Home > Appearances are Deceiving

Appearances are Deceiving

July 6th, 2008 at 02:36 pm

Was having a discussion with our neighbors about local grocery stores.

The local/big grocery chain is Raley's/Bel Air.

It is a somewhat upscale grocery store chain.

We do also have a Safeway (which was much later in coming). Albertson's went out of business.

Anyway, as the Raleys and Bel Airs get closer to our home, and the other stores dissolve, we have been frequenting then MUCH more.

I think initially we rather avoided them. In fact, we were very disappointed with their selection. They didn't carry a lot of products that we buy (& we really mostly buy boring, average stuff. LOL).

But when one opened up within walking distance, and no one else seemed to notice (the place is largely a ghost town) we got hooked on Bel Air.

Around the same time they totally changed their marketing strategy. From "upscale" to "low price leader."

Though their stores are still VERY nice, has unparalleled customer service, and has its share of expensive food, we have also found it one of the best places to bargain shop.

So we were sitting around chatting about grocery stores with neighbors and they were all going on how expensive Bel Air was.

Um, we actually find Safeway to be MUCH more expensive overall.

I couldn't help but wonder what they were buying. LOL. BEcause what you buy will make all the difference at either store.

But I also wondered if they even pay attention to prices at all - or just judged by appearance.

I find the whole thing very interesting.

I have friends with double the grocery budget who hit up Costco, Sam's Club and Trader Joes, thinking they are doing quite well.

I hate to burst their bubble when I say we spent half as much at Bel Air last month. LOL.

Of course Costco is something we could never really justify with the cost of membership. We always thought, "Maybe that will make more sense when we have kids." & I think it might, on some level.

But it is interesting to join a community like this where the overall conclusion seems to be that Costco was over-priced.

Costco = Over-priced?
Bel Air = low price leader?

Who would have thunk?

I guess this is when it pays to look past the marketing, and to really look at the prices.


Reminds me...

I had given up on price books because there is just not enough hours in the day.

But I did photocopy a grocery receipt to share here. I kept a copy and I think maybe that is what I will do going forward, keep copies. It isn't terribly organized. You kind of wish the stores would alphabetize their receipts.

BUT I think it is better than nothing. It gives me something to look back over.

So I am going to work on my very lazy, half-hearted price book. Just keeping receipts.

Curiosity has gotten the better of me lately, with rising grocery prices. But I don't have much to look back on, as far as what we paid historically. So this will be MUCH better than nothing.

9 Responses to “Appearances are Deceiving”

  1. ANonnyMouse Says:

    IMNSHO opinion, Costco is NOT over-priced. Simply put, you are generally buying in bulk.

    For perishable items, this may not be ideal, but for non-perishables, it is perfect.

  2. Swimgirl Says:

    I think Costco is absolutely cheaper on almost everything. BUT your grocery bill there will increase if you buy movies and flowers and books and toys and chips and candy and gum...

    Costco's per pound price is close to half what it is at Bel Air for most fruits, chicken, ground turkey, butter, cheese, flour, sugar, rice, yeast, chocolate chips, baby carrots and I'm sure there are more items, but that's what I buy. Oh, flour tortillas and Orowheat bread. I shop very carefully, and I have a large family to feed.

    I have a "loop" that I make, hitting 5 different grocery stores (Nugget, Costco, Safeway, BelAir and SaveMart) in a short period of time, to take advantage of the sales. I don't get to it every week--depends on what's on sale. I agree that Safeway is probably the most expensive, although they work hard at making you think you're getting a good deal.

    Nugget is more of an upscale store, but I don't think it's more expensive than the others (and the produce is MUCH better so I buy there if I can't get to the farmer's market or don't have it in my own garden.) It depends on what you buy, and I buy almost ZERO convenience foods. Occasionally I'll buy a box of granola bars if they are cheap or goldfish crackers for the kids, but not often. I make nearly everything from scratch and we eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

    I save my receipts and tape them into a notebook. Not really organized, but I know where they are and can check prices if I'm not sure.

  3. gamecock43 Says:

    I think peoples perceptions are formed on first impression and it takes an informed and motivated person to 'determine' what store is cheaper. You would need to compare alot of items at both stores, my thats alot of papoerwork. So the neighbors may think its expensive because of the pricey storefront. And they are used to thinking, complaining its expensive and no one has ever argued it. Until you.

  4. Koppur Says:

    Our Costco is way too overpriced for us. Even buying in bulk, we get better deals per unit cost at one of our small stores.

  5. Swimgirl Says:


    That is interesting. Here in N. California, Costco is by far cheaper than the grocery store for most items, if you are willing to buy in bulk. When we lived in the DC area, the same was true. I had assumed that Costco prices were fairly similar nationwide... who knew?

  6. Swimgirl Says:

    Oh, and I easily make up the $50 fee in a few months. And no, I don't work for Costco! But for our large family, we can't beat the deals. Heck, I make bread most of the time, but if I bought it all ... it would probably save $10 a month at Costco just on whole wheat bread!

    Monkey Mama, maybe things at Costco have changed since you last checked?

  7. monkeymama Says:

    No, mostly I have no desire to buy in bulk. We would never get through it all. My perspective with a small family is it makes little sense. Though I could see a few items we could come ahead with, it wouldn't be worth the fee.

    Obviously it is very different for a larger family. & depends how you cook.

    My observations were really more about IRL - how people go on how great Costco is but spend twice as much on average, for the same # of people. Obviously they are buying a lot of stuff they don't need; or wasting it, etc. I would expect savingadvice shoppers to be a little different. Though I haven't seen many Costco supporters here, so interesting to see them come out of the woodwork.

    I won't be a Costco convert any time soon because we don't have one anyway. Big Grin So it's all kind of moot for me. I mean it is just of great inconvenience for now - we could go if we REALLY wanted to, but 40 miles round trip is a bit much for me. So we would obviously reconsider more if they opened one up closer (which they might). Also, sk me when I have two teenage boys. I can't believe how voracious their appetites are, as is. LOL. But for the most part we really just don't consume that much food, at this point.

  8. baselle Says:

    Saving receipts is very time honored way to do a price book. Fold 'em up and glue stick 'em into a little notebook and you are good to go. Smile
    YMMV as far as Costco is concerned. From Seattle (the belly of the beast) the only regular deals that I've really gotten is on clothing, batteries, and a lunch of samples Big Grin. Canned goods sometimes. Canned tuna never - regular grocery stores usually whup Costco's arse in tuna. Produce can be a deal, but we don't eat it fast enough AND its always wrapped in plastic wrap so not only is it a gamble, it ages a lot faster.

    Plus you have to drive there, and since either you feel like you have to or end up filling the back of your car, we don't go there enough to justify the $50 membership.

  9. monkeymama Says:

    You know, in Northern California the gas is not very good at Costco. Today I paid 20 cents less at Bel Air actually. Plus it was on the way to work as opposed to 20 miles away.

    I am sure the gas is well worth it for many, but not the case here at all.

    Lately they just price the same as Arco (& there is an Arco on every corner).

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