My groceries are killing me: easier ways to shop
I don't know about you, but I hate grocery shopping. I hate it even when I get to shop at fun places, like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. It takes so much time, and I never know if I'm getting a good deal or not, because I'm not organized enough to write down prices. Also, I don't have enough hands to do it while I'm in the store. Lately, I've been investigating some different ways to shop. My requirements are that i still get to do some cooking, that I get to eat relatively fresh ingredients, that I can eat as healthily as I want, and that I don't have to spend very much more than I am now. Here are some grocery shopping alternatives that just might give you the break you need!
Playing The Grocery Game
What: The basic gist of The Grocery Game is that busy shoppers can clip coupons from the Sunday paper, then pay $5 a month to have Teri find out when the best time is to use those coupons to get the best deals. If you buy from Teri's list for 12 weeks, you should have a stockpiled kitchen. Then, you can rebuy things as you use them or as their best price comes around again.
The good: People do save money doing this (Google "grocery game reviews" if you want more details). Many of them save quite a lot. You'll be able to be confident that you are getting the very best prices that you possibly can. In the end, you will save time as well because you'll know where things are in your grocery store and which things you're going after. Eventually, you may even get good enough at the game to play it yourself, without the website to help. Also, a 4-week trial is only $1, so you can jump in and try it.
The bad: The process is time-intensive for the first 12 weekswith all that coupon cutting. Also, you will need storage for all the food you're stockpiling, and you won't get to eat whatever you want until the stockpiling is complete (because you won't necessarily have purchased everything you need for a meal). Specialty items may or may not get listed, and there may not be stores available in some areas.
In the end: I don't think it's for me, at least, not yet. I like too many specialty items, and my main grocery store is not available on their website. It sounds like a good idea, and if I get desperate enough I may try it, but it doesn't seem like the best thing for me right now.
Where: www.dreamdinners.com (There are a good number of services like this, but this seems to be the main one in my area. If you want to find a different one in your area, look at the Wikipedia page for Dream Dinners.)
What: You go to their store at a certain time, choose which meals you want and how many servings of each, and assemble all the ingredients for the meal in a tin tray or a plastic bag. You pay based on which meal you selected and how many servings you got. Then, you take the meals home and freeze them until you're ready to eat them. They come with detailed cooking instructions, so you follow those and TA-DA!, impressive meal for family or friends.
The good: At between $2.75 and $3.33 a serving, the meals are definitely reasonable for what you get. You do all the prep work, so it feels like cooking, and you have a relatively healthy, tasty meal at the end of it. The company and people I know who have used it claim that you get quality ingredients for your money and that the meals keep for quite a while in the freezer. If you want to take a meal to someone who needs one or share with friends, the food is right there in your freezer, waiting to be prepared. Also, if you buy more than a certain amount each month, you get a discount.
The bad: You don't get any food to be eaten at other times, so shopping for breakfasts and lunches will still have to be done outside of you Dream Dinners time and money. You have to sign up for a session at the Dream Dinners store, and can be charged to reschedule. While I've read some complaints about how long some of the dinners take to prepare and the quality of ingredients, those seem few and far between (and the people I know who use the service have never made those complaints. Finally, Dream Dinners seems family-oriented so singles or even couples may find that it doesn't work as well for them.
In the end: This is tempting. I always have trouble pulling together meal plans, so the thought of having someone do it for me is awesome! However, the cost of these meals plus the cost of other food for other meals is more than I want to spend on groceries right now, so I'll see if there's another plan.
Getting Groceries Delivered
Where: Many places
What: You choose which items you want from the store's website, schedule a delivery time and place, and by online by credit card. The store delivers your groceries to your home for a (usually) small fee.
The good: You don't have to go to the store. You don't have to spend your time there, and you don't have to try to find out where everything is. You get the same items you would otherwise buy, and so you can eat as you're accustomed. You can also use any coupons, discount cards, etc., that you have for that store.
The bad: You have to pay a fee for the delivery. Usually, you can find coupons online, but that does vary some by store or delivery service. You don't get any special deals, and you still don't always know if you're getting a good deal or not (though you might come to find that out, over time, because you'll always be ordering from the same store).
In the end: This is the option I'm most likely to try. My favorite grocery store doesn't offer this, and that's still disappointing. The fees aren't too bad, though, given the fact that they are running around the store for you and driving the food to your house. People I know who do this love it!
Let me know if you've used any of these options and if they've worked for you, or if you have other ideas. I'd love to hear them!