I know I've been a bit inconsistent in discussing these tips. Sorry about that! I've really got to stop letting life get in my way of blogging! :-) Today we'll talk about WHERE to shop.
Shop for your basics at a "no frills" grocer, such as Aldi. You can get great deals on items like milk, sugar, pretzels, chips, cheese, and other items you use frequently. You won't find name brands here, but the store will most likely guarantee the quality of your purchases.
If you've never been to Aldi, you should definitely check them out if they are in your area. Use the locator at http://www.aldi.us . Every Aldi I've visited is clean and well-organized. They don't carry name brands on a regular basis, but their products are all of great quality. They do guarantee every product. I've only bought one thing that we hated (it was a weird German bread that tasted terrible), but I have had them replace defective items. Not too long ago I bought a can of pan spray that leaked. I talked to a manager and received a new can...no questions asked! It was easy and they were very friendly about it.
Some of the items I buy regularly at Aldi are chips and pretzels ($.99 to $1.29 a large bag), honey ($3.79 for a big bottle), flour and sugar (always cheaper than the regular grocery store), milk, sour cream, plain yogurt, rice, pasta, and lots of produce! They carry products that most people use every day, so you won't find too many fancy items; however, they do carry some of these things on Special Purchases. Every week they have certain things that they offer for a limited, while it lasts, time. They might have Italian specialties, or Mexican foods, or Asian cuisine. They also have non-food items in their purchases, so you never know what you will find. Their ad is usually in the paper, or you can find it at their website. You can even sign up to receive the ad each week in your email.
Aldi doesn't have a lot of "extras" so they can keep prices low. You have to put a quarter in the cart to use it (but you get it back upon returning the cart), they don't give you bags (you can buy them for .06 for paper or .10 for plastic), and they don't bag your items for you. They will move them from the conveyor belt to a cart, and then you're on your own. They also only accept cash or a debit card to avoid heavy fees on charges and bad checks.
If you don't have an Aldi, you might have another store that is similar. I know Save-a-Lot is another store similar to Aldi. I've found that their prices tend to be just a little higher since they will bag your items and do accept checks and credit cards. They also have a website at http://www.savealot.com where you can view the ad. Those are the only two stores of which I am aware, but I am sure there are others...if you know of them, please share the information in comments. I've never lived anywhere but the midwest, so I'm only familiar with what we have here.
The way that I do most of my shopping is I keep a list on the side of my refrigerator with staples that are low or out (usually I write them down when they are getting low). Each Wednesday, I review the local grocer ads and write down what items are on sale for rock-bottom prices at the stores I visit. If something on my list is on sale for a price that is less than Aldi's regular price (I do keep track), I will purchase it at the store and take it off my Aldi list. I visit Aldi about 3 times a month for my basic supplies.
I know some folks swear by the prices at Wal-Mart, but beyond the fact that I can't stand even walking INTO my local store, I have found that prices tend to be less at Aldi. They're even cheaper than Sam's Club on a lot of things!! If you don't have a no-frills store near you, then Wal-Mart might be your best bet. The only perk of which I can think in shopping at Wal-Mart for your basics is that you can ad-match the grocery store ads and get everything in one place. Of course, if your store is like mine, asking for an ad match is grounds for the cashier to treat you like a thief. Good luck to you!! :-)
Where do you get your basic staples? Share your strategies to save all you can!!