Dear Joe and Vicki: My husband and I plan to spend several months traveling in our motorhome. We're always looking for ways to save money. At home I know where the less expensive grocery stores are located and I can control the amount of money I spend on food. What can we do to reduce food costs on the road?
Joe: When it comes to food shopping, my job is to push the shopping cart and carry in the groceries.
Vicki: Not only do we try to keep our food costs down, but we are also aware of the differences in the foods that are available in various parts of the country. There are grocery items available at our home in Southern California that we know we won't be able to find in other places. We stock up on those items to take with us. We always start out with several cans of Yuban coffee, for example. It's not always available in other parts of the country. And, because we especially like Mexican food, we always begin with our freezer full of our favorite brands of tortillas and chorizo. We load up enough to last throughout the trip.
As we travel, we try to make the most of the foods native to each section of the country. They usually cost less than in other areas. We look forward to the pork in Arkansas, citrus fruits in Florida, seafood along the coastal areas, and the peaches and pecans in Georgia and South Carolina. We love the roadside stands that sell fresh corn, tomatoes and other vegetables. Many of them work on the honor system, with just a sign telling the price of each item and a coffee can for purchasers to drop money into.
As you travel, you'll also become familiar with the different chain supermarkets in the various parts of the country. I love the Fred Myers stores in the northwest, the Wegman supermarkets in the northeast, and the Publix grocery stores in the southeast. And, then there are the nation-wide Wal-Mart Super Centers. I can buy food, clothes and just about everything else, all in one place.
I have an assortment of supermarket-chain discount cards that provide additional savings. You name a supermarket chain and I'll bet their discount card is in my collection.
I'm a coupon clipper. Every Sunday, whether at home or on the road, we buy a local newspaper. The grocery coupons more than pay for the newspaper. In addition, by glancing at the grocery ads for each store, we can get a feel for their prices. If I spot a store that doubles the value of coupons, I check it out. As a bonus, the newspaper provides us with a TV listing for the week. Not bad for $1.50!
Plan on spending more time grocery shopping on the road than you do at home. Brand names vary from one part of the country to another. It may take a while to figure out which to buy. Also, there doesn't seem to be a really consistent floor plan for supermarkets. We usually have to go up and down every single aisle to find what we’re looking for.
Joe: I try to select a grocery cart that doesn't have wobbly wheels. And, once in a while, when Vicki isn't looking, I toss in a bag of cookies.