Does Shopping Grocery Sales Really Save You Money?

Seemingly every personal finance expert has the same tip on how to save money on groceries. Use the weekly flyers that show up in your mailbox to shop around for deals.

There’s a reason why this continues to be said. It works. The math proves it.

Unfortunately, the math misses a couple of key factors.

The first is opportunity cost. Some people are fortunate enough to live in an area with several grocery stores just a few blocks away from each other. But most of us aren’t so lucky. It’s easy to spend a whole afternoon shopping at a handful of different stores once we factor in things like driving time and line up delays.

Say you can save $30 on your weekly groceries by shopping the sales at four different stores. But to do so, you’ll have to spend two extra hours – along with gas money – going from place to place. Suddenly, the savings aren’t quite that exciting.

Sale flyers also make some people spend more. They’re filled with lots of tasty items, and which are priced at a discount. When faced with such a selection, some people just can’t control themselves.

Perhaps a better solution is to construct meal plans beforehand filled with cheap staples. Things like rice, potatoes, beans, bread, oatmeal, chicken, and other simple foods are always inexpensive. You’ll save more money buying these foods in bulk than finding the best sales on steaks.

The bottom line? Shopping sales can be an effective way to save money on groceries, but it might be better to just stick with a discount retailer like Costco.