When Saving Money On Groceries Isn’t Necessarily A Good Thing

I’m all for saving money at the grocery store.  We save money in our house by a multi-faceted strategy:

  1. Clip coupons – My wife is great at cutting out coupons and we also use some of the online coupons sites as well
  2. Shop for sales – We will buy things on sale that we need this week, or if it’s not immediately perishable, that we know we will use in future.  If we can combine the sale with a coupon, this is even better
  3. Buy what we can in bulk – We have a Costco membership and some things just make sense for us to buy in bulk: cans of mushroom, parmasean cheese, spaghetti sauce, granola bars and other snacks are all staples from Costco.  The key is to make sure we use everything up.

However, I think there’s cases where saving money on groceries might not always be the best.  How?  Well, if you’re spending excessively and buying things that you don’t need or won’t use.

The trigger for this article was actually a commercial that’s aired a number of times over the past few months for Kroger, a national grocery store with a big presence in our area.  In this commercial, Kroger lauds their low prices (editors note: not so much), and has actual customers talk about their savings.  Most of the customers are believable, but one stands out.

She says: “I save an average of $150 per week shopping at Kroger.”

Sounds great at first, but then you think, how much is she spending to save that much money?

I’ll use our most recent shopping trip to come up with some hypothetical numbers.  We didn’t shop at Kroger, but for the sake of argument, we’ll say that the numbers are within reason for comparison sake.

We spent $55 total.  Our savings, between buying things on sale and using coupons was $25.  Not as great as some people can get, but I think it was still pretty good.

If you multiply those numbers up, in order to save $150, you would have to spend $330.  That’s not $150 off of $330, that’s actually spending $330 after you took your savings.  Every week!

For a weekly grocery bill, that seems outrageous even for someone with a large family.

Those numbers would add up to annual out-of-pocket spending for groceries of $17,160.  To me, if you’re spending $17k and change on groceries in a year, I would have a hard time accepting that you’re really saving a lot.

Unless of course this was the Octomom or Kate Gosselin and I just didn’t recognize the person speaking.  But, somehow I doubt that was the case 🙂

Other great reads

Here are some additional posts I’ve read recently by other great, hard working bloggers.  Give them a read if you have a few minutes:

7 thoughts on “When Saving Money On Groceries Isn’t Necessarily A Good Thing”

  1. Good point. Only bloggers like us that dwell into the calculation would know that we would be spending $17000 a year to save $150 a month. That is insane!

    I also love Costco. Which reminds me, I have to pay them a visit real soon.

  2. You have a good argument. I've often thought the same thing about shopping at Costco. Lately I buy most my groceries at the local grocery store, because I want more variety and less quantity.

    Costco is good for a lot of household items though. You might want to set up Google Alerts for some of those items you buy regularly, and for Costco and local grocery stores. I like to do this to stay on top of good buys.

  3. When I first started using coupons, I figured since I used a coupon it HAD to be a deal. But of course that is not always true, sometimes I bought stuff that I wouldn't normally buy b/c I had coupon and waste it or there would be better deals w/o a coupon!!

  4. These are some great points. You have to have some money set aside in your grocery budget and don't spend over that even if you are getting a great deal. When we first started budgeting we would spend over our budgeted amount for groceries and use the excuse that the sale for meat or whatever was just too good to pass up. We've learned better than that now and don't make that mistake anymore and are financially better off for it.

  5. Thanks for all the comments.

    Terry – I hadn't thought of using Google Alerts for that. I use it for a few miscellaneous things but not shopping related items. I guess my SlickDeals feed normally keeps me busy enough *lol* but I'll have to fiddle around with that.

    Oscar – We have a monthly budget so that we have flexibility within the month to take advantage of great deals. But, yes, it is easy to get carried away on great deals like that only to realize the deal isn't so good when you have a freezer full of stuff that has outlived its edible life.

  6. We had a similar scenario when we first signed up for the UPromise program. With focused willpower, we were able to kick the urge! I think with a razor sharp focus, the same could be said with respect to coupons too.

    Thanks for the mention! Nice site you got here!!!

  7. How true! I recently put myself on a strict grocery diet of no more than $25.00 per week for three months. I have so much stock in my two full sized freezers and 75 feet of shelf space in my basement that I am literally running out of room and know that adding to my stock will result in food going bad or needing to be given away.

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