Get the Most for your food dollar...
According to an AARP Magazine article by Melissa Gothardt and other sources I've seen, supermarkets feature categorical sales trends, which run in about 12 week cycles. Ms. Gothardt suggest that you study these sales cycles.
This has four implications, as far as I can see: 1) If you shop only for what you need during a certain week, you are likely to save money on only 3 out of 15 major food categories, says Terri Gault, whose web site is www.thegrocerygame.com. If, however, you scan weekly circulars and find sales on certain food categories, you can save money by loading up on that week's sale items. The next week, buy more of that week's sale items, and so forth, until you have run through a 12 week cycle. (Of course, you will need to replenish some fresh items, whether they are on sale or not.)
2) Obviously, you can save money by planning your weekly menus around the sale category of the week.
3) You should consider whether or not you really want to stockpile more than a 12 week supply of any one food item. After all, the item will likely be on sale in another 12 weeks, anyway.
Here are the cons of buying more than a 12 week supply of an item: Buying more than a 12 week supply can overload a small storage area. Also, if you buy too much of one item, you may not really use it within its freshness date. For example, you could have great intentions of using up a six month's supply of macaroni, but your menu needs may change, and you could end up losing money by wasting some of the macaroni. Also, certain items do not keep as well as others, and if you stockpile too large an amount, you may lose some to spoilage. There is a slight chance that the next cycle's sale price could be better than the sale price this week.
Here are the pros: If you have a huge storage area, you can afford more space for an item. So, it will not crowd your cooking or living areas to buy a larger supply. If food prices are rising rapidly, especially with regard to a particular food category, the next sale on a particular item may not be as good as the one that is in front of you now. If you live in a rural area, especially an area where inclement weather could prevent shopping trips into town, laying in supplies for an entire season may make sense.
At any rate, don't buy mindlessly. Think it through.
4) According to Ms. Gothardt, grocery stores fall into two basic categories. The first are EDLP's, which stand for everyday low prices, and which you probably have already identified as offering the best deals in your area. The second are "high-low's", which have a reputation for being expensive.
If you keep abreast of sales cycles, you can actually save more money at high-low's than the every day low price stores. That is because when they do place items on sale, their prices dip lower than the stores that offer generally reasonable prices all around.
Of course, if you visit the high-low store, you should stick to items in that week's sale category if you want to save money. Otherwise, you could cancel your savings by picking up a few over-priced items, as well.