How to Save Money on Groceries
By Steve Gillman
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
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.
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).
If you liked this page please let others know with one of
Want more ways to make and save money? Try my newsletter...
Full of useful information. Subscribe now...