More opt to shop wisely

Grocery chains offer more deals to meet public need

The brunt of the bad economy may be over, but locals are still searching for ways to cut corners with their monthly expenses - from insurance to groceries. But many are not going without, just going about it more wisely.

"It's not about being cheap. It's about being smart with your money," said Jill Burns while shopping at the Queen Anne Safeway. "I didn't used to do this - shopping based on the sale items and building dinners around which vegetable costs less. At least, not as intensely."

Burns goes through the grocery store ads, marking which items are featured for that week and makes a shopping list based on those items and which grocery store - QFC, Safeway or Albertsons - has better deals that week.

Grocery stores appear to be proactive on appealing to their customers' thirst for pinching pennies. Bright sales tags line the meat and produce aisles of Safeway, Albertsons and the Thriftway in Magnolia.

Thriftway, at 3830 34th Ave. W., mails out a coupon every two weeks to 7,000 residents that details sales, and particularly the buy 1 get 1 free deal.

"We don't make any money off it. By the time we produce the coupon and send it out we're basically giving everything away at cost," said Thriftway manager, Josh Angle.

But part of that is an effort to break the perception that local stores cost more money, Angle notes. Thriftway does price comparisons with the chain stores too to "make sure we have the same prices as them for the staples so people don't feel like they're getting ripped off."

"We're being pretty aggressive at getting customers in here," Angle said. "I have friends in other grocery store chains and it's pretty tough for everybody right now. We're just trying to give good deals. We're not trying to make money, just trying to get people in."

And Angle said he definitely notices customers seeking sales.

"If we put a red tag for reduction in price, people pay attention," he said.

One shopper at QFC said he tries to only buy products that give QFC member savings.

"I rarely have to stray from that and it works. Look at this," said Thomas Hinchley, pointing to his five jam-packed grocery bags. "All of this costs me half of what it would if I didn't pay attention to the card deals or the sales of the week. It's not what I was shopping lavishly before but maybe I was not as conscious of the money I could be saving."

While grocery stores prompt purchases with sale items and deals and shoppers seek red tag items, others are opting for less costly methods, like the food bank.

"I'm seeing a 30-percent increase in service to people since I started in October 2007," said Ballard Food Bank executive director, Nancy McKimney. "The types of clients we have are from all walks of life."

McKimney said she's noticed an increase of patrons who've lost their jobs.

"The people who come here are figuring they're trying to make ends meet with the rest of their of money," McKimney said. "This is the way they can take care of food for a couple days a week, and it makes a difference."

As of now, the Food Bank serves about 1,000 people per week, coming from Ballard, Queen Anne and Magnolia. For one person, the shopping model allows them to leave with five- to seven-canned food times, as much bread as they choose, a pastry, one to two packages of meat and enough produce for a week.

But sale-item shopping for groceries isn't the only way to cut monthly expenses. Kim Taylor, an agent for the Taylor Davis Agency in Magnolia, said a lot of clients want their coverage reworked to save money.

"It kind of started right after the first of the year," Taylor said. "We started noticing the bulk of calls were not necessarily sales calls, but how can I save money calls. We're reviewing a lot of people's coverage to see where they can save money."

However, the trick to reducing insurance payments centers on keeping clients covered well enough in case the worst happens.

"Don't put your financial wellbeing at risk by whittling away at the wrong coverages," Taylor said. "What I am doing is going through each policy holder's coverage to see where we can save you money without putting your financial wellbeing at risk."

One example of shifting coverage that Taylor said should be considered, is increasing deductibles.

"For most people it can really reduce your premium [monthly payment] so that's what we're doing a lot of," Taylor said.

Though every case is individualized, Taylor said a discussion with one's insurance agent will likely be worth it for those trying to reduce monthly bills. And doing so doesn't mean decreasing the value of one's coverage either, she emphasized.

The worst solution for saving money, Taylor said, is to cut one's coverage or drop it completely. "It's just a necessary evil," she added.

"I really despise insurance. It's basically a system created so that I have to spend my hard-earned money paying some big company for something that probably won't ever happen to me," said Magnolia resident, Luke Andersen.

But, "as much as I hate it, even after seriously considering decreasing my coverage, I couldn't do it. The inevitable 'what if' gets me every time."

Trimming back on insurance won't work for Andersen but he still plans to adjust monthly expenses, part of which includes frequenting local businesses that have specials and low prices.

"Everybody's talking about cutting back now, but it really boils down to spending money wisely instead of throwing it away at nonessentials," Andersen said. "If you weren't doing that before, then it's high time the reality of spending responsibly figures into your daily routine."[[In-content Ad]]