Grocery Shopping During Times of Economic Distress

Posted on Dec 9 2008 - 3:08pm by Patty


Nobody will dispute that with state of the economy times have become more lean. Grocery prices are

soaring, coupons are becoming less available, and the cash pool from which to shop is shrinking.

More People are looking for more strategies to stretch their dollars than ever in recent history.

Many people are turning to the practices of our ancestors during the great depression and it is no wonder why. Our grandparents knew how to stretch a dollar till there was no stretch left.

There are many things you can do to help your budget, such as planting a garden, and shopping locally, but there are some time tested practices that you can put to work now that will help your grocery fund go as far as possible.

Practice Rock Bottom Frugality

In this country and many others like it we have learned to live a lifestyle that so little resembles the the lifestyle of our ancestors, or others from poorer countries, that we just simply don’t know there is another way to live. Our perception of the bottom line is far higher than theirs would ever have been, and we have never challenged ourselves to go lower.

How many types of soaps, shampoo’s, and shaving creams do you have in your home? Could you make do with just one? Can you switch the liquid soap for bar? Have you done the math to see what paper products go the farthest for price? Better yet what paper products can you do without?

Does your child need that name brand sugar loaded cereal? or would oatmeal or cream of wheat for the whole family suffice?  Do you buy your chicken pre-cut or whole? Can you make that  chicken last for 3 or 4 meals?

When crisis hits your family will you be able to shave off to the bottom line or do the riches of your lifestyle seem more like necessities?

This is not to say we should never have luxuries, but we are talking depression style living here. Surviving and staying healthy become the priorities, rather than our comfort levels.

Challenge yourself to see what you can do without, take the time to read about the lifestyles of people during the depression and other cultures. you will be amazed at how rich your lifestyle really is, and how much can be pared off of it.


I have never been a big fan of coupons, and I guess that will make me unpopular but here in a bit I will tell you why. Couponing has its uses to be sure. Getting things for free, or almost free, that you will use, is a great motivator, and is certainly a great way to save dollars.

Here is few questions to see if coupons are a good way for you to save money.

  • will you use the item for which the coupon is for? Many people purchase items simply because they are a good deal with coupon, and find that the item is not something they really needed or could use. If you paid anything at all for that item then it was NOT a good deal.
  • Can you get another product for less? I am not talking about just an identical product here. I am talking about anything that can substitute for that item. An example would be purchasing lunch meat with coupon for 2$ when in fact you can purchase other sandwich items much cheaper. (keep in mind here we are talking about economic distress. This assumes you need to go rock bottom on your frugality)
  • Can you get double or triple coupon offers and match them with sales? This is what it takes to be able to items for near free or free. If your store does not offer deals like this, than chances are good that your deals will not be better than the alternative.
  • Are the products healthy? Many coupon items are for processed foods that are neither nutritious, nor filling.  When in economic distress, the last thing you should be doing is buying overprocessed junk foods. Unless you are getting them for free, these foods should not be on your list. Ok I know this seems a bit harsh but consider this….  When your family is experiencing stress, and a large reduction in available funds for foods, you want to eat as nutritiously as you possibly can. Why? Because you can and will eat less. Your body is highly efficient machine, and if you fill it with foods that do not satisfy its nutritional requirements, it will crave more foods. If you feed it properly, and eat less, and save money. Food is not entertainment, or comfort, it is fuel. The more you view it like that, the better you are able to save money.

Often times you can get good deals that make your coupons worth using, but more often I find it more economical to buy foods as close to their original state as possible, and to buy store brands whenever possible. You get healthier food, meaning more bang for your buck, in larger quantities, for less than another item purchased with coupons.

Shopping at places with discounts

Store A offers you a coupon for $4 off a purchase of 40 dollars or more.

Store B entices you with .20 cents off a gallon of gas for every $50 spent.

Store C offers no discounts at all.

So which way should you go? Well it depends, and this is one of those places where your grocery fliers, select coupons, and price book will come in handy. Much also depends on how much gas you will be purchasing. DO THE MATH. If you are buying 10 gallons of gas, that $50 spent will net you a $2.00 savings. Sure you could buy more and get a bigger discount, but check your prices at this store, you might find they are much higher than Store A or Store C and the gas discount won’t justify the extra cost at the register.

Store C offers no discounts, but have you checked prices? will you save more than $2-4.00 shopping there?

Often stores will compensate their discounts with higher prices elsewhere.

That is where sale fliers come in handy. If you are selective about what you buy, you can save money at each of those stores, and still get your discounts.

Careful planning, price books, store fliers, and groceries lists will net you the greatest savings.

Savings lots of money at the grocery store requires careful planning, being willing to do without, and some extra effort. By gaining a different perspective, on what you eat, and how you purchase it, you can gain control of your spending, and eating habits. While it is always nice to have luxuries we have become too used to them in the western world, and as our economy struggles we are paying the price for that extravagance.

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