Grocery Shopping Tips, Part 2
3. Avoid spur-of-the-moment shopping trips.
Shop once a week, every week. Hate crowds? Shop on a weekday, during the early morning or late evening. Avoid Mondays, since meats, vegetables, and fruits get pretty picked over by weekend shoppers; Tuesdays through Fridays are good shopping days. Perishable items are generally marked down first thing in the morning — so 9 a.m. shoppers are likely to save the most.
4. Shop at the same store each week.
The more familiar you are with a store, the more efficiently you’ll fill your cart. Shopping at a variety of stores might enable you to save a bit of money — but make sure the savings justify the extra time it takes (and the extra gasoline your car will be consuming).
5. Be careful with coupons.
Before devoting lots of time to collecting and sorting through coupons, make sure what you save is worth your effort. Bear in mind that a sale item is generally cheaper than the same item, not on sale, purchased with a coupon.
If you decide coupons are worth the effort, use them only for purchases you would make anyway. (For more on using coupons wisely, see GroceryCouponGuide.com.
6. Stick to outer aisles.
The store’s periphery is where you’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, baked goods, meats, and other low-cost “unprepared” foods. (If you slice it, season it, and cook it yourself, you’ll save money.) Costlier items, including frozen foods, snack foods, and non-grocery items, are typically tucked away in the middle aisles.
Stay away from “impulse buy” aisles, such as the book/magazine aisle, the candy/junk food aisle, and the aisle where seasonal merchandise is displayed (remember Maggie’s combo lawn chair/umbrella?).
7. Look high and low.
Special deals and sale items are typically placed on upper and lower shelves. Shelves at eye level are where you’ll find costly, high-margin items.
To make sure you’re getting a good deal, check the unit price; the bigger container usually represents the better deal — but not always.
8. Shop in season.
Whenever possible, buy non-perishable items when they’re cheapest. Baking supplies, turkey, and ham tend to go on sale just before the holiday season, condiments in early summer, ice cream at the end of winter, and soup at the end of summer.
Avoid out-of-season fruits and vegetables. They can cost up to five times more than the same produce bought in season. (For a guide to seasonal fruits and vegetable, see sysindia.com.)
9. Ask for help.
If you’re not sure where to find a particular item, ask store personnel or another shopper to direct you. The less time you spend roaming the store, the more likely you will be to stick to your list.
10. Keep an eye on the cash register display.
Scanners make mistakes, and it’s best to catch these errors as they happen. It’s no fun — not to mention time-consuming — to go back to the store to get a refund for a mis-priced item.
11. Pay with a credit card.
Pick a card that offers a rebate, airline miles, or some other perk, and use it for all your supermarket purchases. Do not let the fact that you’re racking up rewards encourage you to buy items you don’t need.
Maggie is doing much better, now that she’s changed her shopping habits. She’s especially pleased that her children not only pitch in to create each weekly shopping list, but that they actually enjoy helping.
And when the kids stand before the open fridge and yell, “Mom, there’s nothing to eat,” she has a ready response: “Then someone must have forgotten to put what we need on the list.” Works every time!
This article comes from the October/November 2006 issue of ADDitude.