10 Money-Saving Tips for Grocery Shopping

Smart shopping tips.

By Stephanie Nelson

Grocery retailers want shoppers to spend as much as possible, and they use clever merchandising strategies to entice consumers to part with more money than they might have intended. Review these ten tips before you go shopping to avoid falling into spending traps!
Never shop when you are hungry: Eat, then shop. It’s very difficult to be a disciplined shopper when you are hungry.
Shop alone if you can: Shopping with a friend or family member can get you off track.
Use the store ad to plan your trip, but do not assume that every item in the store ad is a deal: According to Consumer Reports magazine, 75 percent of shoppers rely on store ads to plan their trips. Most shoppers do not realize that product manufacturers pay for most of the advertising space in a store’s weekly ad. As a result, a product’s sales can increase by 500 percent when its manufacturer buys space in the store ad. Be aware—products may be featured regardless of their prices. However, you can be reasonably sure that the front-page items are deeply discounted.
Compare unit prices: The size of a package can be deceptive, and the largest size isn’t always the least expensive on a unit-cost basis. Pay attention to the sizes of different flavors or varieties of the same product, since specialty varieties may have fewer ounces in the package than the basic version.
Skip the high price of convenience: Buy food in its most basic form to get the most food for your dollar.
Beware of special displays: Don’t assume that special displays or displays at the end of an aisle are the best price. They may actually be selling at full price.
Don’t fall for multiple pricing gimmicks: Stores frequently post prices such as “10 for $10” when the items actually sell for $1 each, regardless of the quantity purchased. Unless the sign says you must buy ten, you can assume there is no minimum purchase requirement.
Check different departments: As strange as it sounds, a store may beat its own price sometimes. A type of cheese sold in the deli department might cost more than a different brand of the same type of cheese sold in the dairy department. One brand of a type of nuts in the produce department might cost less than a different brand of the same type of nuts in the baking aisle. Often, the quality is the same.
Watch prices at the register and check your receipt: Grocery stores change thousands of prices on items each week. That means there are thousands of opportunities for pricing errors. Some stores will give you an item free if you are overcharged, but it’s up to you to point it out. At the very least, pay the correct amount.
Stick to your list and shop as quickly as possible: The longer you hang around, the more likely you are to veer from your list and spend more than you’d planned to. Get in and get out!

Reprinted from The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half by Stephanie Nelson by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright © 2009 by Stephanie Nelson.

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