Sometimes being disloyal can be a good thing
The other day a frugal blogger friend of mine asked the question: “How many stores do you shop at for food?” I had to think about it for a second, before I answered “eight” — which is actually on the low side for me. Just as there is no shortage of good restaurants to eat at in Vancouver, there are also tons of places to buy groceries. From organic and discount chain stores that span city blocks or more, to corner ethnic grocery stores, Vancouver has many options for getting the best grocery deals. I’ve found organic packaged food to be least expensive at corner grocery stores, ethnic and otherwise.
By checking weekly flyers and using websites for coupon print-outs and match-ups, I make a list of stores to stop in to purchase my groceries. Shopping around, and not just buying everything you need from one store can definitely save you a lot of money. Luckily, I have many different grocery stores within a 10 minute drive from my apartment, so I don’t need to commute very far.
I have always shopped in ethnic grocery stores to get specialty items that are often far cheaper than they would be at big grocery stores. These corner stores are often family-owned. I love being able to support local businesses, and get “authentic” ingredients to supplement food that I have purchased elsewhere.
During late spring and throughout summer, I add up to three farmer’s markets to my list of places to check for produce specials. I enjoy the freshness of the produce found at farmer’s markets, and being able to meet the farmers that grew the food.
“Secret” shopping locations
Where do you go to buy your kitchenware? A little-known secret is that you can purchase things like pots, pans, knives and more from restaurant supply shops. These shops, often located in light industrial areas, are often open to the public. You can score industrial fridges, ovens, and other appliances, too. I have seen specialty coffee supply shops that sell commercial-grade espresso machines for far less than what retailers charge.
A quick Internet search reveals that there are wholesale stores that sell food to restaurants and small grocery stores which are also open to the public. These types of stores are great for stocking up on non-perishable food.
And other times loyalty pays off
Join loyalty programs
If there’s a loyalty program, I sign up for it. Most stores and gas stations have some sort of loyalty program, whether it involves earning points, having an extended return policy or getting a discount at the time of purchase, I always feel like I’m missing out when I don’t use a loyalty card when making purchases. I know what you’re probably thinking — I don’t want to carry around another card in my over-stuffed wallet! Well, most stores store your information in their computer systems, so you only need to give them your phone number to get the same benefits as if you had brought in a card.
Find coupons and discount codes
When shopping online you can select your favourite store and know that you’re getting the best deal possible when you use coupon and discount codes. While you can often obtain these codes by signing up to store newsletters for discounts of around 10-15%, you can also find codes on websites that gather them all together in one spot. I’d suggest that you pop over here to find out if there are coupon codes for the stores and brands you’re most interested in.
Get on their mailing list
I know about warehouse and sample sales before they’re announced publicly, because I’m on a mailing list. You can do this online or in person at stores of all kinds. Often, stores will have special sales or events just for people who are on their mailing lists. A few of the small grocery stores that I frequent have mailing lists to keep customers apprise of sales. Since they don’t have flyers, this is a great way to keep loyal customers coming back.
What are your smart shopping tips?