Saturday, May 8, 2010

Grocery Store Savvy

Recession pinching anybody else? This morning, I found my cousin posting on fb "Dear Groceries...you are too expensive. I don't want to buy you this week, I would rather go to the movies. I think we need to redefine our relationship." This post will be the first in a series to give some ideas for saving money on the food we buy.
Food at the grocery store varies in price week to week. You can begin to save on your groceries just by paying attention to the ad your store puts out once a week. The front and back pages of the ad often showcase the best deals the store has for the week. Sometimes there are loss leaders, which is a product being sold for little or no mark up to encourage you to walk in the door. Be aware that some products will be advertised at their “everyday low price” and are not actually on sale, they are just getting a turn having face time with you to remind you to buy it. Become familiar with the prices on things your family uses most. Write down prices, if it helps for tracking, and soon you will be able to spot the "deal". Plan your meals around what is on sale. Make a menu and a list to take with you. Stick to it! It will help to make choices in the face of many options and cut down on impulse spending.

Get familiar with the layout of the stores you shop. Some offer maps of the store at the customer service desk. Grocery stores place food so that you have to go all the way to the back corner for the milk, produce on one side and possibly bakery on the other. This navigates you effectively past hundreds of products to get to the ones you came in to buy. Be smart about food placed on end caps. About half the time this is a good deal, and the other half it is just a strategic place to move products. Take your ad to the store with you to refer to sizes that were on sale and to show to helpful employees who want to help you find something.

Learn about unit pricing. Most stores will have a price tag on the shelf which will tell you 1) the price 2) a description of the item including size 3) a price/ unit (usually a measurement like ounces). Sometimes we think buying in bulk is saving us money, but a quick glance at the price per unit will allow you to realistically compare prices. Sometimes the big one is cheapest, but sometimes it is not. Another thing I do, if I am looking at a sale price taped over the regular tag, is lift the tag. This can show you if a product is on sale for 20 cents cheaper, or 2 dollars.

After talking about all the thinking you have to do while you shop, I’m sure you are saying “I can’t think about all of that when the babies are screaming for cookies and the teenagers keep dropping things in my cart!” True. If at all possible, don’t take distractions with you. This is serious work. Trade babysitting with a neighbor or bribe the teenagers to stay with the younger ones. A promise of gum will usually do it at my house, and the money I save that way adds up as well. Alternately, make a plan and put helpers to work, teaching them the principles of sound shopping as you go. Take a snack in your purse to keep the baby happy, and remember don’t go to the store with an empty stomach yourself! I remember clearly once getting to the checkout to realize I had purchased milk, pop and juice in a couple of forms. I was thirsty!

Well, there is a start. Next time we’ll talk about storage strategies to extend your dollar. Happy shopping!

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If you are visiting, welcome! I am in the process of a Vulcan Mind Meld with my computer to put all of my right hand recipes for feeding my family on here as fast as possible. Please come back often and stay awhile. There are so many exciting things to come!

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A clearing house for all my favorite recipes. All my food musings. All my favorite cookbooks and kitchen gadgets. If you enjoy it here, and find it useful, welcome!