My New Warehouse Store Is Changing My LIfe

Since I started shopping at a new warehouse store, I’ve sliced 3 hours each week from my grocery shopping, menu planning and food prep time.

It’s changing my life.

I stop by my warehouse store once a month to make my bulk purchases–and then I don’t have to go back until the next month.

I’ll bet you have one where you live: it’s called Kroger. (Where you live, it might be called Ralph’s, King Supers, or Fred Meyer.) It’s just a grocery store.

I know what you’re thinking: Wait! What makes that a warehouse store?

Well, technically it’s not. But I’m shopping it like it’s a warehouse store, and it’s saving me 3 hours each week.

I’m making time for important things. Grocery shopping’s not one of them.

I don’t mind grocery shopping–I actually kind of enjoy it–but it’s not one of my top priorities. Right now I’d rather be spending the time I used to spend grocery shopping on other things–things that only I can do.

I would love to have my groceries delivered, but the options aren’t great in my town (yet).

But we did finally get a Trader Joe’s last fall, and shopping there is a breeze. It’s tiny–less than 10% of the size of my neighborhood Kroger. Yet they carry 80% of the items I need each week, at prices I’m happy to pay.

We hit Trader Joe’s about once a week. Usually either my husband or I will stop on our way home from work. If we take the kids, it takes half an hour. A solo adult can be in and out in 15 minutes, especially because we get pretty much the same things every time.

Since we have gluten, soy, and dairy allergies in my house, we don’t linger over the prepared frozen foods Trader Joe’s is famous for because we can’t eat any of them anyway. Our shopping list rarely changes: You can see it right here.

But this means that I hardly ever need to go to Kroger anymore. So when I’m there, I need to buy a month’s worth of whatever I’m getting, because I’m not gonna be back anytime soon.

My shopping cart for my monthly Kroger trip looks ridiculous: I might buy 3 bottles of gluten-free soy sauce when I’m at Kroger, or 300 straws, or 4 boxes of popsicles, or 30 pounds of my favorite boneless chicken breasts when they’re on sale, or 5 pounds of plain old white rice.

I’m going automated, streamlined, simple.

I’m a food-lover for sure. So is my husband. (Want proof? Check out our huge stash of kitchen reference books.) We love to try new foods. But these days, we’re eating a lot of really simple meals.

We’re giving up the giant grocery store’s huge selection, and we’re giving up some of the variety we used to enjoy. But we get the job done. We’re eating fresh, healthy foods we enjoy. We’re saving a ton of time and a little money–without paying a membership fee.

And we’re spending the 3 hours we’re saving every week doing other things.

In this busy season, that’s a trade I’m happy to make.

photo credit

Do you enjoy spending time grocery shopping or not?



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    • Anne says:

      We get most of it at Trader Joe’s, and then I always grab a ton of whatever produce is on sale when I make my monthly Kroger run.

      We also really love the Saturday St Matthews farmers’ market, and we’ll often grab whatever looks good–especially in a month or so when the summer produce starts coming in. For our family, that market is more like a social event than grocery shopping though 🙂

  1. Sadly, I have never had the opportunity to go to a Trader Joe’s, but they sound amazing. Our new “go to” store is the Fresh Market in the next town over. Slightly higher prices, but much better quality.

  2. Grocery shopping isn’t my favorite activity. I only go every other week. I hit Aldi, Sams and Meijer. With or without 4 kids, it usually takes about 2 hours front door to front door. I live within 4 miles of the farthest store, and they are all on the same street. That helps. I have found that it takes about as much time to shop once every other week as it takes to shop once a week. I blogged about it last Tuesday.(twins for a day) I too would rather do a whole lot of other things.=)

    • Anne says:

      With 4 kids, my big concern is how to fit two weeks worth of food in my cart, and then in my car!

      thanks for sharing another way to slice time off the grocery shopping!

  3. Right now we don’t have a car, so that makes grocery shopping really tricky. Thankfully, we do have lots of family and friends who are willing to help out and take us to Walmart or Pack-n-Save when we need it. In this little town (of about 6,000!), those are pretty much the only options. There’s a tiny neighborhood grocery two blocks away, plus a Dollar General the same distance in the opposite direction, so for milk, eggs, and other “immediate” necessities that’s where we go.

    I am, however, going to a Trader Joe’s for the first time ever this weekend–friends are taking us to the nearest larger city to go shopping. Super-excited! 🙂

    My mom’s shopping routine was always Aldi for almost everything and then Piggly Wiggly (they do have them in Wisconsin!) for everything else. I miss having an Aldi nearby. Nebraska gets to get with the game!

  4. Joanna says:

    I’m not doing a very good job at organizing menu plans ahead of time so end up doing grocery shopping more often than I should. But since I’ve been unemployed I’ve tried to be disciplined about going to Aldi which is a grocery store chain we have here in Australia that has a much smaller than average selection with cheaper prices than the other stores. It is so much easier to not have so many choices to think through and very nice to save some money.

    I’ve found it is a good investment to find a few good cookbooks that have recipes that use just the stuff you find in cheaper and simpler stores like Aldi so you don’t end up making trips into bigger stores and coming out with a whole lot of stuff you didn’t need.

    • Anne says:

      I didn’t know Aldi was in Australia, too!

      I am easily overwhelmed by too many choices, and would much rather choose between fewer choices that I’m actually interested in. And I completely agree about basic recipes–that’s all I’ve been doing recently. I love to cook, but going back to basics for this season has been good for me.

      • Joanna says:

        I’m not sure if it is available internationally, but Aldi Australia publishes an excellent cookbook called One Family One Supermarket. All the ingredients used can be found in Aldi stores and there’s nothing particularly complicated cooking technique wise. It is by far the most used cookbook in my household.

  5. I love grocery shopping! It’s like a game to me… and it’s one of the few things that gets me out of the house (I’m on disability so I’m home a lot).

    For the past few years, we’ve been going every TWO weeks instead of every week… it does save some money, I think, and it definitely saves time – although that one day gets rather long sometimes! But I shop around quite a bit for better prices, variety, and quality: Whole Foods (bulk whole grains, produce); World Market (spices); BiLo (sales, fuelperk deals); Aldi (cheap prices, though I admit to being picky there); and finally Walmart for everything that’s left on the list. Thankfully, all those stores are on the same road, right near each other!

    I also go to our amazing farmers market, open 6 days/week year-round (!!!), about 2x/month. It’s a bit further away, so I have to work it in with other things in that area. But it’s worth the extra gas to get the variety, better quality, and lower prices of local produce!

    I don’t plan out menus in advance – but I keep pretty much the same stuff on hand all the time (other than fresh produce, which I buy in season) so I always have the ingredients for our favorite everyday meals and I can get creative when I want (which is frequently).

      • Anne says:

        Elizabeth, I could talk about food stuff all day 🙂

        I’m so glad you mentioned World Market. They have some great international foods at great prices–it’s my favorite place to buy coconut milk, sriracha chili sauce, and (ahem) Ghirardelli chocolate! Especially when they put out those fabulous $10/$30 coupons 🙂

        Also, I’m jealous of your 6-day-a-week farmers’ market!

  6. Beth @ dot in the city says:

    We shop weekly at TJ’s, at least once a week to get produce at a local grocer, and then hit the chain grocery store once a week but are trying to go less. I think it’s a great suggestion to shop it like a warehouse and buy larger quantities of things so you go less often. I also think it’s important to re-evaluate routines and why you shop where/how often. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Anne says:

      “I also think it’s important to re-evaluate routines and why you shop where/how often.”

      YES to this! My own routine is constantly changing–and I’ve finally realized that’s a good and necessary thing, and not a flaky one!

  7. Katie says:

    There are TJs in Albuquerque but not in Tulsa. My mother’s favorite game is to describe, at length, some sort of delicious food until I’m ready to go out and get some to try and then she tosses in, “Oh, but I got it at Trader Joe’s.”

    I hate my mother. -_-

    Not really. But! I do wish we had a Trader Joe’s here (I could use a Costco, too, while we’re talking). Of course, if they do ever build one, it will be thirty minutes away in the shiny new part of town and not anywhere near where I live. Still closer than Albuquerque.

    I make my weekly farmer’s market trips during the season and bi-weekly co-op pickups during the winter, and other than that I fall peril to the “quickly grabbing what I need on the way home from the gym” trap, since the Reasor’s is right by the gym. Toss in periodic Sam’s trips and weeklyish WalMart Neighborhood Market runs and that about does it.

    I should probably be more intentional about my shopping. I do make an effort to consolidate my Sam’s (which is also where I buy gas) and pet store (because grocery store dog food isn’t good enough for my dogs. *rolls eyes*) runs, and I’ve mostly stopped going to actual WalMart in favor of Target–Target’s right by my house but all the WalMarts are miles away, and I’ve decided the small price premium is worth the savings in gas and traffic frustration (mostly traffic frustration).

    And while the stuff I buy at Sam’s is cheaper than even the Neighborhood Market and vastly cheaper than Reasor’s, that’s a good idea, to stock up on a bunch of what I do buy at those stores so I need to go less often. Thanks, Anne!

  8. Carrie says:

    I don’t enjoy grocery shopping right now at 8 months pregnant, and with a 2 year old and several other kids in tow. They’re well behaved, but it’s still exhausting.

    Anne, I would totally do grocery delivery if it was available here too! For an all too brief period, Peapod was available in Atlanta. I had a toddler and a newborn, and let me tell you – I felt like a QUEEN having this handsome delivery guy bring groceries to my door and UNLOAD them on my counters!! I don’t understand why this service couldn’t survive in Atlanta as huge as this town is. Anyhoo.

    I’ve considered joining a warehouse club several times but never do, because it seems tiring to have to figure out whether I’m *actually* saving money. I’m also afraid we would end up using and eating more because of the psychological effect of bulk buying.

    So I keep costs down by doing some of my shopping at ALDI (I just created a healthy meal plan with shopping list on my blog, link above), and by buying no convenience foods.

    • Anne says:

      Carrie, I would shop at Aldi in a heartbeat if there was one close by! I’ve so loved having the new Trader Joe’s here, in a location that we drive right by almost every day.

      The warehouse stores just aren’t convenient for me and I don’t want to make a pilgrimage to get to the ones in my town.

      I wish some entrepreneur would come up with a Trader Joe’s delivery service. I’d be set 🙂

  9. Jillian Kay says:

    I sometimes love grocery shopping, sometimes not. I’ve been rotating between Giant (local chain like Kroger), Harris Teeter, BJs (warehouse) & Trader Joe’s. I love the small size of Trader Joe’s too but it’s a bit of a drive.

    My garden should be producing a lot more too which helps a ton!

    • Anne says:

      I’m jealous of your garden! We put in a few tomatoes and herbs this year, and our raspberries and blackberries are finally getting established, but we leave the rest of it to the professionals 🙂 Our yard is too shady (and my thumb isn’t yet green enough) to put in more right now, but I still drool reading about other people’s backyard gardens!

  10. I hit Fry’s (our version of Kroger) about every other week. I used to go to Trader Joe’s weekly, when I worked across the street, but now it’s a 25 minute drive, so it doesn’t happen often.

    Instead I go to Sunflower Farmer’s Market (soon to be bought out by Sprouts) for produce. They do ‘double-ad Wednesdays’ – their sales overlap for one day, so I go on Wednesday and get lots of produce variety for cheap.

    • Anne says:

      Jessica, I am completely and totally jealous of your double-ad Wednesdays! I would absolutely be there for the produce deals!

      And the only reason Trader Joe’s is my go-to store is because it is so very convenient. I love the store, but I wouldn’t hit it weekly if we weren’t constantly driving by it anyway.

  11. Susan Tilney says:

    One of the few things I truly miss (other than people, of course) after moving from the “big city” in the megalopolis that is the corridor between NYC and Washington, D.C. to a small, rural coastal town in Maine is Trader Joe’s! Great selection, very good pricing, good quality and an anti-GMO stance. The bonus was that they were also in the same parking lot as the local Farm Market! We really need a Trader Joe’s (or ten) here in Maine!

    It’s a wonderful feeling to know we’re supporting so many local farms through our co-op purchases and that our food is so incredibly healthy. We stock up on fruits and veggies in season as well at the co-op and freeze, can, pickle, ferment and otherwise preserve that abundant local farms harvest (and eat it fresh, of course!) for the winter as well.

    Now we shop our local farms co-op and do the “list and loop” once every couple months to stock up on paper products, detergent and other non-food items especially since we’re so far removed from those big stores (about 2 hours).

    I place my co-op order on line each week and pick it up on Wednesday’s. It saves SO much time not having to go to the supermarket! Time that truly is well spent on things that either need doing or things we truly enjoy doing, after all, summer is almost upon us! :o)

    • Anne says:

      Your co-op arrangement sounds heavenly! I’ve read about some of those services and as far as I can tell we don’t have one here…yet.

      And you had a Trader Joe’s and farmers’ market in the same parking lot? That sounds fantastic. No wonder you miss it!

  12. Tim says:

    So happy to see Joy of Cooking at the top of your cooking reference list. My copy was published in the early 60s (I was a toddler then!) and I still refer to it often. Great guides and recipes!

    One thing about shopping at conveniently located supermarkets is that this is a luxury not shared by everyone. I was at a human trafficking conference this past weekend and one speaker on fair trade issues brought up somehting I’ve been hearing for years: there are food deserts in a lot of American cities. For families who live in these inner city neighborhoods, the idea of going to a full service grocery store – let alone have the means to access a warehouse store – is completely unheard of. It’s hard to grocery shop, let alone do it efficiently or enjoyably, when you don’t have a car and the nearest Safeway or TJ or whatever is miles away and an hour by public transportation. No fresh produce, no fresh meat, only food from liquor stores and convenience stores (if even that).

    Sorry, didn’t mean to be a downer!


    • Anne says:

      Tim, you’re so right. My own city has extensive food deserts and the topic has gotten a lot of press here recently. Some positive changes have been made, like farmers’ markets in those areas and csa distribution centers, but no grocery stores have been persuaded to move into the worst areas as of yet.

      I wonder, did the speaker have any ideas for solutions?

  13. Emily says:

    I, too, have streamlined my shopping. Like you, I have had to somewhat limit our variety, but truthfully nobody in my family has noticed and since my kids are young still they prefer the absence of variety anyway! I go grocery shopping at Aldi almost exclusively, and I only go every other week. I occassionally will be at Target or Dominick’s for something else (e.g. occassional great meat sales at Dominick’s) and will pick up a few things that Aldi doesn’t sell, but the decision to shop every other week and just meal plan for two weeks at a time has completely simplified my way of dealing with food and cooking.

    • Anne says:

      Emily, that sounds like me exactly. (I would love to go to every two weeks–I wonder if I could fit all that food in the cart even?) Our Aldi is forever away from me, which is why the close TJ’s is my go-to store.

      And yep, I’m loving the simplified, streamlined meals. I’m also finding summer to be an easy time to eat simple foods. (One word: Grill!)

  14. Hi! I’m new to your blog – I hopped over from the Small Notebook. I’m enjoying poking around!

    It drives me crazy to go to more than a couple of grocery stores, so I try to streamline too. Weekly trips to Trader Joes and monthly trips to Costco, with an occasional trip to Target. That does it for us!

    Also, I really like your footer. Great way to highlight content!

  15. Kimberly says:

    We live in a town of about 700. We hit Costco, Winco and whatever else three hours away every six weeks. After a few weeks, we run out of fresh produce so I get that in ten minute trips to the local store. Just usually produce and back out the door. So glad the garden in almost in, then I won’t have to even do that!
    Life is different out here!

  16. Stacy says:

    I am very lucky to have good options for grocery shopping in my town. We have a Costco, several grocery stores (no TJ, sadly, but it is 20 minutes away) and have a good online delivery option. Our CSA for the season starts up today, and whatever I don’t cook up during the week I can freeze for the winter. I usually do grocery delivery during the winter when I need veggies and everything else. In the summer I can stop at Costco on the way home and stock up on milk, cheese, bread and grilling meats. The summer is simple fare for us, definitely. I grill some sort of meat and veggies and then put some bread on the top rack of the grill for a few minutes to warm it up. I love simple summer cooking!

  17. 'Becca says:

    I enjoy grocery shopping but dislike driving. We live within walking distance of two smallish supermarkets in the same chain, several ethnic markets, drugstores that sometimes have specials on food (otherwise overpriced), and an expensive health-food store with a very limited selection. We hit one of those supermarkets about once a week, but for all the stores with better selection or prices that I drive to, I keep running lists and go once a month or less. Then I stock up, much like your approach.

    Trader Joe’s is one of my once-a-month stores. I love their yogurt, tofu, olive oil, affordable organic jam and corn flakes, and some of the frozen foods. I don’t usually buy produce there, though; compared to other stores here in Pittsburgh, TJ’s produce is expensive, over-packaged, and often less flavorful. Especially in summer, I think they’re trucking it from farther away than other stores. They may be better in other regions!

  18. I still don’t feel like I’ve got a good grocery routine going after having baby #2 (and she’ll be a year in a few weeks, so it’s not like this has just happened.)

    I would *love* to have Trader Joe’s be my weekly grocery store, with stock-up trips monthly to a bigger place, but TJ’s isn’t really convenient, so instead I got there about once every 6 weeks.

    I never minded grocery shopping until having children, but it’s such a *production* now. Simplifying my meals would help I’m sure, but I get so bored of eating the same stuff.

    You’ve got me thinking about how I can make things work better for our family…

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