In this blog I have written about many ways to save at the supermarket. You should be consistently diligent and anything but lazy to make sure you’re getting the best deals every time you shop. The truth is no matter where you do your grocery shopping, the fundamentals never change and the things you need to do to save are the same everywhere you may go.
Some supermarkets have the reputation of having lower prices while some are proudly “upscale” and “quality” focused, but in the end they all use the same tactics to increase their sales and you should always pay attention to those details. Here are the best ways to defend your grocery budget against the supermarket strategies of the 21st century.
Take a few minutes to clip coupons
Do you realize that over $3 billion in manufacturers coupons were printed last year? Would it surprise you to learn that only $300 million were actually redeemed by shoppers at the supermarket? That’s leaving $2.7 billion dollars on the table when you could have used some of that for yourself! Yes, it takes some time to search, clip, and organize coupons, but it’s well worth the savings which can be up to $1.98 per item when doubled. There are also digital coupons and online coupons to search (or use a money saving app), but don’t be fooled here. 90% of all coupons available are in the weekly inserts in your local newspaper which means that you should search at least on Sundays for the best sources.
Check out private label products (store brands)
Buying private label or store brands always saves you money over national brands at regular pricing. In fact, store brands on average are 25% less costly and are growing in the store aisles to the point that on average they represent about 25% of the store inventory. The reason is simple. The stores make larger profits on their own brands. But don’t think that they are inferior. According to Consumer Reports, 67% of the people surveyed about store brands’ taste and quality said they thought it was equal to or as good as the national brands. Why not try a few and judge for yourself while you cut your food bill.
Be sure to bring your loyalty/discount card
You know about them, you see them, they’re in all the ads, and yet do you always use your loyalty card? If not, you’re leaving money on the table simply through laziness. If you have a card, use it for discounts, special digital pricing, BOGO’s, senior discounts, rebates, and more. Some supermarkets will give away free turkeys at Thanksgiving and other holiday food items or gasoline discounts with accumulated purchases “on your card”. Even if you’re just running in for a few items (which I strongly discourage), you have to use them to get the rewards.
Take a look at buying in bulk
This one is so simple. Bagged produce like apples, potatoes, oranges, and lemons are just cheaper per pound than loose items. Meanwhile bulk bins of nuts, granola, dried fruit, cereal, and candy are often cheaper per pound than the bagged and boxed items. On a recent trip to the market, I was able to purchase a 5 lb. bag of Russet potatoes for $1.49 (that’s 29.2 cents a pound) versus the loose potatoes at $1.29/lb. That’s a savings of about 78%. And if you need a small amount of an ingredient for a recipe, also take a look at the salad bar or olive bar to see if your item is cheaper that way.
Watch the unit pricing
While buying in bulk can save, always check the unit pricing shelf tags on the items you buy to be sure you are getting the very best price. Bigger packages don’t always mean the best savings and sometimes the small packages are unit priced lower because of a sale price. Make sure you are actually comparing the same units so that there are oz. compared to oz. and lbs. to lbs. as shelf pricing can sometimes be inconsistent.
Beware the end caps and signs
Most of us think that the end caps (the end of the aisles) always feature a great buy or sale items. Not always true. In fact, these locations often feature items being promoted by the manufacturers. That is space they pay for and use to attract you to a new item, new packaging, or timely seasonal item. It is often an impulse buy and takes advantage of the consumer. Know the store layout and check the “home area” for the items in those categories so you can compare unit pricing and package sizes.
Signs that say “special” or “sale” may not be the best prices that are offered. Sale prices run in 4-6 week cycles and a lower than regular price this week may be even lower next week. For example, Coca-Cola products like a 2-ltr. bottle can be regularly $1.99 per bottle. The sale prices may be 3 for $5.00 this week and 5 for $5.00 next week. Waiting that extra week can save you 67 cents a bottle on last week’s sale price. This happens all over the store so tracking the cycles is a way to save.
Avoid checkout temptations
The last stop for all of us is the checkout line. It’s also the last battlefront that the stores use to grab your attention and money on items that were not on your shopping list! You did have a list when you arrived, didn’t you? Magazines, candy, gum, chips, single serving drinks…just another few dollars of high profit (and often high sugar) items you don’t really need. In fact, I saw a 2 oz. bag of chips for $1.49 at the register that was the same brand as the chips I purchased in the main aisle for $1.99 a bag for 8 oz. That’s a difference of 50 cents per ounce!
This isn’t brain surgery, so there’s not a reason in the world for you to ignore these strategies to save at the supermarket. It’s something that should be second nature to you regardless of your income and store preference. Wouldn’t you rather spend your hard earned dollars on something more meaningful?
What are your favorite strategies for saving on groceries?
Image courtesy of Ambro on freedigitalphotos.net (with changes)