Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rant #472: A Penny For Your Thoughts, A Dollar For Your Groceries

Every Saturday, my family and I do our food shopping. When my son was a baby, I pretty much did it myself while my wife watched our little boy, but now that he is a teenager, we have been going to the supermarket together for several years.

It's a ritual for us, and it bonds us with our son, who I think enjoys going too.

However, the experience isn't that pleasurable anymore. Grocery prices have gone up, way up, for a variety of reasons, including the increase in gas prices, and we have noticed it in the money that we spend at the supermarket each week.

Then we discovered the dollar store, where everything is priced at $1.

When we first went to these stores, the selection was good, but it was basically off-brand stuff that nobody probably bought originally. The stuff was still good, but would you rather buy a Heinz ketchup or Joe Shmoe's ketchup?

However, now that we have been shopping the dollar store regularly for about the past two years or so, we have noticed a distinct change.

Sure, they still carry the off-brand stuff. I don't think they will ever get away from that entirely.

But they are also carrying more and more branded stuff, and I mean major brands, stuff that you can get in your local supermarket for several dollars more.

Sure, what you normally get in the dollar store are discontinued items, or what they call different SKUs (stock keeping units) of a popular item. For instance, the latest packaging of your favorite spaghetti sauce has an offer for a free cookbook right on the label. In the dollar store, you will get the same item, but without that offer, which was recently added on. Thus, it's a different SKU.

But inside, it is the same spaghetti sauce.

The dollar store by us has a freezer case too, so we can buy frozen food there also. This is a big plus, as we can get smaller portions of fish, vegetables and frozen waffles and pancakes there.

And yes, we buy our snacks there. Snacks that cost $3 or more in the supermarket cost $1 there, and yes, they have Frito-Lay products, so I can get my Fritos at the dollar store.

People thumb their noses at these stores, saying that the food is bad and the only thing good about them is that they have cheaper greeting cards and stationery items.

But really, the opposite is true--the food is better, and the greeting cards and stationery items really aren't the main draw anymore.

And I read the other day that major manufacturers are taking notice that this is turning into a billion dollar industry in itself, and are starting to design products specifically to be sold in dollar stores, smaller versions of what they offer to regular supermarkets.

So don't look down at these stores anymore. I estimate I save about $30 a week shopping in this store just before I do the major shopping at our local supermarket.

And $30 may not be a lot, but multiply that by 52 weeks, and you get about $1,500 a year that I save by doing some of our shopping there.

And although it's at the dollar store, that isn't small change.

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