The Risks of Secondary Grocery Shopping Trips

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The Risks of Secondary Grocery Shopping Trips

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It had been a busy weekend, including a trip to see my in-laws in Iowa, and we didn't get a chance to do our usual grocery shopping trip.  I really like to do the grocery shopping on Sunday, because then the cupboards and refrigerator are fully stocked for the coming week. 

Monday after work I stopped at the grocery store, located conveniently on my route home, and picked up a few things that I knew we absolutely needed, plus supplies to make dinner.  I intended to come back to the store later that night with a full list.

Monday turned into Tuesday, and the process repeated.

Tuesday evening my daughter has dance class, so I thought I'd finish the shopping then.  Unfortunately, it was my night to drive the carpool, which didn't leave me with enough time.

Tuesday turned into Wednesday

I think you see where this is going. 

During the work week there are just too many things going on to find the time to do a full grocery shopping trip.  By the time Friday rolled around, I had stopped at the grocery store every night on my way home from work to pick up a few needed things.

While this was an out of the ordinary week, even when I do a full grocery shopping trip during the weekend, I commonly end up stopping on my way home from work at least once.  I wondered if shopping more frequently would result in a higher overall grocery bill.  So I did an experiment to see if there was an overall difference in my grocery bill if I went once during the beginning of the week versus stopping on my way home from work each day.

Here are the totals:

Total for everyday stops at grocery store: $169.11

Total for a single, complete shopping trip: $136.74

That's a difference of $32.37.

The next week, I was really diligent about making a meal plan, making a list, and sticking to it.  I was able to purchase a week's worth of groceries for $97.93.

That's a difference of $71.18!

Through this exercise, I've learned two lessons:

1. Make time to do a full grocery shopping trip. Secondary grocery shopping trips eat up your time, and your budget.

2. We have to change our perception that if we run out of something, I will just stop on my way home from work to get more. Instead, we wait until the next shopping trip to restock. I had to involve my kids in this one. While putting away the groceries, I told the kids that the snacks I purchased are what we have until the next weekend, so snack wisely.

This experiment was quite an eye-opener.  The best way to keep our grocery costs down is not only to stick to a pre-made grocery shopping list, but to eat within the bounds of the food planned and purchased for the week. 

Do you do one large grocery shopping trip, or several small ones?  Have you ever compared the two to see if one causes you to spend more?

Related Links:

A Grocery Store Dilemm 

Me vs. Coupons: Round  

Date Night at the Grocery Store

Travis Pizel, Debt Managment Plan Customer with Leading provider of debt relief, CareOne Services, Inc.Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family in Minnesota. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • Hi Travis!  You are soooo right about shopping only one time.  It seems, if I make a "quick" trip to the store for just 1 or 2 items, I come home with a bag full of mostly impulse buying stuff.  One other thing - NEVER, NEVER shop when you are hungry.  For me, that also adds dollars to my total.

  • We learned the same lesson. Make a menu, make a list and stick to it. Even when we are on a budget that is not so tight I spend less and get more for our family of 4 than my sister for her and her husband. She ends up wasting a lot because she does not have everything or changes her mind and things do not get used. If the kids run out of something and they should have known they have to pay for it themselves or wait till the next shopping day. There are rare occasions we have to make a run but we send Daryl by himself. He is very good at getting the one thing and NOTHING else LOL. As always - Great Post!

  • So True, tiquie!  I usually go grocery shopping late at night,  for first thing in the morning - so I've either just eaten breakfast, or I'm thinking about bed.  LOL.

  • Kimmer5000, I know people that just go through the isles and pick up things that look good - menu planning as they go.  It never works out, as they end up going back to the store 2 days later.  Then they complain they spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on groceries but don't have anything in their house to make for a meal. Having a plan is SO important!    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kimberly - I always enjoy hearing how you and your family handles similar situations!

  • I used to do all my shopping on the weekend armed with list(s) to get the deals at various stores. Now I do my main grocery at the same discount grocery store every weekend, and then plan to do a Wednesday quick stop on the way home from work at which ever other store had the most sale items I want. I hold back a portion of the weekly budget for the planned second stop and if anything was forgotten on the weekend it has to wait for the Wednesday night. I'd prefer to do only once a week, but I find planning (this is key) a second stop with another list and a specific budget still keeps me on track and allows for fresh produce mid week, and a chance to get a forgotten item without making a special trip.

  • That's not a bad compromise, JMK - as long as you can stick to that midweek list!  :)  Thanks for sharing how you do things - as mentioned, I like to hear how others handle the same situations - sharing ideas will help everyone find the best solution for them!

  • Great post Travis.  I try to visit the grocery store only once a week to avoid over-spending and over-eating. I am going to share this next Friday on our Dinks Finance roundup.  Have a great weekend.

  • Thanks, Tahnya Kristina - I'm glad you liked the post and honored that you would include it in your roundup!!

  • Learning new ways to save money!  Way to go!  I also do my shopping once a week.  Another great post Travis!

  • There's always new things to learn, and new techniques to streamline the finances, right Monica?  Thanks for the encouragement!

  • What my parents and I do is about every 6 weeks or so we go to Costco and/or BiMart and stock up on meat, canned and boxed foods, cleaning supplies, Toiletries, Beer, Soda, Batteries, Office Supplies because it is alot cheaper to do that then get those things at the local grocery store.  IIt actually saves us about 25-30 percent at Costco and BIMART in Bend and Prineville to buy those items then it does at Chesters Thriftway in John Day Oregon.

  • I wrote a post for a different website describing my first trip to Costco, and my feelings about club stores, Shaun:

    However, one thing that I learned through the comments on that post was exactly what you describe - that if a person could be disciplined, AND put together the funds for a large purchase, money could potentially be saved by buying bulk items infrequently (like every 6 weeks or so as you suggest).  

    They key here is being able to stay disciplined - kudos to you for being able to do so!

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