Grocery store loyalty can be costly

Grocery store loyalty can put a dent in your wallet.

With food prices rising because of this year’s terrible drought, I’ve been getting more questions from people who want to know how to save money on groceries.

The good news is, there are lots of great ways to save money at the grocery store.

Of course, I clip coupons. That’s a no-brainer. It’s free money just sitting inside my Sunday newspaper each week. But one of the best ways I have found to save money is to shop at multiple grocery stores rather than being loyal to just one.

For example, last week I went to a local Publix to stock up on things they were selling for half-price. Another day, I went to Harris Teeter for different groceries they were offered at half-price.

It may sound like a hassle, but I saved about $35 by shopping at two stores instead of one.

In my case, shopping that way is easy, because between work and home, I drive past all of the main grocery stores in our area. So it’s no trouble to run into Publix one day, and Harris Teeter, Piggly Wiggly or Bi-Lo a different day.

If you live in an underserved area where grocery stores are scarce, like rural areas or in North Charleston, it may take a bit more effort. But if you have a car, chances are you drive past a number of grocery stores during your regular weekly travels.

Here’s what to do: Check the newspaper on Wednesday when the new grocery store circulars come out. See which ones are offering great deals on things you would normally buy. Half-price sales on groceries are commonplace. Coupons can make those deals even better.

You may have a store where you like to regularly shop, but what if you could save $25 or $35 or more by ducking into a different store? Those savings really add up week after week, and if you focus on nonperishables, you can stock up.

Here are some real-time examples, from the circulars distributed in the Mount Pleasant area in the Oct. 3 Post and Courier. Take a look, and you’ll see how taking advantage of deals at different stores can add up to big savings.

Bi-Lo: Half-price Colgate toothpaste, Mayfield ice cream, boneless chicken breasts, various frozen seafood products and Thomas English muffins. Yoplait yogurt for 50 cents, 12-packs of Coke at $12 for four. And purchases count toward Fuel Perks gas discounts.

Harris Teeter: Buy-2-get-3-free on Breyers ice cream, Pepsi 12-packs, Northland cranberry juice and Wish-Bone salad dressings. Half-price Bertolli pasta sauce, Berio olive oil, New York strip steaks, Goldfish crackers, Kellogg’s Mini-Wheats, Tidy Cat kitty litter, South Beach cereal bars and more. Spend $40 and you can also buy a $25 gas card for $20.

Publix: Buy-1-get-1 (half price) deals on DiGiorno shredded cheese, Mueller’s pasta, Classico pasta sauce, Barber frozen stuffed chicken breasts, Eight O’Clock coffee, Deer Park bottled water, V8 juice, Campbell’s natural soup, Bic razors, Meow Mix cat food and more. Also (with coupon in circular) spend $50 and you can buy a $50 gas card for $40.

Piggly Wiggly: Half- price deals on a variety of fresh meats, Breyers ice cream, Carolina Pride sliced ham. Deep discounts on Mrs. Mac’s 8-piece fried chicken, Red Baron frozen pizza, Pillsbury cake mix, Lean Cuisine meals, store brand charcoal, and more. Shoppers can also get Greenbax rewards.

If you’re reading this column before Oct. 9, those sales are going on right now (grocery promotions typically run Wednesday through Tuesday). With many stores, except Publix, you’ll need a free store loyalty card to get most deals.

Of course, shopping this way takes more time than simply going to the store you prefer when you need groceries. There’s always a trade-off between time and money.

In my case, considering how many groceries stores I drive past every day, a little advance planning allows me to save lots of money each month. I just scan the circulars while I eat breakfast Wednesday morning, make a list and shop when it’s convenient. Of course, if something nonperishable that my family regularly uses is offered at half-price, I usually buy enough to last for months.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.