Cost versus Choice

We shop for groceries at primarily three stores, Pick N Save, Walmart and Aldi. Each store serves a different purpose and thus I haven't been able to eliminate any of them; though I feel we would benefit from making a change.

Previously, I would go to Aldi once a month and stock up on items we routinely used. However, I found that I was overbuying and wasting money (ie. the items sat on the shelf longer than a month and tied up useful money.)  Now, I try to go there once a month for just a few selected items that I like to buy there. Shopping at Aldi's is a great cost savings, but they have limited choices or sometimes completely lack the item I am looking for. Since it is also slightly out of my way, it is not my choice for weekly groceries; although, my sister and parents do go there weekly.

I frequent Walmart about three times a month for household, and health & beauty items that I know cost significantly less than our Pick N Save. I definitely realize a savings on things like Kleenex, paper towels, shampoo etc.. When I am there, I also purchase dry goods that I need that week.

Finally, I shop our local Pick N Save for produce, meat and dairy. I stick primarily to store brands, but there are some store-branded items that I have been disappointed in, so I do occasionally buy brand name items. Once a month I shop all three stores in one weekend, and I hate it, but feel I need to do this to save money.

Ironically, the order in which I have listed the stores, corresponds to the number of choices I have in each store. Aldi has very little choice. They have one version of each product (if they even have the product) and you have one choice - buy it or not. Walmart has a few more options in each product category, but does not carry every item I need. Finally, Pick N Save has the most options in each produce category, and I can find everything I need as long as it is not sold out.

In summary, the store with the cheapest products, has the least choice. This is actually how they are becoming successful, as this article that Frugaling.org  posted points out. The store with the highest prices, has the most choices, yet they are the store I frequent every, single week.

Our grocery bill is our highest monthly expense, and the hardest to cut because our family has become so used to having all the choices we want. Why has it been so hard for us to convert to fewer choices and less cost? I am not sure. I was hoping I would flesh out an answer as I wrote this post, but I have not. Are we too picky in the quality and type of food we eat? Do we just consume too much? Am I not trying hard enough or willing to make do? I suspect it is a combination of all of these things. Maybe I will set aside one month to shop only at Aldi and see how much I can save. The final question is whether I want to pay more to have more choices and get exactly what I want, or pay less, have less choices, and make do with what is there.

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