I generally try to save money on everything I buy, especially groceries since they take up a large chunk of our budget each month. We usually try to shop at our military commissary or at a certain national chain that is known for their low prices on groceries and everything else you can think of (I won’t name names, but it should be pretty obvious). Unfortunately our military commissary is more than a half hour from our house so in an effort to save both time and money (for gas) we usually opt for the larger chain that is closer to our house. The problem lies in the fact that my husband and I both hate shopping at this place. The people are usually rude (both customers and employees), the store is crowded, they are often out of the products we want, the parking lot is littered with carts and packed, and various other reasons along this line. We dread going there every time, but we do so in the name of saving money.

Recently however, due to the constant frustration of shopping at a place we don’t enjoy going to, we’ve been trying a different way and have been enjoying it immensely. We have a grocery store that is also part of a large chain (but just sells groceries) right down the street from our house, which is significantly closer than the other store we hate going to. I’ve usually tried to stay away because their prices tend to be ridiculously high. But recently we’ve decided to give shopping there a chance and we’ve been pleasantly surprised! Besides our grocery bill actually going down, we’ve generally enjoyed our grocery shopping experiences there, which is actually a new thing for us. We’ve both always grown up shopping at “cheaper” stores for budget sake (I came from a single parent household while my husband came from a family of 4 children) so we’ve really never really known different. But here are some of the ways that our shopping experience really differed from what we’ve typically experienced.

Starbucks inside the store: I realize this isn’t a plus for many people, especially when you can usually find a Starbucks on almost every block, at least where I live. But for us, it was enjoyable to be able to get a latte at the start of our shopping experience and drink it while shopping. We don’t do this every time we shop (that would defeat the purpose of trying to save money) but once a month on a Saturday morning is actually a fun, relaxing event. Since we both work full time, it’s actually a nice time for us to be together and take our time shopping on a weekend, without being stressed by going to a store we don’t like.

Friendly employees: Now I’m not saying that every employee at the cheaper store is mean, because I’ve met a lot of nice and friendly cashiers there, but those not working the front of the store tend to not give you the time of day. At this other store however, my husband was in the produce department looking for a specific type of apple. When the produce worker asked if he could help him find anything, my husband told him what he was looking for. The produce worker was very knowledgeable and went on to tell my husband that they didn’t have that particular kind of apple at that time because of the season and he went on to explain when they would have them and suggested a similar tasting apple. He then took a fresh apple out of the box and cut it open with a knife and gave my husband and me a large piece so we could taste it. My husband fell in love with these apples and bought a whole bunch and now they are his favorite kind. But we wouldn’t have even known about them if the employee didn’t take the time to help us and let us sample the apple.

Better produce: Speaking of produce, we have found that this other grocery store’s produce tends to be a lot fresher than the other store. We’ve been disappointed time after time at the other store’s produce because it’s usually not the freshest and honestly doesn’t taste that great. But it seems that every piece of fruit and every vegetable we’ve gotten at this new store has been fresh and tasted wonderful.

Saves us time: The grocery-only store is smaller because it doesn’t sell a million other items so it doesn’t take as much time to get through. There are also less people shopping at a time so it’s not as crowded and the lines are not as long (and the parking lot isn’t as jammed). Not to mention the store is closer to our house. A grocery trip to the all-purpose store can easily take at least an hour and a half round trip for us, while we can easily make it to our local store and back in a half hour.

Saves us money: This is the kicker that we never got before — we thought that shopping at a store that is more expensive will cost us more money, right? Well we’ve actually been able to lower our grocery bill by going to this other store. First of all, I look over the store’s ad before we go there and we mostly buy the items that are on sale. Often times the best sale items at the store are cheaper than the other store’s regular price! By shopping the sales and basing our grocery list on these sales, we are able to save a lot. Also, because the non-sale items do tend to be pretty expensive, we’re never really tempted to pick them up as an addition to our list because “it’s only $2 or it’s only $1” (because those same items not on sale are usually $4 or $5 at this store). We’ve noticed that those extra little purchases (that we don’t need) really add up and inflate our grocery spending.

We are very happy with our new pleasant shopping experience. Granted, we will occasionally still go to the other store to purchase toiletries and other items for a lower price, but now we go maybe once a month as compared to every week and it’s not as bad that way. And I’m not saying that shopping at big discount stores is bad, but for those people who really don’t enjoy going there, but think they have to in order to save money, I encourage you to think outside the box and spend a little time reading the grocery ads and buying what’s on sale. A few minutes online or on your couch can save you a lot of stress and money at the store.

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