Sunday, November 29, 2009

Savvy How To: Grocery Shopping Strategies

Savvy How To:
Shop With Savings

My daughter often asks why our storage rooms, with their aisles of organized products, look like a store. I tell her, “Because it is a store - our store!” When I make a meal, I shop from my store first, as it is filled with below-cost and heavily discounted products I've purchased over the past few months. Creating weekly meal lists should focus on products already “in stock” in your pantry first! Preparing a meal with products from your pantry purchased at significantly reduced rates lowers the cost of any meal. Simply use what you already have on hand and supplement with fresh fruits and vegetables for healthy, inexpensive and well-balanced meals. But if you don't have your own personal grocery store or even a well-stocked pantry, there are still many ways to reduce your out-of-pocket costs at the grocery store. While grocery shopping may seem a simple enough task, there are tricks of the trade that can help you fill up your shopping cart without breaking the bank.

Shop the Ads: Before you even walk through the doors of any grocer or retailer you should already know what's on sale. Knowing in advance the best deals available each week enables you to capitalize on savings. The best weekly deals are often found on the front page of a grocer's weekly sale flyer. The products for sale on the front page are typically “loss leaders” - meaning the store is leading you to purchase products at their loss in the hopes you'll fill your shopping cart with other goods as well. Stores might not actually be losing money when they sell an item at a great front-page discount, but these sale items are usually well below shelf price. If you are looking to fill your pantry or make a last-minute meal and you don't have a lot of food storage, start by shopping front page sales for great savings. Don't forget to read the entire ad though, as amazing deals can often be found on the other pages as well.

Shop by Aisle: Ever wonder why your shopping cart ends up filled with products you didn't intend to purchase? It isn't a coincidence! Most grocer and retail store layout designs purposefully lead shoppers past aisles of snack and convenience foods before they can ever make it to the milk and eggs located at the back of the store. If you're looking to shop smarter and healthier, follow the perimeter of your store where you'll find breads, fruits and dairy products. The perimeter is also where you'll find clearance bins in each department full of not-yet-expired products with huge markdowns. Avoid the center aisles when possible, which are stocked with high sugar or costly convenience foods ready to ease that craving. Lastly, watch where you're looking. Many costly brand-name products are stocked at eye level (yours or your children's) for ease of purchase. Make sure you look high and low for the best savings!

Shop Organized: Don't forget to take a shopping list when you head out to the store. Going to the store without a shopping list is just like going to the store hungry - you'll buy more than you need. The aroma of fresh baked bread wafting through the air can obliterate any clear memory of what you came to buy. A shopping list can ground you into the reality of needs versus wants. And make sure you don't forget other essentials like rainchecks, coupons and a calculator.

Shop With Coupons: When you hear of savings like “I got $234 worth of food for only $34”, it's because coupon savings brought down the final purchase price total. Using coupons and shopping smart can enable you to save 50 percent to 80 percent over retail prices at local grocers and retailers. When determining which coupons you should cut out of your Sunday newspaper, determine what products, not necessarily what brands, your family would use if the coupon made a product free, cheap or a family favorite. Most importantly, organize your coupons so they are easily stored and found. Putting things away in the same place every time means you can always find them when you need them again! Consider a three-ring binder filled with clear baseball card holders for easy coupon storage.

Shop by Size: While price-per-ounce comparisons may seem menial and mundane, even seasoned shopping saving veterans (say that 10 times fast) use this tactic. Often, pairing coupons with the smallest sized products makes a better purchase per ounce. Bigger doesn't always mean better savings. Fortunately, many stores readily advertise price-per-ounce costs on shelf tags. Use this information to your advantage for cost-effective shopping.

Watch the Shop: Finally, keep a keen eye on item pricing and coupon scans at checkout. It's not uncommon for products to be keyed incorrectly, overcharging you on your purchase or multiple coupons to stick together, allowing only one to scan. You've worked hard to save money, so make sure your hard work pays off! Listen for the beautiful sound of additional coupons printing out of Catalina machines near the register for cash or manufacturer savings and make sure to save your receipt - you never know when you'll find an in-store rebate for products you've recently purchased!

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