Money-saving shopping tips

January 18, 2009 5:45:30 AM PST
Grocery shopping is not something all of us look forward to completing, but it doesn't have to be a chore or leave your wallet empty. Dollar Savvy Editor-in-Chief Neil Wertheimer joined us with 10 Golden Rules of Grocery Shopping. Here are the Dollar Savvy's 10 Golden Rules of Grocery Shopping

Golden Rule #1: Read grocery ads before shopping

Just like retailers, grocery stores constantly have popular products on sale
A little bit of research goes a long way - sales change weekly, so be sure to keep track
Mailings, newspaper inserts, local shopping guides, commercials (TV, radio, online)
Tip: Build a week's menu around sale items
For example if lettuce is on sale one week, plan to use it for a mixed salad on Monday, chop it up for a taco topping
on Tuesday, and use the leftovers to wrap chicken for a low-carb dish on Wednesday
Over time this will save you a fortune

Golden Rule #2: Navigate the store like a pro

To master money-saving shopping, you need a solid game plan
First, make a beeline for the back of the market
This you'll avoid strolling through the tempting center aisles (snack and gourmet foods)
Shop the perimeter of the store
Food essentials (produce, meat, dairy, and bread) are located on the store's perimeter, while the middle aisles tend to have the most costly prepared foods
Be familiar with your grocer's aisles
Choose wisely - use the pet aisle as your passageway; take advantage of those unappealing aisles (paper goods, baby supplies, etc)
Shop the middle of the aisle
Don't be tempted by the good deals on nonessential products - food companies pay big money for product placement at the end of the aisles
Look up, look down, look all around
Go for the less-expensive brands that are usually located on upper or lower shelves (brand-name items are at eye-level)

Golden Rule #3: Get Organized

Make a list of what you need to buy and ACTUALLY stick to it - be sure to plan ahead, so you're fully stocked for the week, without buying unnecessary items

Golden Rule #4: Do the math

When comparing prices of two items that appear to be the same size, go one step further and compare price per pound
For example compare two bag of chips which appear to be the same-size bag - one is $1.49, and the other is $1.79 - when in fact the higher priced bag has a few more ounces

Golden Rule #5: Study your store's selling patterns for sales

Grocery store sales often occur in patterns, learn when your grocer's sales will hit rock-bottom, and wait to buy those items

Golden Rule #6: Learn the tricks of their trade

Don't always fall for what seems like a good deal
For example "Buy ten containers of yogurt for $5" when in fact one container of yogurt is $.50
Additionally often times the carry-on baskets may be difficult to fine, a cart is too easy to fill up, so take the extra few minutes to seek out those baskets.

Golden Rule #7: Use coupons (wisely)

Read more, save more
If your Sunday paper offers high-value coupons on items you buy often - in the long run, it may be worth it to buy a few extra copies of that paper
Trade and save
Everyone in this economy is in to savings - host a twice-a-month coupon-trading session over coffee with your girlfriends
OR swap long-distance via snail mail or via email
Go online to save
Google the products on your shopping list with the word "coupon" and you'll be pleasantly surprised with the deals that pop up
Sort smartly
Organize your coupons the way you organize your shopping list - in the same order as the store aisles
Seek out the stores that double or triple coupons
Know when small packages can yield the biggest discounts
Don't always assume the largest size is the best option; sometimes choosing the two-for-one coupon can yield a better price per pound

Golden Rule #8: Save rain checks for a rainy day

This rule works best for high-volume grocery store shopping like Costco, or BJ's
For instance, let's say there's a sale on 12-packs of cola, but you don't have the money or space this week
There's a good chance these items will be sold out on Saturday or Sunday
Here's the upside - you can ask for a rain check on sold-out bargains, and cash in on those sales when it's most convenient for you

Golden Rule #9: Layer, layer, layer

Layering isn't only for clothing - use a manufacturer's coupon with items already on sale at the grocery store! Stack up on those sales - it's a really simple way of saving!

Golden Rule #10: Watch the register

The number of errors uncovered with supermarket scanners is staggering
Be your own investigator - keep a watchful eye on the cashier's display as the cashier scan search product
Make sure?
Discounts for sales and coupons are applied - you're more likely to do this with higher-priced items like clothing or appliances, but those smaller savings really add up
The proper produce codes are used
The register is logging items with price tags correctly
If there's a mistake, speak up - many stores give you the product for free when you point out errors
And finally, keep your receipt!

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