Here's the lowdown. I buy most of my groceries at Trader Joe's. Probably because I only have two kids and we don't eat a lot of meat. At TJ's I get bread, milk, yogurt, snacks, and eggs. I get my produce from Grower's Direct. I've been to Albertson's less than 10 times this year.
How can you deny Trader Joe's? I spend way too much money there. The kids love the anteater and the balloons. And happy kids=happy mom. And TJ's has an interesting markup policy. If I remember correctly, it's a straight 20% across the board. In other stores the markup varies widely. They may take a cut on milk but your pretzels will cost you $4, where they're 1.69 at TJ's.
I know some folks like Sprouts for produce, but I'm a fan of Grower's Direct. It's on 17th street in Costa Mesa. I think the produce is better and they play classical music. And they don't seem to mind if you have a wet swimsuit and sand on your toes. BTW, the produce is cheap.
I've tried the Grocery Game before. It was ok, but the coupons are for processed and prepackaged food. You can get great deals on cereal, shampoo, and razors. It's good to remember that Ralph's doubles coupons, so you can get great deals there.
I had a friend who shopped at Food 4 Less in Santa Ana. She'd go once a month and stock up because prices were so much better.
For bulk purchases, you should check out Smart and Final. There is a store on 19th in Costa Mesa and one on Culver right before the 5. It's a great place for cheese in bulk, giant bags of pinto beans, and your usual restaurant supply delights. There is no fee to join and they take foodstamps, unlike our beloved Costco (where I always spend at least $200.)
Every year we buy a bag of wheat, a bag of oats, and a bag of flour (you can also get a 50 lb bag at Smart and Final for a competitive price) from the church cannery. We don't can them, just put them in food grade buckets (try Costco bakery, they'll give them to you for free). I'm not sure how much they cost, but I know it's super cheap. The oats, especially are worth the trip. Fountain Valley is the closest cannery here. (get some dried apples while you're at it. so yummy)