Shopping tips

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Store memberships

Memberships at grocery stores usually come with benefits that can save you money at the store. They are especially helpful if you do most of your shopping in one place. Benefits vary from store to store, but they usually include discounts on certain items, coupons, and cash back offers. Some store memberships also offer discounts at gas stations, restaurants, and local attractions. Many grocery store memberships are free, but memberships to “wholesale clubs” such as BJ’s or Costco usually have a fee. Wholesale clubs offer items at a discount because they are sold in bulk. Remember, for memberships that have a fee, you’re only saving money if you shop there often and if you can use the large quantities that they sell. It’s not a bargain if the food spoils before you can eat it all. Next time you go to the grocery store, ask the cashier about memberships and learn how you can save!

Using insulated shopping bags

Have you ever seen reusable, insulated shopping bags at the grocery store? They help keep cold foods cold, which prevents the foods from going bad too soon. These bags are a great investment, especially if it takes you a long time to get home from the store. If you avoid buying cold foods because you can’t keep them cold on the way home, then these bags will give you more food options. The bags work especially well if you bring ice packs or buy frozen food at the store. Some stores will even give you a discount every time you use the bag. They’re easy to clean, and you should clean them often if you use them for meat. Save money and keep foods safe by keeping your cold foods cold!

Shopping with others

If your main goal is to save money, it’s best to shop alone. Children won’t be there to ask for items that are not on your list or put things in your cart. It will also be easier to compare prices and products to get the best buy. And your shopping trip will probably be shorter. On the other hand, shopping with children has advantages, too. It’s an opportunity to teach them about foods and health, and let them choose healthy foods they might like. If you do take children, plan ahead. Make sure they are not hungry or tired. Plan what and how many choices you will let them have. For example, you might let them choose a vegetable, a fruit, a healthy cereal or snack, or a fun shape of pasta. Then check out in a child-friendly aisle to avoid tempting candy and treats. Plan ahead to get the most from your shopping experience!

Shopping with cash

If you already grocery shop with cash, then you are ahead of the game.  If you are not used to it, try it. First, check sales where you will be shopping and make a grocery list of the things you need.  Invest in a cheap calculator and go to the store with enough cash to cover your food budget.  You might take a little extra in case you want to stock up on something on sale.  When you are limited by the cash you bring, you are challenged to use your creativity and buy only what you really need. Using cash can be a great money-saver!

Better buys, better health

Shop along the outer walls of your grocery store.  This is where the basics are – fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh dairy items, meats, poultry and fish, and breads.  Use inner aisles only for things you really need.  These aisles have more processed foods that generally cost more and have more fat, sugar, and salt.   Eat healthy and get the most value for your money.  Shop the outer aisles!

Shop when you’re not hungry

Have you ever shopped for food when you were hungry? Even with a grocery list it’s easy to put a few extra things in your cart. Markets try to tempt you with fragrant bakery items and beautiful food displays so you’ll spend more money. So be prepared! If you don’t have a chance to eat before you shop, grab a piece of fruit or a granola bar and eat it on the way to the store. Or buy a healthy snack at the store and eat it before you begin your major shopping. You’ll find that it’s worth your time.

Using coupons wisely

Grocery coupons can save you money, but only if you use them for things you would buy anyway. Most stores have membership cards that give you electronic discounts on their specials at the checkout. Their fliers or websites can tell you the specials for the week. You also can find product coupons online as well as in newspapers and store fliers. If you find a good deal, and the store has run out of that item, ask for a rain check at the customer service counter. But even with coupons, compare prices. Sometimes other brands or store brands are still cheaper! Coupons can be great, but are not always the best buy!

Saving on store brands

Want to save as much as 40% on packaged foods? Try store brands! Supermarket chains want their own brands to be as high in quality as possible. In fact, they often contract with brand name companies to sell the brand name products under their own supermarket labels. Supermarkets can sell them for less money since they don’t pay for advertising, and the brand name companies increase overall sales. It’s a “win” for both sides. In a Consumer Reports taste test, 11 out of 21 store brand products tasted just as good as brand-name foods, and another 3 tasted even better. So if you haven’t tried them yet, do it! You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised!

Knowing your prices

Learn the prices of foods you buy most often, so you can tell whether a sale is really a bargain.  You might even write the prices in a little notebook.  Stores sometimes say a food is on “special” without lowering the price.  Beware of quantity specials, too.   Usually when an item such as pasta or canned soup is on sale for “10 for $10,” you don’t have to buy 10 to get the sale price. You can usually buy as few or as many as you like, and each one will cost a dollar. The sign should tell you if fewer would be priced differently.  And if you’re not sure, ask a store employee. The more you know, the more you can save.

Shopping at dollar stores

Shopping at dollar stores is on the rise.  Like all stores that compete for your business, dollar stores are improving their safety and quality. So what about buying food there?  Consumer Reports says that for the most part, it’s a great deal.  Many dollar store chains now carry name brand foods, and some have their own brands, just like supermarkets do.  Prices are much lower than supermarkets and even compete with the biggest discount chain.  You can also get extra coupons and recall information at their websites.  But be careful as you would be anywhere.  Check packaging for dents or broken seals, and make sure the expiration date hasn’t passed.  If you try a new brand, see how it tastes before buying a large quantity.  Of course you won’t find everything you need there, but it’s one more way you can save.
Choosing where you shop
February 9, 2015 By nepteam in Shopping tips

A young woman in a grocery store shopping for canned soupWhen you shop for food, choose a store that’s clean and well supplied, and that has good prices. If the store is busy, the stock will turn over quickly.  Make sure the fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, and meats, look and smell fresh.  They’ll last longer.   Get to know your store, too.  This will help you find what you need and move through the store more quickly, so you’re less tempted to buy extras.  Try to buy bulk and non-food items like detergents and cleaning supplies at discount stores or warehouse clubs where they will cost you less. Choosing and knowing your store can save you money.

Unit prices

Advertising lines like “Buy the large economy size” have taught us that larger packages are cheaper. But that’s not always true! To find the best buy when you’re comparing products, use the unit price, not just the package price. You can usually find unit prices on a shelf sticker just below the food or beverage item. Unit prices show you the cost per ounce, pound, or other unit. By using this information, you can compare different brands and different sizes of the same brand to find the best value for your money. For example if one can of green beans costs 5 cents an ounce and another costs 6 cents an ounce, the beans at 5 cents an ounce are cheaper. Using unit prices is one of the best ways to save.

Shopping with a list

Save money by making a grocery list ahead of time and sticking to it when you’re in the store!  Studies show that from 20% to 70% of the groceries people buy are not planned, and those costs add up!   Food companies compete for your dollars.  Sometimes they even pay grocery stores to put their products in prime places such as at eye level or at the end of the aisles, where they can make the most money.   So check out the higher and lower shelves to compare prices of the foods on your list.  If you want to buy a few extras that aren’t on your list, set a dollar limit and stay within it. Use your list and spend smart!

Using your time wisely

Did you know that the more time people spend in a grocery store, the more money they spend?  You’re more likely to buy things you don’t need.  Stores are actually designed to get people to stay longer.  They put basic foods like meats and milk in the back of their stores, have long food aisles without shortcuts, and put tempting sales displays where you’re sure to see them.  Some stores even have dining areas and book sections where you can browse.  So shop smart!  Buy just what’s on your grocery list and don’t stay longer than you need to.

Saving at the check-out

Did you know that the scanners at supermarket check-outs can make mistakes?  And that these scanner errors cost shoppers precious dollars?  When you check out, watch the prices closely as each item is scanned.  Sometimes foods get scanned twice by mistake,  sale prices don’t get  programmed into the register, non-taxable items get taxed, or scales charge for the weight of a food package (such as a salad bar tin) when they should charge only for the food.  Watch prices carefully and save!

Source: Healthy Foods In a SNAP!

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Author: Mollie Osborne

Mollie Osborne had years in visual merchandising. Her rule is to develop, deliver and communicate visual concepts and strategies to promote retail brands.

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