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Grocery Shopping is Getting More Expensive


Grocery shopping more expensiveIs it just me or are groceries getting more expensive lately? Actually, we recently changed our shopping habit and it seems to have inflated our grocery spending. We used to drive out to WinCo every week to stock up. The 30 mile round trip was getting to be a chore and we don’t want to waste any of Mrs. RB40’s precious weekend time. Now, we shop every few days at the neighborhood Safeway and Trader Joe’s and only go out to WinCo to stock up every 3 weeks or so. This arrangement is more convenient, but it does make a difference in our grocery spending.

Safeway grocery pricing is ridiculous

Does anyone shop at Safeway? The grocery pricing seems a little ridiculous. A pack of unsalted butter costs over $5. When there was a $2.50 sale, they were all gone within hours. You really have to pick and choose at Safeway.

Safeway has a loyalty program, the Safeway Club card. You will save on selected items with the club card (or just punch in your number at checkout). This is pretty useful for me because I prefer to buy things that are on sale. There is also a “Just for U” app that will send coupons to your phone. The grocery price becomes much more palatable with these two programs. Here are some of what I purchased last week.

Grocery Safeway expensive

The final price is not bad at all and I saved 43% here. Seems to me, the price is a little better than WinCo when you selectively shop for the items that are on sale. However, the regular price is somewhat high. The vegetables in particular are very expensive at Safeway and they rarely go on sale.

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s, on the other hand, doesn’t have coupons or a loyalty program. Prices are all over the map at this store. Some stuff are great deals and some are expensive. I picked up a jar of ground cumin for $1.99 the other day. That’s amazingly cheap. The Trader Joe’s brand products are high quality at a good price.

Good deals at TJ’s

  • Spices
  • Organic fruits and vegetables
  • Kids crackers and snacks
  • Cereals and granola bars
  • Specialty cheeses
  • Nuts and dried fruits

Expensive at TJ’s

  • Fish and meat
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • ?


WinCo is the champ when it comes to frugal grocery shopping. Almost everything is cheaper there because they keep their overhead low. Winco stores have a warehouse feel, do not take credit cards, and you bag your own groceries. There aren’t a lot of frills at WinCo, but I don’t mind. WinCo is employee-owned and treats their workers well. Many front line employees are millionaires due to the profit sharing structure. That’s pretty amazing compared to how some grocery stores treat their employees.

It’s too bad WinCo is a bit out of the way for us. We usually try to group the trip to the suburbs so we can do a few errands at once. This weekend, we need to pick up some kitty litter from the pet store and go to Home Depot for a couple of things. It will be a good opportunity for us to stock up our pantry at WinCo.

Grocery shopping is getting more expensive

Anyway, while grocery shopping is more convenient now, we spend more money. I guess you have to pay for convenience. Regular price items at Safeway still seems really expensive to me, though.

So is this the trend in your neighborhood, too? Are grocery stores setting the price high and luring you into thinking you got a good deal when you use their loyalty program and coupons?  

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

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{ 66 comments… add one }
  • lisa October 6, 2016, 9:05 am

    You are wrong about Winco being the “low price leader” as they claim. I live across the street from a Winco and have done the majority of my food shopping there for the last 6 years. I won’t purchase non-food items there because the variety is low and the prices outrageous. (Think Albertsons non-sale prices.) Anyways, I know the prices there backwards and forwards and their pricing is ALL OVER THE PLACE and most of the time it is on the high end. The only good deals and stand out feature there is their bulk section. Winco should be ashamed of their practice of price gouging whilst claiming they are a bargain store. Also, agree with above, these snake corporations keep their price the same while decreasing the amount of product, sometimes by mere half ounces. Probably in hopes that the general consumer will take no notice. Hell, even double-stuff Oreos have 2/3 the cream filling they used to. My daughter’s class did a project on it. The rip off of the American consumer is alive and well.

    • retirebyforty October 7, 2016, 8:39 am

      Their non-food items aren’t very good, that’s true. The other place we shop is Safeway. Safeway has very high price, but the sales are good. The Safeway brand is high quality too. The food at Winco is much cheaper than Safeway in general.

  • Mrs. SimplyFinanciallyFree April 12, 2016, 1:28 pm

    Our food costs are one of the things we struggle with the most but I have been actively working on improving. I do find that one of the big factors affecting costs are the convenience shopping trips. For example, stopping at the nearest store on the way home instead of one that has better prices. I am working on a routine where I go to certain stores for particular items to find the best prices, but not going too far out of the way.

  • Smart Money MD March 25, 2016, 2:42 pm

    Sounds like many of the grocery options in the Portland area might be higher priced than many other parts of the country. I remember hitting up ethnic food markets, Big Lots, and various local grocery options that may not be in the friendliest neighborhoods.

    Some of the organic food stores actually liquidate perishables at a reasonable price. I’ve been able to find organic milk for $1.99/gal (expiration within 1 week though), organic eggs for $1/doz (expiring within 1 week, but not sure if that even matters). I guess it depends on how much you are able to hunt, how far away these options are, and how much time you actually have to shop. Always difficult to balance time and cost savings.

  • Mike March 18, 2016, 9:19 pm

    I live between a Safeway and a Walmart in American Canyon, California. I had been going to Safeway(s) for decades because, well……..I always HAD gone there. But Safeway has changed, especially after the merger and having a hedge fund buy a big portion of it. Now the Safeway is ALWAYS under-staffed, and the prices which were typically higher than other stores, have exploded through the roof. I did a little price comparison between my neighborhood Walmart and Safeway. And the results were mind-blowing. Many items, in fact most, were 50 cents to a dollar or two or three more expensive at Safeway. Those ready-to-eat salads in plastic bowls were $2.49 at Walmart and $3.99 at Safeway, unless you bought three and then they were $2.99 at Safeway. Walmart’s one pound onion costs 60 cents, while the exact same onion costs $1.99 at Safeway. There is never anyone at the customer service counter at Safeway. They always have to page someone, who eventually comes. Also the deli is so understaffed that one employee told a customer that she would not make him six sandwiches, and that he would have to settle for two!
    Now……….. I have read some unpleasant things about Walmart, but my local Walmart is just the exception. Anyway, it is a “Super Walmart”, which means it is really big. Also it is just a few years old. The store is spotless and the employees, while not paid or trained to really know the products, are still none-in-the-less quite pleasant when you speak with them. The produce department, along with the bakery is pretty awesome.

    Anyway, the bottom-line is that after literally more than 35 years of shopping at Safeway, I have moved over to the local Walmart. The biggest difference that I have found is that I can buy a LOT more groceries (and other stuff) for a LOT less money. And for someone on a budget, that is truly a good thing!

    • retirebyforty March 19, 2016, 12:38 pm

      Yeah, I think they got much more expensive after Haggen purchased them. Our Walmart is not bad. Winco is definitely cheaper, but we can get other things at Walmart. I need some seasonal allergy pills and Walmart should have a very good price for them. We’ll have to cut back on Safeway. It makes a big difference.

  • Philip March 17, 2016, 9:00 pm

    I love WinCo! It’s too bad yours isn’t closer because it really is the cheapest grocery store by far. It’s still possible to save a decent amount on groceries without one. I’ve recently gotten into couponing and it’s amazing how much cheap or even free stuff the big chain stores put on sale each week. I end up buying most of my non-perishables at places like Rite Aid or Target and then picking up fresh stuff at an actual grocery store.

  • nicoleandmaggie March 17, 2016, 9:20 am

    We’ve had a lot of good luck cutting grocery bills (and restaurant bills) by joining a CSA (community supported agriculture). For a set amount you get a box of local, usually organic, veggies (and sometimes fruit) each week.

  • Tom March 17, 2016, 3:13 am

    We are a family of four. For years we used to eat and drink out or takeaway almost every day with a cost of $500 per week. At that time our grocery bill was $50 per week.
    After retired we eat & drink much more at home. Our restaurant bill is now $50 per week but our grocery grow to $220 per week.
    In total I find home cooking very frugal with average cost of $3 per full meal and drinks compared to eating out that cost in average $10 these days.
    My big time saving of $15,000 per year comes from moving from eating out to home cooking. Very recommended!

  • Alan March 16, 2016, 7:10 pm

    Prices are definitely up here. It can be even worse than you think because the packaging is also getting smaller to hide it. I like Costco but you have to watch that you don’t over buy and over consume. Also, I wouldn’t blindly say restaurants are always more expensive. I find that when I often cook something it can cost more when you add everything up. Cooking yourself can be much healthier, though. For a family, cooking has to be cheaper, but for one or two, it may not always be.

  • Tissue King March 16, 2016, 4:23 pm

    Safeway is very expensive. They do run some great deals on their buy 4 save $4 sales. If you download their Just4U coupons like you mentioned then that helps. Throwing down the old fashioned paper payment (coupons) also helps tremendously.

    I try not to even step in Safeway unless they are having a good sale but what I do is shop at King Soopers (Kroger) and that’s where I get the best deals here in Colorado.

    You can’t use Krogers online coupons combined with paper coupons like you can in Safeway but I’ve been only spending about $80 a week lately for a family of 5. I’ve used the extra savings to save up for the big sales and when they come, that’s when I really bulk up but that costs us about $150 during the big sales weeks.

    I also like to use rebate sites like Ibotta or Checkout 51 to money back. I really hate rebates but these two aren’t as much work. Check out my site and you can see a coupon post http://www.giggityonline.com/2015/07/couponing/ that goes a little more in-depth about my shopping habits. I know most people don’t like coupons but if you are trying to be frugal and get deals, this is my method of saving money for food and put extra money away for retirement.

  • Sarah March 16, 2016, 3:27 pm

    It’s so true, I feel like I’m going bankrupt sometimes buying all organic and my standard fruits and veggies. Do you think there is some kind of crazy politics thing going on? One of our writers at CentSai tried hacking his diet to save on groceries but it ended up not working out so well! I would like to try something similar but the cost is outweighing the benefits. Do you mind if I share the link here: http://bit.ly/1VdyfkQ

  • sharon March 16, 2016, 3:02 pm

    Grow a garden when you can – – lettuce, carrots, spinach, onions, broccoli, herbs are so easy and cheap to grow in the fall, winter, spring (depending on where you live). In the summer, peppers, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers grow like weeds in the garden. So easy and CHEAP!
    At the grocer, we buy in season/local/sale as much as possible for fruits, vegetables and protein. Don’t buy processed. Easy to make just about anything from scratch and so much better for you.

  • JasonInVancouver March 16, 2016, 11:41 am

    Food inflation is for real. It’s one thing that scares me about when factoring in increasing spends during retirement.

    And I agree what’s compounding the problem for Canadians is the weakness of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar because, at least in Vancouver, we get a lot of produce from California during the winter. The viral story this winter in Vancouver was $8 for a head of cauliflower. That pricing lasted for about a week or two before additional supply got it back under $2.

    We’re also lucky that we have a number of grocery options within 10 minutes of our house. We primarily hit up 3 places for groceries: A small local market primarily for vegetables, a low service discount grocery chain called Real Canadian Superstore for dry goods and miscellaneous, and Costco primarily for meats and dairy but also miscellaneous veggies, breads, and dry goods in bulk. While I do like Safeway and other comparable full service places in Vancouver, we find they’re too expensive to shop there regularly.
    Just to shill for Costco… the prices are generally so much better. We’ll get a litre of cream for the same price as half a litre at a regular store. For meats, we’ll divide portions up for a recipe we’re going to cook and then freeze the rest. We have no complaints about the quality of the defrosted meats.

    One last comment. We love farmers markets but we find it more of a treat for somewhat specialty items because we don’t find the pricing inexpensive.

  • Nathan @ Investment Hunting March 16, 2016, 11:33 am

    Where I live Safeway is the monopoly, in fact Safeway corporate headquarters is in my town. Sadly, it’s the cheapest grocery store in my area. I find that they are expensive, but can be reasonable if I pay attention to their sales and take advantage of their Friday only deals. As for WinCo, I shopped there when I was in college. WinCo is so cheap compared to Safeway. I wish I had a WinCo in the Bay Area.

  • The Professor March 16, 2016, 11:11 am

    Wherever I do go I always use my AMEX blue card. That way I get 6% back on all my groceries. Also I buy Arco gift cards at the grocery, use them myself, giving me a 6% discount on gas too. Win-win

    • Alan March 16, 2016, 7:01 pm

      Are you sure about that? I have the same card, and I’m pretty sure they stopped giving 6% on gift cards a while back. Also Walmart and Costco are not considered “grocery” stores. You do get 1% on these things though.

  • Stockbeard March 16, 2016, 11:10 am

    I’ve only been in the US for a bit more than a year so it’s difficult for me to compare. If anything, we’re probably spending less this year as we’re getting used to some of the “frugal” tricks that work here in the US.

    I agree that Safeway is expensive compared to the overall quality. My wife pays lots of attention to the ingredients and she found that it’s reasonably easy to find items at similar prices at Trader Joe’s, that have much less “weird” stuff than equivalent product from Safeway. She’s shopping more from Trader Joe’s now.
    We don’t have a costco nearby, but I’ve found that QFC was cheaper than safeway in general too

  • Tawcan March 16, 2016, 9:54 am

    We’ve been going to a local produce store and found things can be as cheap as half price compared to chain stores like Safeway. Since a lot of things are imported from the US, things are getting even more expensive for us Canadian now the Canadian dollar has tanked. 🙁

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:40 am

      I heard about grocery getting more expensive in Canada as well. That’s tough. I wonder how much the Canadian dollar has dropped. I will check it out.

  • Dividend Reaper March 16, 2016, 9:42 am

    You’re not joking – grocery shopping can get very outrageous. This is especially true when you’re trying to save a penny or two. The wife and I keep our shopping to only Walmart and Target because most deals seem to be found at those two locations. The trick we’ve found most helpful is to stock up when you see a sale on an item you use. If you can save 50% on it and it can be held for awhile without spoiling, you should stock up on it when it’s low. Hope that helps!

    -Dividend Reaper

  • Gwen March 16, 2016, 9:26 am

    I never noticed how much food cost before I moved since I was getting all my meat from a CSA. After the move I was flabbergasted to see how much meat cost, so I’ve cut down on it a bunch in an effort to keep my grocery bills down. If I ever buy this duplex, I’ll be mere minutes away from both an Aldi and Hy-vee, so I’m excited about not having to drive so far every time my pantry shelves are bare.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:39 am

      I haven’t looked into CSA much. There are a bunch around here, but I think they are more expensive than going to the grocery store. Good luck moving.

  • Michelle March 16, 2016, 9:26 am

    Now that we RV full-time, we see drastic differences when it comes to food pricing. It can get pretty crazy. I wish we were able to stock up on food, but that’s near impossible in an RV.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:38 am

      Food price is always ridiculous when we go camping. Enjoy your RV. 🙂

  • Brian March 16, 2016, 9:01 am

    It sounds like your change in shopping habits may be the culprit here. The USDA says that although food prices rose .8% from Jan 2015 to Jan 2016, this was due entirely to increases in restaurant prices (which were up 2.7%). The website linked to below is unclear on whether grocery store prices were up or down over the same period. It does on to say “Looking ahead to 2016, ERS [the Economics Research Service] predicts food-at-home (supermarket) prices to rise 2.0 to 3.0 percent—a rate of inflation that remains in line with the 20-year historical average of 2.5 percent. ”


    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:36 am

      I don’t know if the 0.8% is accurate. Grocery seems to have gone up much more than that.
      The new shopping habit really doesn’t help. Maybe we’ll try to go to WinCo a little more often.

  • LeisureFreak Tommy March 16, 2016, 8:54 am

    We get the new ads in the newspaper on Wednesdays and shop the sales and use coupons at Safeway, Kroger (King Soopers), and Sprouts. The stores are all within 5 miles from our home and offer high quality items. Our week’s menu is based on what is available for a good price. All of them charge high for non sale items. We do supplement our grocery needs lastly at Walmart. We also shop at Costco and Target for some items but not as our primary grocer. More for non-grocery needs like personal care, etc. that will really cost you at the major grocers mentioned. We have found that we can save money on our grocery budget even at Safeway. We feel they have excellent organic produce and meat but it will cost more if not on a discounted sale price using their club card. It is a little work and takes all of our spending discipline looking at prices for commonly purchased items to know if it’s sale price is really the best price. There is no denying that in general grocery costs is going up which makes us even more diligent in our discount shopping.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:35 am

      It’s a lot of work to comparison shop. I try to buy things that are on sale as well. It’s much more affordable that way.
      Safeway does have some good deals, but you have to work for it.

  • Maria March 16, 2016, 7:34 am

    Publix here in Florida is extremely expensive especially organic food. Organic eggs and milk has sky rocketed so since milk has become so expensive and causes inflammation I buy milk once a month. Coffee only buy the one on sale. No junk food. I have opted to buy most fruits and veggies at our local Farmers Market which I visit twice a month. With $10 or $12 bucks I can stock up for 2 weeks to feed my hubby and myself. Publix BOGOs and Publix brand help to lower the bill also. In addition less meat consumption also helps- beef perhaps twice a month!!

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:33 am

      Wow, your farmer markets are very well priced. Our farmer markets are premium priced. Everything is much more expensive at the farmer markets. That’s really too bad.

  • tyler March 16, 2016, 7:30 am

    Grocery Shopping has become a huge burden on our budget. We started going to publix for buy one get one free items and aldis for most everything else. Sam’s club for meat great price on chicken and salmon we buy it and freeze what we aren’t going to use in the next few days. But groceries are way to expensive if you ask me. I may have to stop drinking coffee soon which will not be good for anyone.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:31 am

      I stopped drinking beer. 🙁 I love it, but it’s not good for my triglyceride level or my wallet. I can’t cut coffee, though.

  • Justin March 16, 2016, 6:48 am

    We shop in a similar manner to you. Except our Aldi (our version of Winco from what I hear) are plentiful in my area (one of the many benefits of living in a socioeconomically slightly below average part of town!). So we hit Aldi for almost everything, but routinely go to the Trader Joe’s that’s 2 miles away maybe every 2-3 weeks for some stuff that’s cheaper and/or much higher quality than Aldi like fancy cheeses, beers, wines/champagnes, nuts and seeds, frozen potsticker dumplings, frozen edamame, marinated artichokes, capers, etc.

    Then we’ll check out the sales papers for the Food Lion and Kroger grocery stores to see if they have any enticing deals that make it worth a separate trip. If we aren’t saving $5-10+ we aren’t making a special trip even though the Food Lion is a quarter mile away and therefore easy walking distance. As much as I love saving a buck or two here and there, I hate to spend an extra 20-30 minutes to do so.

    It’s so nice to live in the city and have a car to make all these grocery runs easy and relatively quick. Since there are probably a few dozen grocery stores within a 15 minute drive, quality is rather high and prices are competitive (especially if you shop the sales).

    We also shop at the Asian and Hispanic grocery stores pretty often. Great places to get good prices and good variety of ethnic foods without paying premium prices at a regular grocery store. Just yesterday I chatted with the owner of our local Asian grocery store and got the inside scoop on commodity prices. After noticing they don’t carry the one pound containers of black whole peppercorns any longer, I asked about them. Apparently the wholesale price of peppercorns shot up 50% since I bought my last pound container a couple years ago! He also warned me about tamarind based products and other agricultural products coming from Thailand. Apparently the droughts there have led to shortages and resulted in price spikes. He said get any tamarind you want now because prices are going up. The good news is rice prices have dropped. Just paid $38 for a 50 pound sack of the Thailand Wang Derm 2016 new crop rice. That was $45+ for the past few years and only recently dipped below $40. Hopefully the drought won’t make prices creep back up again. We can afford it obviously, but I hate to think of the local folks in Thailand facing drastically higher prices on food commodities.

    • Justin March 16, 2016, 6:52 am

      I forgot to mention, I’ve noticed significant price drops in many staples lately compared to the past few years. Cheese – easy to get at $3/lb or less. Beef – once again seeing $3/lb for boneless lean cuts. Pork – routinely seeing pork loins under $2/lb and pork shoulders close to $1/lb. Chicken – bone in thighs or drumsticks routinely $0.49/lb on sale and boneless chicken breast under $2 lb. All that stuff was probably 33% more expensive locally over the past several years. This might be regional so YMMV (NC is a huge pork producer for example).

      Overall I haven’t seen any real significant increase in our grocery costs even as the kids get older and consume more food.

      • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:30 am

        Meat is definitely much more expensive around here. I have never seen beef under $5/lb. It’s probably regional…

        • Justin March 17, 2016, 9:04 pm

          My sister in law just dropped off a 9 lb angus sirloin cut from Sam’s club. $3.17/lb. It’s not grass fed or organic (as far as I know) but some good beef nonetheless. And that’s more than we normally pay lately.

          • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes March 18, 2016, 12:16 am

            Wow, those are some great meat prices. We don’t see beef here for under $6/lb. I think I’m having a lucky day when I see a pork shoulder for $1.99/lb. Basically meat is way too expensive, so we’ve begun cutting it out of our diet.

            Did a post about this a couple weeks back: http://www.mrtakoescapes.com/2016/02/23/beef-its-not-for-dinner/

          • Justin March 18, 2016, 8:44 am

            @ Mr. Tako – wow didn’t realize it was abnormally cheap. I’m not sure why because I don’t think North Carolina is a big beef state (more like pigs, chicken and turkey). We routinely see $1-1.29/lb pork shoulder/boston butts. $2/lb is common for boneless lean pork loin ($1.89 all the time at Aldi I recall). Aldi of course is the magic sauce when it comes to inexpensive meat, so perhaps that puts pressure on other grocery chains to keep costs low too.

            I like low meat meals but can’t get the wife to cut back. She’s carnivorous (though she claims steak is medicinal in nature to help with her anemia 😉 ).

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:29 am

      Nice scoop from the store owner! The Thai Baht has fallen against the dollar recently so that probably contribute to the better pricing as well.
      We live in a more expensive part of town and there are a bunch of expensive grocery stores within 5 miles. We have to drive to the suburb for WinCo and Walmart. All the Asian grocery stores around here are pretty expensive too. I heard 99 Ranch market is opening up soon and that would be awesome. They are an Asian chain with great price from CA.

      • SavvyFinancialLatina March 17, 2016, 5:16 pm

        I live in a working class neighborhood side of town in DFW (metro area). I have Kroger, Tom Thumb (which is expensive), Aldi, Fiesta, H Mart (Asian store), 99 Ranch, and Walmart within 10 minutes. Love this area!

        • Justin March 17, 2016, 8:58 pm

          Yes! The working class side of town is where it’s at. We’re in a similar area in Raleigh. 1-2 miles west is the posh fancy part of town, a few miles south is pure hood, and to the east and north is some really sketchy areas. One of our neighborhood shopping center has a full size latino grocery store, an Asian grocery store, an African grocery store, a fish market, and a panaderia. I couldn’t ask for much more (except an Indian grocery store in case the grocery store gods are listening).

      • Justin March 17, 2016, 9:02 pm

        That’s definitely a downside to living in a nicer area. Little access to cheap groceries. In Raleigh the downtown area has zero grocery stores (where do all the folks in the fancy lofts and studios buy food other than restaurants and bars??). The closest is a Harris Teeter a 1-2 miles away and it’s basically Whole Foods pricing (but it is very nice inside!). Sure, the downtown area is very walkable (Walk Score of 97 or so) but I call shenanigans when you can’t walk to a basic grocery store.

      • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes March 18, 2016, 12:22 am

        Wow, you guys are doing it wrong in Portland Joe – the Asian grocery stores are supposed to be cheaper! We get most of our produce there; it costs half of what safeway charges.

  • Anna March 16, 2016, 6:41 am

    My husband and I tend to mostly eat all our meals at home, and cook a lot so groceries are definitely a big line item on our budget. I do feel that we often spend so much time going to so many places for good deals and specific items. It’s so easy to fall victim to bad prices — you certainly pay for convenience.
    I would say we complete 35% of our shopping from Costco , 25% from an Asian store, 30% from Publix (their bogo deals make it well worth it to stock up), and 10% from Target (the cartwheel app can be helpful). It can be exhausting though and I try, whenever I can, to try to limit the trips to a big list to make it more worth the effort. Fortunately, we live within 3 miles of all these places so it’s not all that inconvenient to us.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:24 am

      I agree about pay for convenience. There just isn’t a lot of time on the weekend. I guess we could go to WinCo on the weekdays, but the traffic is horrendous.

  • Mike H. March 16, 2016, 6:26 am

    I’ve been trying to eat a bit better lately, and my grocery bill has been ballooning accordingly. Part of this I’m ok with, since it corresponds to a sharp decrease in my restaurant expenses. Some of it I’m less ok with because it’s what I’d normally consider luxury items, especially the ones I get at Whole Foods. Between Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, I’m spending a lot of money every week on groceries.

    My theory is that once the true fat is trimmed (i.e., I need to stop buying snack foods), then better food is worth the extra expense.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:13 am

      We have been trying to eat better lately as well. I notice fish is really expensive…
      I think cooking at home is always more healthy and cheaper than eating out. Great job.
      Whole Foods is really ridiculous…

  • PhysicianOnFIRE March 16, 2016, 6:19 am

    The Undercover Economist, which I just read last week, had a chapter on grocery stores and pricing. Sale prices tend to be random. If they were predictable, shoppers who pay attention would wait. Store labels are intentionally unappealing. The store offers them to appeal to price-sensitive frugal shoppers, but wants them to look ugly to discourage the typical shopper and steer them towards the name brand with the higher profit margin.

    I am lucky to have a Costco and Aldi within 5 minutes of home. Also a Walmart and a couple regional chains similar to Safeway. We hit up Costco and Aldi most weeks, and the others occasionally for convenience or a brand name product that Aldi doesn’t carry and Costco only carries in 5-gallon buckets.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:12 am

      The grocery stores use a lot of tricks to get people to spend more money. I found quite a few ways too. Wholefood priming shoppers to buy more, for example.
      I like store brands. The labels look plain, but the quality seems to be okay. I guess I’m in the frugal shopper category.
      I never liked Costco. It’s way too busy there and we don’t buy in bulk. Costco just doesn’t work for us.

      • PhysicianOnFIRE March 16, 2016, 2:17 pm

        You might want to give Costco another look. Not everything is bulk.

        A gallon of milk is about $1.75. Their fresh produce is high quality and low in price. They sell prime beef for the cost of choice beef at the supermarket. Quality clothing, books, vacation packages, etc…

        We have the $110 executive membership, but get more than that back at the end of the year in the form of a 2% rebate on our purchases. Currently, they only take AmEx, but will start taking VISA in June.

  • Money Beagle March 16, 2016, 5:26 am

    Yes, it’s definitely gotten more expensive. The grocery category on our spending chart has gone way up over the past few years. Granted, some of that is that we now have two growing kids who eat more, but a good deal of it is definitely explained by the price increases and the tightening on coupons and the like.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:09 am

      I think the kids make a huge difference too. Our kid doesn’t eat too much right now. I hope he eats more soon, though. He is so skinny.

  • Derek @ MoneyAhoy March 16, 2016, 4:33 am

    I think most grocery stores have a handful of deals to get you in the store, then jack up the prices on random other things to build up profits. If you have the time to shop and compare you can save quite a bit. If not, then you will way overpay!

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:08 am

      That’s exactly how Safeway operates. Trader Joe’s and WinCo are usually pretty good. The price is affordable on most items.

  • Christine @ The (mostly) Simple Life March 16, 2016, 4:24 am

    We don’t have those store around here, but I have been thinking that I’ve been having a harder time sticking to my grocery budget lately. So maybe prices are going up. We drive 45 minutes away every few months to stock up on meat to freeze and inexpensive nonperishables at Aldi and Sam’s Club to save money. That helps our budget out quite a bit.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:07 am

      Wow, that’s a long way to drive. At least you don’t have to go very often. I hear Aldi is pretty good.

  • Pamela Car March 16, 2016, 4:23 am

    What about ‘different pricing for different neighborhoods’? I’ll never forget a friend who used to stock up on diapers when she went to visit her mom, as the Target there was cheaper than the Target near us. Same company, so the three situations above don’t apply.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:06 am

      I don’t notice much differences in store pricing around here. The Target seems to be all the same price. Maybe it’s a regional thing.

  • Pennypincher March 16, 2016, 3:36 am

    I also don’t shop our local, nearby grocery $tore$ unless I’m desperate. Way overpriced. We try to avoid as much packaged processed food items as possible. Of course you need paper products, but it doesn’t justify a Costco Club membership each year for me. Besides, I have no room in my cupboard, closet, or fridge for giant, jumbo packages of stuff.
    The best we can do is learn to cook more with fresh food, produce, mainly vegetables. Make your own cookies, much healthier too. I think others around the country have it worse than many of us-no grocery options at all. I drive quite a distance for reasonably priced meat, fish produce. One has to do what you have to do.
    Interesting about the WinCo employees being millionaires. I love stories like that!

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 10:05 am

      I don’t like Costco either. We just don’t have any space for extra stuff.
      Safeway and Trader Joe’s are just very convenient for us. Maybe we need to go back to stocking up at WinCo every week.
      Fish and meat at Safeway are pretty well priced when they are on sale.

  • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes March 16, 2016, 2:09 am

    Safeway *is* expensive. It’s also the nearest store to our house. We quit shopping there unless there is a dire need for some item in a hurry.

    In general, we do most of our grocery shopping at Fred Meyer, our local Asian food store, and of course Costco. We avoid buying anything but the loss leaders at many stores.

    Want to save money on your grocery bill? Eat what’s in season.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 9:59 am

      I agree about Safeway. From my research it seems to be one of the most expensive regular grocery store. I should check Fred Meyer. There is one nearby, but we usually don’t go there. I think the price is between Winco and Safeway.
      I don’t like Costco at all. It’s way too busy there and we don’t buy in bulk.

      • Mr. Tako @ Mr. Tako Escapes March 18, 2016, 12:29 am

        Yeah, the secret to Costco is to go during the middle of the day on a weekday. Or, a Friday night just before they close. Store is empty then.

        Fred Meyer is alright. We mostly just shop the sales there, but everything else isn’t absurdly priced like Safeway. Your intuition that Winco will be cheaper is pretty much correct; although we’ve found some things that are weirdly cheap at Fred Meyer like yamaimo (sometimes called mountain yam)

  • Kevin March 16, 2016, 1:28 am

    Overall groceries have been getting higher for the last several years. A lot of what I see is keeping the price similar but reducing the size of the packages. I have shopped a lot at Walmart and you can walk out with some nice deals if you price match the other local stores loss leaders, but overall Walmart has been getting more and more expensive lately. In the last couple of years I have been shopping more at Aldi. The prices are noticeably better even on the more processed foods. The real savings kicks in on fresh produce. The prices on produce at Walmart is running 2 to 3 times the expense of Aldi. If you have one near enough, I would highly recommend trying them out, as you will save a lot of coin.

    • retirebyforty March 16, 2016, 9:57 am

      I saw that CPI has been outpacing wage increases. That’s not good. I don’t really notice the smaller packages much. We don’t buy in bulk so I notice the price increase more. Milk is still a gallon, but it cost more.
      Around here, I don’t think Walmart is a great deal for grocery shopping. The produce section is just as expensive as other grocery chains. WinCo has much better pricing. I guess it’s regional.

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