Know your Suppliers, their Products, and their Prices –
In most businesses, the suppliers will go through a bid process. This is, essentially, the same for the consumer, but our suppliers put their “bid” in the weekly ads. Do not make the mistake of underestimating how much your choice of where you shop can cost or save you.
The difference? Our suppliers are experts (and hire experts) not only to create “needs” but to appeal to our emotions and our desires to be healthy and raise our families right. How do you sort out what to buy where with so many choices?
- Shop Reliable Stores: Just as a business does, shop from a very short list of reliable sources, so you won’t be wasting time, gas and your composure running around to multiple places. You’ll save yourself from wasting time searching for items in an unfamiliar store.
- Know how they Structure Pricing and Sales: Over time, you will find which stores have the lowest overall prices, and which stores have the best “bargains,” and learn to leverage that to your advantage. Compare weekly ads and determine if it is worthwhile to shop more than one place. If so do regular shopping at store A, but carry the short list for store B for a quick drive by when you’re out and about.
- Build a Relationship: In effect, by shopping only a few places, many of the store employees know me, at least by sight. Building a relationship over time is something most businesses do, but consumers seldom think about. An advantage may be had with problems with the receipt, coupons, returning bad products, getting special orders, etc.
- Don’t be Deceived by the Megagiants: Target, Walmart. My coupon deals at my regional grocery store almost ALWAYS beat them, although it never hurts to compare at a coupon matching site. In the past five years, I’ve shopped at Walmart twice – once was a deal great enough to draw me in, the other was when I went with a friend who needed “scrubs” for work, and I bought nothing. I sometimes find great deals at Target for pet food and I’ve bought some toiletries and makeup there from time to time.
- Costco, Sam’s, etc. I find the annual fee doesn’t justify the membership but consider shopping for certain items if you can share memberships and are very disciplined. If you have no time to check ads, comparison shop, buy on sale, etc., and you’re careful about what you buy, you may find that you’ll save some money over regularly priced groceries. If you’re really interested in saving money, these aren’t the places for you.
- Aldi: I’m a huge fan of Aldi, and find awesome prices on fruits and vegetables, although the selection is sometimes limited and they often don’t compare to sales priced produce at my grocery. I am a regular shopper there.
- Trader Joes: If you’re looking for “gourmet” items, it’s a fun place to blow some money! I’ll buy chocolate there when I’m making something special and wine, but generally, I find a bit of discipline is needed in this store and it’s not the place to find the best deals on “regular” grocery items.
- Ethnic Markets: If you live in a city or area that has thriving communities, ethnic markets can be fantastic places to find very good quality food at extremely low prices. Often these markets are buying from alternative sources compared to the chain grocery stores, and chains mark up the specialty products that one can find at these markets a lot! Meats, poultry, and other items are often varied and of a much better quality.
- Consider Alternative Sources: Can you buy, perhaps a side of beef from a farmer or butcher? Some have ‘packages’ consisting of a variety of different meats, priced in a bundle. The farmers market can be a great place for honey and specialty items, and a fun outing for the family as well as a place to buy the freshest produce.
- Pick your own: Orchards and small farms are great places to pick berries and sweet corn in the summer, get your apples or pumpkins in the fall, Christmas trees in the winter, and double as an event you’ll remember for a long time, perhaps even becoming a tradition.
- Shop your Neighborhood: On a smaller scale, maybe you can take advantage of neighbor’s neglected fruit tree or rhubarb in exchange for homemade product, do a little ‘foraging’ and take advantage of things you have in your own yard.
- Support Local Farmers: Consider whether it might be cost-effective to support your small local farmers by buying their produce boxes or renting garden plots. Many small ‘suppliers’ are struggling to compete with the ‘big’ guys, and constantly coming up with innovative ideas. Their products can be surprisingly low in cost and high in quality.
- Check out Community Offerings: There are many community buying clubs, co-ops and ministries that sell a set of discounted items for a set price (often biweekly or monthly), or ones that give you a discount or free food for volunteering time. There are generally no income or religious requirements for the ministries. It’s simply done as an outreach program for the community, and the food is “restaurant grade, no seconds.” Larger cities or towns often have these and the programs are able to increase their leverage with producers and lower cost per unit with more members so there is no need to feel concerned that by using them you are taking away resources from the less fortunate.
- Direct to Consumer Food Clubs: I find generally these do not reach a “rock bottom” buy price that compares to the sales prices at my store, but I live in a city where I have many options. These often offer a very decent price. Look for Food Clubs for organics, wine, basic groceries. Generally, you’ll order online and pick up in your area on certain days.
- Amazon: You’ll seldom find great prices on food and toiletries at Amazon, although they are an option when one can’t buy certain items in their area. If you love certain cuisines, making home-made rather than take out is certainly less expensive, even if you have to “mail order.”
- Think Outside the Box: Or in this age, brown paper or plastic bag, or even better, a cloth bag, especially when your store gives a discount for using when you’re thinking about food sources.
- What about gas? Know how much it costs per MILE to drive your car! People consistently over or underestimate this cost. You may know your miles per gallon – but when deciding if it is worthwhile to make a trip, you must know your cost per mile. My car gets 27 mpg, city driving. Gas is $3.29 a gallon. I simply divide to find out the cost per mile. $3.29 divided by 27 is about 12 cents per mile.
- If I see a great price on chicken breast, $1.50 per pound, normally on sale at a rock bottom price of $1.70 per pound (which comes few and far between) and the store is in a neighboring suburb, 10 miles away, would it be worth it to drive there? Round trip is $2.40. If I buy 12 pounds, I’d save $2.40. I’ve just found my “break even” point and I know that the trip would not be worthwhile to make unless I bought more than 12 pounds. If I’m in the area anyway or pass the area on my way somewhere else, that’s a different story.
- Just as an aside, if I happened to see a price on any item like this that beats my rock bottom price, I would call the store early in the week and ask if they can supply me with a quantity large enough to feed my family for a year – I’d figure family of four, six ounces per person, serve once a week, for a year I’d need 4 x 6 x 52 = 1248 ounces. I’d divide by 16 and know I’d need 78 pounds. I may not have saved much over the rock-bottom sales price, but I’ve just procured the best price and ensured my family will eat sales priced chicken throughout the year, even if the prices go up. If the store is agreeable, they’ll generally set aside several cases and have you drive around back and load it up for you.
Links to The Twelve Strategies:
- Strategy One: Bank Your Foods
- Strategy Two: Pay Attention to the Bottom Line
- Strategy Three: Control Costs – Maximize “Profits” and Minimize Losses
- Strategy Four: Take Advantage of Cyclic Changes in the Market
- Strategy Five: Be an Investor, not a Gambler
- Strategy Six: Give Back to the Community
- Strategy Seven: Have a Business Plan
- Strategy Eight: Invest in Training
- Strategy Nine: Know the Products you Buy
- Strategy Ten: Know your Suppliers
- Strategy Eleven: Take Advantage of Special Offers & Incentives
- Strategy Twelve: Use Sound Investment Principles