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How to Save Money on Groceries


One of the best ways to save money on groceries is to have a list and stick to it. Of course, you can find that and the usual tips in magazine and newspaper articles everywhere. Other common advice includes using coupons, going to discount shopping clubs (like Sam's Club), and stocking up during sales. These can all work, but I try to have the more unusual ways to save money, so here we go.

Customer Loyalty Programs

You have probably seen the "loyalty cards" that get you special prices on various items each week. Get one for whichever grocery store you regularly shop at, but sign up under a different name. In recent years some grocery chains have been selling information about your buying habits, even to health insurance companies. Suppose you don't smoke, but buy cigarettes for a friend. You might pay more for insurance as a result, if your real name is used. The card works no matter what information you put on the application, so be John or Jane Smith (unless you already are).

Be sure to keep one of the cards in your wallet or purse, and use it every time. We often get 10% or more off our bill using the store card. Sometimes they have particularly good deals for card-holders, so you can stock up on certain items. We even get three-to-six-cents off each gallon of gasoline at many stations, using one of these store cards.

Don't Use Coupons

Saving money on groceries with coupons sometimes works. The problem is that they are almost always for the name-brand items. A box of name-brand saltine crackers can be as much as $3.29 as I write this, while the store brand we just bought was $1.29. Even with a 50-cent coupon the expensive ones are more than twice as much. Taste matters, of course, but often the same crackers are in different boxes, with a store label for one and a brand label for the other. Experiment to see if the quality is the same (the $1.69 ones were terrible, the $1.29 ones excellent).

It is rare to find coupons that actually save you enough money to make a product cheaper than the alternatives. This is true in grocery stores anyhow. Some pharmacies that carry groceries, on the other hand, have really good coupons. They actually take a loss on products to draw customers in. Stock up when they have half-priced olives and nuts and canned goods.

Don't Go to Sam's Club

Okay, go if you can really spend less on the particular things you buy. My experience, though, is that while these club stores have low prices in general on large quantities, you can almost always buy everything cheaper at some point by shopping sales at regular grocery stores. So unless you are going to make a lunch out of the free food on "Sample Saturdays," you might want to save yourself the annual fee.

Leave Kids Home

Shopping once in a while with your children is a good idea if you want to teach them to be smart shoppers, but make it the exception. Kids grab things, and want every sweet thing they see. You may give in to their demands less than most, but why torture them and make your own time at the store more stressful? You'll almost certainly spend less on groceries if you leave the kids home.

Look in the Right Places

The highest-priced items are often placed at eye-level, so to save on groceries, look higher or lower on the shelves, where the better deals are. Also, while end-caps are often used to sell expensive items, they are sometimes used to clear out inventory at a good price. Watch for deals here.

Watch Those Unit Prices

More than ever, you have to check the price-per-unit tags to find the best deals. It used to be that larger was usually cheaper per-ounce, but that isn't as likely now. Some grocery stores have the larger items at a higher per-unit price. I'm not sure if this is an attempt to trick us or not, but do the math.

Watch The Register

You may think you are saving money on groceries with your store loyalty card and shopping sales, only to discover later that you paid full price. Stores often make mistakes, and they are almost never in your favor. This is usually because of sale prices that were never entered into the computer. Watch as your groceries are rung up, and have any mistakes corrected right then. You don't want to spend three dollars in gas to go get your two dollars back later.

Eat First

This is perhaps the easiest way to spend less on groceries. Just eat before you go shopping. You will buy much less than if you are hungry (and you'll probably buy healthier foods too).

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