evening.
You’ll stroll through the produce section, notice some produce that’s going bad, and get a good deal on that too – maybe turning it into a soup with the abovementioned meat.
You’ll walk over to the dairy case, and see some milk that expires in a day or two. It’ll be marked down, and you’ll snag a good deal.
These are all good things to do, if you have the opportunity – but in this case we’re finding ourself trekking to the grocery store seven times each week just to find these deals.
Does that really save us anything?
The Time Problem
If we have to count the cost of gas, we can just stop right here. We’ve already lost. Let’s pretend for a minute though that we can walk or bike to the grocery store so we don’t have to count the cost of gas.
Even if the grocery store is only a few blocks away (even more rare), we’ll have ten to fifteen minutes just in the walking back and forth.
Add in enough time to really look around and scour the produce, meat, etc. sections for good deals, and we’ve got another fifteen minutes without trying too hard at all.
A bit more for waiting in line at the checkout, a tiny bit more for putting away groceries when we get home, and we’ve got an easy forty minutes into this trip – and that’s just one day.
And Now For The Total
Forty minutes, seven days a week is two hundred and eighty minutes. That’s roughly four and a half hours per week that you’d be spending shopping for food!
I can do a regular trip to the store in about 1/3 that time, so that’s another three hours each week I’d have to spend shopping for food.
What’s The Savings?
If you come up with fantastic, mind-blowing deals, the best you’re likely to do (at least in my neck of the woods) is save a few bucks a day. Unless you’re stocking up, or feeding a large family, there’s just not enough food consumption in a day to realize huge savings.
Couple that with the fact that grocery stores are festering nests of sneaky ads designed to trick you into buying things you don’t need, and I’m not sure it’s worth it.
And We’ve Seen This Strategy Before
This strategy is also the very definition of scarcity frugality, which (as discussed previously) isn’t extensible or sustainable. In other words, these deals you’re expecting on a daily basis are incredibly limited.
If you want to take advantage of them, you need to live in an area where the stores are reducing items for quick sale, and you need to hope that not too many other people in your area have the same idea.
In other words, the strategy probably won’t work over the long haul.
The Total Package
Being frugal isn’t just about money – being frugal is a total package that includes your time as well.
I’m figuring above that daily shopping would burn an extra three hours a week. If you don’t use them for shopping, what can you do with those three extra hours?
Here’s a few ideas:
- Write a couple of blog posts
- Watch two movies
- Read 150 pages (at an average reading speed)
- Bake a few loaves of healthy, homemade bread
- Do a light cleaning of several rooms
- Take an extended nap
- Play a board game with your family
- Watch a baseball game
- Mow the lawn (with time to spare!)
- Learn to cook
….and that’s just the beginning of a list. I’m sure you can come up with even more.
The article contains some good points (the idea of being ready to vary your menu based on store sales, for example). An extra stop at the store mid-week may even be a good idea, in order to replenish nice fresh veggies.
But the idea of shopping every day wastes entirely too much time and money for my liking.
What about you? Have you ever tried daily grocery shopping? How often do you shop for groceries now, and how does it work for you?
Let me know in the comments!
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