These days it seems like the sale prices at the grocery store are set at what the regular shelf price should be. As we add more convenience and give more power to food manufacturers by passively consuming their products, the prices at the grocery continue to climb. On my most recent trip to my neighborhood store, I was unnerved as the marked sale prices for staple goods like frozen vegetables, bread, and yogurt were nearing $2 per item.
Maybe I am just not keeping up with the the current-day cost of living, but I just refuse to spend nearly half of our income on basic groceries.
No. 1 – Avoid Bargain Bins, 10 for $10 sales, and any marked sale positioned at the front door.
Grocery store managers are interested in profits and they are not going to shoot themselves in the foot by advertising their best deals and make them super convenient so that not a single shopper could miss it. Most of the time, items on the 10 for $10 sale are not marked down by more than a few pennies. For example, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is a regular rotation in these sales at my local grocery stores. I have checked the regular shelf price numerous times and it is always between $1.00 and $1.15. Therefore, making it available on a 10 for $10 sale is essentially no loss of the grocery store and because shoppers are being told that they are getting a deal, they will buy it up in larger quantities than they would have picked it up off the shelf for.
No. 2 – Don’t get store blind. Check prices at other stores regularly.
I am not a fan of making a dozen trips to every store in town. Once upon a time some of my friends got into extreme couponing. But, for me, the habit never stuck. Sure, I could run all over town and get a few excellent deals, but the time commitments of finding the deals, gathering the coupons, planning the trips, and time spent in the store were all not worth the headache. I do shop two to three different stores somewhat regularly. I use the bulk store for a once monthly stock up on specific items that are a better deal in bulk. I go to the discount grocery store for all staples once per week. And, I get a small handful of items that I want in specific name brands at my neighborhood supermarket.
I do, however, use any opportunity while I am out and about to check the prices on products that I buy regularly at other stores. This one was recently confirmed for me when my neighborhood store recently raised the prices on seemingly all of their products across the board. I know what I pay for my groceries, it is one of the things that I track pretty closely. On my last trip, I paid $0.87 per bag of steamable, frozen vegetables at the Kroger discount store. While I was at my neighborhood supermarket picking up some produce, I checked the freezer aisle only to find that the cheapest option was the store brand marked as ‘on sale’ for $1.78 per bag.
No. 3 – Look one Shelf Lower
It is no secret that grocery stores have their layouts designed with profits in mind. They spread routine staples out to the farthest corners of the store aimed at keeping you in the store longer and exposing you to as many products on your way to get milk and bread as possible. But, you may not know that this design is working against you right down the exact placement of every item on the shelf. As you walk down the aisle, you will notice two things. The best-selling, often most expensive brands are placed at eye-level where they are most likely to be picked up by consumers. And, an entire variety of products advertised to children are adorned with familiar cartoon characters and bright colors and placed just a little bit lower to grab the attention of your shorter shopping companions. You can use this to your advantage if you know where to look for the better deals. Store brands and bulk quantities are almost always found on the lowest shelves so that you really have to look for them if you want the best deal.
No. 4 – Shop in as Few Trips/Stops as Possible
This one is not really about saving gas, although if you live any decent distance from the store it would be a consideration. This is about limiting your exposure to marketing influence and the opportunities for unplanned purchases. The entire purpose of supermarket psychology studies is to increase profit by increasing sales. The strategically placed end cap displays and center aisle advertisements are built solely for the purpose of enticing shoppers into putting unplanned purchases into their carts. It is easy enough to stay on task for one trip into the store, but when you spend an entire day or multiple days running around to a dozen different stores trying to chase down the best deals, you increase your exposure to this marketing and your stamina to reject it and that may be working against you.
No. 5 – Know Your Store’s Schedule
My neighborhood grocery store puts out clearance fresh meats on Tuesday mornings around 10 am. I stock my freezer with brisket, steaks and other pricier meats on these days. The meat is still fresh and in no danger of going bad in the time that it takes me to bring it home, split it up and freeze it. I have gotten entire roasts for less than $5 by taking advantage of the manager specials when they are trying to get rid of the fresh meats that didn’t sell that week.
If you are still looking for more ways to trim down your grocery budget, try revising your shopping list and streamlining the use of products so that you are buying less variety.