Why I Don’t Play The Grocery Game

Yes, you read that headline right. I don’t play The Grocery Game. I know that a lot of bloggers will tell you how wonderful it is, and it’s true that you can save a lot of money. I did try the Grocery Game for 12 weeks and saved a lot of money—when it worked. But here are the reasons why it just didn’t work for us.

Local grocery store sales schedules don’t cooperate
For some reason, the major stores in my area (read: not the cheaper grocery stores, which aren’t included in the Grocery Game) run their sales from Wednesday to the following Tuesday. Teri’s List (The Grocery Game list of the best deals) comes out on Sunday around noon. I don’t shop on Sundays, so that leaves just two days that I can use the grocery list. To get deals, that means I absolutely have to go out on Monday or Tuesday. If I’m busy or sick, too bad.

By the time I could shop, the shelves were picked clean
That wouldn’t be quite as bad except for the fact that, when I finally did get to go out armed with the best coupon/deal/sale combinations, there was nothing left. No, I don’t mean “Oh, my favorite flavor of this is gone, so I’ll have to settle for my second favorite” gone.

I mean the shelves with the sale items were completely empty. The end-of-aisle displays and island displays were gone. There was no more stock in the back. And the next shipment wouldn’t be in for days—till after the sale ended. “Gone” gone. No rainchecks.

Granted, this only happened with the absolute best sales, but it usually happened by Friday night (sometimes as early as 9 PM on day one of the sale, though!). The premise behind the Grocery Game is that sales run in 12 week cycles. If they’re so predictable, why not time the new lists so I can go at the beginning of the sales, before everything is picked over? And, really, are there that many good coupons in the coming week that waiting until the next Sunday’s paper justifies missing most of the good sales?

I’m a terrible stockpiler
Actually, I’m a great stockpiler. Pack rat, even. But I’m not quite as good at remember to use the things I stockpiled. My freezer must be very efficient—it’s always full. (I haven’t been able to buy a substantial amount of frozen food in . . . probably two years.) I’m pretty good at using canned goods (thank you, FIFO organizer), but everything else either takes up space on the shelf, goes bad before I remember it or both.

Frankly, I don’t need this stuff
I saw Jurassic Park the other day for the first time (just the beginning; I can’t stand violence so I made Ryan change the channel). To paraphrase what’s probably the best line (philosophically, at least), the Grocery Game keeps you so preoccupied with whether or not you can, you didn’t stop to think if you should.

To put it another way: I’m a very frugal person. Okay, I’m cheap. I find excuses not to spend money. But give me the Grocery Game list and I’ll buy anything that looks remotely good. And related to the previous point, I don’t even manage to eat all of it. (I have food bought on the Grocery Game that expired more than a year ago. Sure, I saved money on it, but I never liked it and never ate it. So is that saving money?)

It’s just food
I know, I know, food is a little bit important in sustaining life. Right. But the things that coupons come for most of the time will not form part of a complete meal. For example, in this week’s paper, I found coupons for:

  • Fruit snacks
  • Cinnamon rolls, biscuits
  • Cereal
  • Desserts
  • Snack cakes
  • Chips
  • Candy
  • Frozen pizza and pizza-type things
  • Spaghetti-Os

Actual meals in there? Breakfast, biscuits as a side with dinner, freezer pizza and canned spaghetti (which I don’t even like). Healthy.

It’s mostly just food—food I probably didn’t need anyway. Again, even if I can get $50 worth of snack food for $0.50, once again, it doesn’t mean I should. It’s $0.50 I don’t really need to spend (and it’s never just $0.50) and it’s probably 50 pounds I don’t need to gain.

Granted, the Grocery Game lists do note when there’s a good sale on fruit and meat, but I can figure that out myself.

I’m just not convinced
I know that it’s so easy to come home from the Grocery Game with a huge amount listed on the receipt as your “Amount Saved.” The rewards seem very tangible. But when I buy the store brand on sale instead of the name brand, my receipt doesn’t list that as part of my amount saved. While I could be saving just as much, the rewards are less tangible.

For example, I took a look at my grocery receipt for last week and compared prices on a few things that you just can’t use coupons on: store-brand milk, store-brand juice, meat (London broil), cucumbers, tomatoes and nectarines. I chose these because they happened to be on sale at both the discount store and my old Grocery Game store this week. Some were better deals

What did I discover? I was overcharged for my nectarines! I want my $1.47 back! (Why you should always check your receipt, as mentioned in a good post on grocery shopping on Get Rich Slowly.)

Erm, um. . . . In the amounts that I bought of these six things, the discount store was cheaper by more than $5 for one week’s worth of groceries. But if I really wanted to compare prices, one thing I’d have to take into account: I bought 2.23 lbs of meat, and the sale price at the other store (already $1/lb more) only applied to “Super Value Packs,” which would probably be at least twice as much meat. (And then I’d have to figure out a place to store it…)

Taking into account what I’d really have to spend to get that price, assuming I could find a small Super Value Pack (5 lbs, or two London broils), the difference grew to $13.63. On six things. That’s a lot of coupons.

What Works for Me
I still clip and use coupons (when I remember and feel like it). When I was on top of couponing, I review my stock of coupons before looking at the cheaper grocery store’s fliers. That was until the Sunday-only rate for the newspaper went up threefold (Ryan says that it went up sixfold; even worse). We unsubscribed.

Then I look at the fliers and plan the week’s meals around what’s on sale. Then I write down anything else that’s a good deal that we normally eat and check my shelves to see if we’re low. Finally, I see if I have a coupon for anything in the flier and decide whether I really want it.

My favorite shopping trick: Local stores periodically offer “case lot sales,” where canned goods (usually store brand) are marked down considerably—usually less than $0.40 a can. I stockpile canned goods during these sales. We use a FIFO organizer (first in, first out) and I’ve never run out of canned goods since we started really stockpiling during these sales.

The Grocery Game can work for you. But I prefer shopping when and where I want, bringing less junk food into my house, and bringing home meals and food we’ll actually eat. To me, that’s the most cost effective way to get our grocery shopping done. I’m sure that many passionate Grocery Gamers will vociferously disagree with the points I’ve made here, but it doesn’t change the fact that this has been my experience.

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9 responses to “Why I Don’t Play The Grocery Game”

  1. MGD Cyndi says:

    Hi All:

    You can play our grocery game for free or you can just look up deals! Our site MyGroceryDeals.com let’s you look up local grocery sales by ZIP Code, make a list of the best deals and head out to shop for them. We also have some coupons to add to the savings!

    So, please visit soon and happy deal hunting!

    MGD Cyndi

  2. amanda says:

    I have the trial for grocery Game right now. Honestly I am not too impressed. Personally I can figure out these deals on my own using a grocery flyer, my coupons, and my knowledge of what the products I like usually cost.There is also plenty of FREE information and ideas out there on how to save on grocery items so why should I pay for it? I will be canceling my account when the trial is over. I agree with you!

  3. Melissa says:

    I shop in almost exactly the same way as you do. I’ve found that a lot of the sale-coupon pairings are for items that I don’t need (such as the canned spaghetti you mentioned). I make my list from the store ad and, although my “Savings” at the bottom of the receipt might be lower, I know I’m spending less.

  4. Tina says:

    The Grocery Game to me, seemed more like a scavenger hunt. It definitely was a game…and in the end, wasn’t worth the $$$ for me. You are right, it’s much easier to me to sit down with the ads, my coupons and do it myself. Also, with so many grocery stores offering online coupons that can be uploaded to your card, the grocery game is less attractive.

  5. Brandon says:

    There is a place for the Grocery Game and our family is one of them. First, fhere I live, there is a Publix, CVS and Walgreens right next to each other. Our town also doen’s have a discount grocery store so we are relagated to Publix. Second, I have tried clipping coupons and cross-referencing with weekly flyers, but I just don’t have time with work and my family to find a coupon I clipped two weeks ago for this week’s flyer special. Third, the deals a good for the stuff we seem buy because we never stocked up on before, deoderant, toothpaste, etc. The savings on white strips every other month alone pays for cost. By the way, CouponMom does the same thing, but for free. We just like the layout and ease of Grocery Game better. Hope this gives a different angle to the discussion. Thanks!

  6. Kelly K says:

    I just decided to check out the grocery game, i had seen it advertised before but never bothered and then saw a segment on the local news recently so figured i would try it free for 4 weeks.

    I cant for the life of me figure out why anyone would want to pay for this. For starters due to the limited number of grocery store change, my grocery game gave me one grocery store so no comparrison shopping for me there, also, not a single deal or sale was something I can’t find for free on other sites, and one of the local drug store deals on the grocery game was horrible, leavining out many great deals, and also only tells you about coupons from inserts and printables, not really covering other avenues.

    I searched all this eve on reviews for it, hoping maybe I was missing something there, but never seeing anyone actually touch on why they dont use it…

    Great job!

  7. dang says:

    I am from Southern California and Grocery Game just doesn’t work here. GG is too slow to upload deals for me. I get better deals faster doing coupon match-ups myself than paying for GG.

  8. Michelle Masters says:

    I live in Southern California and checked with the So Cal BBB since TGG is based out of Santa Clarita, CA. The Grocery Game has an “F” rating and 19 complaints for Southern California, so I’m going to pass.

    As an FYI…If anyone does have a problem canceling their free subscription and ends up with unapproved credit card charges, heres’ what I would do; I’d communicate with TGG in writing (e or snail) first. Give them the opportunity to correct any honest error they may have made. If that doesn’t work I’d call my credit card company and tell them I wanted to “dispute the charge and file a charge back” for the unauthprized charges. You may have to fax or mail them cpies of your e or snail mails. Then I would file a complaint with the BBB and the State Attorney General. Believe it or not, the one with the most teeth is the CC companies; if TGG receives too many “charge backs” the CC companies will increase their processing and acceptance rates, then list them as “high risk.” AOL learned this the hard way.

  9. Jacob says:

    We tried the grocery game. Unfortunately, if you are a food snob for quality, the grocery game is of zero help. Coupons and sales are usually for things I don’t want, and I save more money not buying things I don’t need or want, than trying to buy bargain-basement, hating it, then buying the stuff I wanted in the first place.
    Better ways to save money than the grocery game:
    - Invest in local CSA programs (Community Supported Agriculture) – a full season of farm-fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, dairy, etc. Its a bunch up front, but a great deal over the year. You can even bulk up on preserving shares to can/freeze the harvest to last over the winter.
    - Get a large freezer, buy meat in bulk – i.e., a side of beef, lots of chickens, geese, ducks, lamb, pig, etc. This ensures you learn to use the whole animal, and generally is a huge savings over even the best grocery store deals, and you get to pick your meat source.
    The only thing I have to go to the grocery store for is pantry items from time to time – net annual savings dwarfs anything I could have gotten from the “grocery game”

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