Of all the chores I do, grocery shopping is by far my favorite. For a long time, I thought of a trip to the grocery store as the perfect opportunity for guilt-free shopping. I would go and pick up anything I wanted, no problem.
Slowly, over time, with Jon’s good influence, I started to become more price conscious. I started looking at cheaper cuts of meat and using specials to stock up on staples. But I still bought an awful lot of stuff on impulse that never got used. I was spending way too much. It took a month of minimizing my spending and a lot of budget tracking to get my grocery habits under control.
It’s still a work in progress. We’ve largely cut back on those mid-week trips that were causing our grocery budget to spiral out of control. We’ve joined Ibotta. We’ve been more diligent about using coupons.
We’ve also shifted, to the extent possible, some of the items we buy at our regular store.
We purchase paper plates from Dollar Tree. (but not plastic ware. We learned that lesson during our 5 months with no kitchen sink. Sometimes you get what you pay for!)
And we go to a place that spends most of it’s floor space on home decor to feed our coffee habit.
Hacking Our Coffee Habit
Jon and I both have a serious coffee habit. A day does not start until a pot of coffee is consumed.
I used to be bad about going to coffee shops. When I worked beside one, I easily spend $20-$30 a week on lattes. Mmm…delicious lattes. But also expensive.
Fortunately, I no longer have a job that puts me next door to temptation. I also find it’s a lot easier to avoid lattes if we make good coffee each morning.
So we spend our money on good coffee beans. We use a coffee grinder, so that our coffee is always fresh. We are so committed to our good coffee that we even take our coffee grinder and beans on vacation with us.
We buy half and half (1/2 gallon a week!) and we take time to enjoy a morning routine that includes companionably sipping our coffee together each morning.
Even when you fix your coffee at home, a coffee addiction can still be expensive. You can easily spend $6-$7 on 10 ounces of beans even on house brands, and we generally use about an ounce to make a pot. Everywhere we go, we look at the coffee prices.
Regular grocery stores. Walmart. Target. BJs….we’ve checked them all.
So imagine our delight at finding good coffee beans at $9.99 for 24 ounces. At a place that regularly offers coupons like “Spend $30, save $10”.
And that has a loyalty program that gives us a free 10 ounce bag of coffee for every 6 bags we buy.
The best place for coffee beans, hand down, is World Market.*
The Prizes of World Market
Striding in to World Market, I’m always struck by the juxtaposition of how I perceive its multitude of offerings.
I like a lot of the decorative items and furniture, and I’ve shopped there in the past for things like throw rugs and curtains. But I am not lacking for housewares in my life. Our house tends to be a bit on the overstuffed side. No matter how attractive the housewares, I probably don’t need them. For the most part, I have to ignore most of the store, except for the odd gift purchase.
For the most part, when I go to World Market, my focus is on consumables. The grocery section is where I find the real treasures of the store:
- A well laid out and reasonably priced wine and beer section, with an eclectic if somewhat limited selection. I admit this was my first reason to drive across town to visit World Market. The wine selection was less overwhelming than most wine stores, and it was easier to find interesting offerings than at the grocery store.
- HP sauce, to feed my inner anglophile, and Pickapeppa sauce when I need some Caribbean flair.
- Coarse salts, extra virgin olive oil, and vanilla beans. All at better prices than the grocery store.
- And Coffee. Not just any coffee, but low acid Sumatra coffee and Kenyan AA and Colombian, all at less than half the per ounce price of any I can find at our regular grocery store, even before the coupons and loyalty card rewards.
Seeking out Alternate Sources to Feed Gourmet Habits
No matter how you source it, a coffee habit can easily get expensive, especially if you tend towards coffee shops and name brands.
Other food habits can be just as expensive, particularly if you don’t want to compromise on quality. The key to keeping your costs under control is to look at new sources for the things you love to eat and drink, rather than limiting yourself only to what you buy at your regular grocery store.
Growing or making things yourself. I love good bread, and it’s a lot cheaper to make it than to hit up the bakery. Herbs i grow myself are less expensive and last a lot longer than any I buy at the store. There are a lot of items you can try making or growing at home. There may be initial outlays and a learning curve, so you might start small and work your way up to sourcing more and more of your favorites. You can also work with friends to start up a new DIY hobby. I knew a group that home-brewed together, which meant much lower start up costs to feed their love of good beer.
Shopping international grocery stores. International grocery stores often have inexpensive spices and specialty items, as well as exotic ingredients to add variety to your cooking. I’ve even noticed that the international section in my regular grocery store sometimes has spices cheaper than the same item in the spice aisle.
Sourcing Gourmet Items Direct. Specialty items in grocery stores can be expensive due to their low turnover. You may be able to get specialty items online for less as well as find rarer items by looking on the internet. You may also be able to buy direct from farmer’s markets or from outlets.
Feeding a gourmet habit, like my coffee habit, doesn’t have to be expensive.Keep your eyes open. There are plenty of opportunities to find good groceries aside from your regular store. If I hadn’t wandered around World Market, I would never have found their cheap coffee. Heck, most people who go in the store may never make it into the back aisle of the store where I find the best bargains. Now, I try not to buy coffee anywhere else.
Do you have a gourmet habit that you have to keep sourced? What tricks have you used to keep the cost under control?
*I am not getting any compensation for this post. I just think the coffee at World Market is a really good value.
Top Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net with Changes