Friday, February 27, 2009

Tales From the Vault: 11 Ways to Cut Grocery Bills

Do coupons really work? Some shoppers swear by coupons; others steer away from coupons. In this week's Tales from the Vault*, I present a list of great tips for cutting food bills. This vintage post is followed by a 2009 update.

"Avoid store fake-outs," is one of 11 money-saving tips for grocery shoppers in the Aug/Sept. issue of Shop Smart, a publication from Consumers Union/Consumers Report. Here's a summary:

1. Shop at cheap outlets: The stores with the lowest prices include: "Aldi, Costco, Market Basket, Slater Bros., Shoppers Food Warehouse, Trader Joe's and Walmart." The downside: fewer choices at stores like Trader Joe's and Aldi or shoppers must make bulk purchases at Costco.

2. Be wary of circulars: Featured products in circulars often see a spike of up to 500 percent in sales volume. So stores like to highlight lots of items in their weekly circulars. The catch, says Shop Smart: "Not all items in circulars are on sale [at a discount]."

3. Watch product placement: ("Avoid store fake-outs.") Look out for products placed in bins at the end of shopping lanes, in "island displays," or in the middle tier of a shelving unit. Those eye-catching locations typically contain higher-priced goods.

4. Ignore colors: Marketers play head games with color. The concept: certain colors are more apt to gain your attention. So play your own games with the marketing gurus and ignore their color codes.

5. Cut your own fruit/Slice your own cheese: Don't pay extra for pre-cut, pre-frozen, pre-sliced fruits and cheeses. Slices of Jarlsberg cheese, for example, were priced at $7.99 per pound at a deli counter, compared to $3.99 per pound for a block. Likewise,the shoppers at the magazine found a chilled 16-oz beverage for $1.19, but the same bottle was 50 cents cheaper when it was stored warm on a shelf.

6. Buy store brands: The quality of store-brands is often comparable to name brands and the price can be 50 percent cheaper.

7. Use price guarantees: Many chains or stores will match competitors' prices on promotions and sales.

8. Shop alone: You may spend more if you shop with your kids or your spouse.

9. Skip the impulse purchases: Make a list and stick with it.

10. Use store cards: Many stores offer frequent shopper cards, which entitle you to different perks, including unadvertised specials.

11. Check out the scanners: 70 percent of the participants in survey reported finding mistakes made in the checkout line.

*This piece orginally ran on August 30, 2007.

Here's my 2009 update: The strategies above still make lots of sense to me. But my biggest money-saving tips have become (# 1) organization and (#2) healthier eating. When I'm organized, I create a disciplined shopping plan that bypasses impulsive purchases, duplication and waste.

A commitment to healthier food choices means that I spend less on snacks, junk food, processed foods and soda. Processed foods and snacks are expensive and could contribute to long-term health problems that could be costly in the long run.


Here's how to buy my new book:

@ Barnes & Noble
@ Borders


S said...

Did you mean StaterBros and not Slaterbros?

Jason Fisher said...

Coupons work if used correctly often they just get you to pay for the name brand instead of the better price for a store brand. But my wife once walked out of a store with $45 of products and they paid her $1.50 to do it, because of coupons.

So they can work.

Kelly said...

I have been noticing the checkout people being upset with the amount of coupons that I hand them. They will miss some or call other employees over to see if I am allowed such a deal. Saturday, at Kroger, I had a BOG3 coupon for Zone Bars. The cashier scanned them quickly and then stated my total. I stared at the screen and said, "Those are buy one get 3 free, you only took off one item." She then said, "We have a limit on internet coupons of $2." I asked her to take them off and to please give me back my coupons. She then wanted to know if I still wanted the bars!!! duh! No matter what, it's worth the struggle but I wasn't aware I would face so much adversity. I have to be extremely organized and count my coupons before I get to the checkout. So watch what they charge as well as how they scan your coupons!