Easy ways to keep food costs in check before, during and after each trip to the grocery store
42 Grocery Shopping Tips
by Alan Kerr
Coupons and Flyers
- "On sale" without a coupon is usually cheaper than regular price with a coupon.
- Watch for rebates or freebies with minimum store purchases.
- Check store entrances, newspapers and flyers for coupons.
- Only use coupons for items you would buy anyway.
- "Advertised" doesn't necessarily mean "sale."
- Use rebates and mail-in offers.
- Stock up on sale products.
- Be on the lookout for unadvertised specials.
- Get a raincheck if the sale item is out of stock.
- Buy the smallest size/quantity that the coupon allows.
- Check comparable brands to be sure you are getting a bargain.
- Want to try a new product? Don't pay full price; wait for the coupon.
- Match store sales/coupons with manufacturer's coupons for the same item.
When to Shop
- Don't shop hungry. Studies indicate you'll spend 17% more on your groceries.
- Avoid after-work shopping, paydays and just before holidays.
- Shop for items BEFORE you run out of them. If you run out of an item, you'll have to pay whatever the store is charging that week.
- Learn the sales cycle and know when to expect certain items to go on sale (e.g. condiments in early summer and baking supplies just before Christmas).
- Buy foods that are in season. They'll be top quality and likely less expensive than imported foods.
- Do one bulk shopping trip a month for staples. This makes the other three weeks easier with fewer bags to carry in and fewer groceries to put away.
- Frequent trips will be necessary if you shop for "soon-to-expire" items. Remember to keep disciplined during these trips. Don't buy on impulse.
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Where to Shop
- Due to volume discounts, larger stores are generally cheaper than smaller ones.
- Avoid trips to the "corner store."
- Try your local thrift shop.
- Try a "salvage" store. They resell damaged goods, store close-outs and insurance write-offs at substantial discounts.
- Since no store has the lowest price on all items, consider going to two stores.
- You don't have to go to the same store each week.
- Occasionally try other stores.
- Department stores, like Wal-Mart and Zellers, can be considerably cheaper for paper products, laundry detergent and soft drinks.
- Depending on what you purchase, different stores will be cheaper.
- Pool efforts with a friend in a different part of town to shop for each other for sale items.
In the Store
- Shop alone. "Helpers" will only add to the grocery cart.
- Check the entire store for specials and alternatives.
- Ask staff rather than wasting time looking for items or better deals.
- Produce, bakery and meat department staff are great reference sources and may markdown "day-old" items if they know you're a regular customer.
- Look at the higher and lower shelves for bargains or alternative items. The most expensive brands are at eye level to get your attention.
- Charge your purchases to your VISA to get air miles/rewards. (Just remember to subtract each transaction from your budget).
Before and After the Grocery Store
- Clean out your fridge before shopping: it'll be easier to put away groceries.
- Park close to the store but next to a cart return for less steps at the end of a tiring trip.
- Ask if the store accepts charge or debit cards before you start shopping.
- Leave those boxes for packing groceries in the car. By unloading the cart at the car, you lift them once, not twice.
- Put frozen foods away immediately and then those items requiring refrigeration.
- Freeze items in meal-size portions.
Reviewed November 2017
Take the Next Step
- Discover how to avoid the grocery store for a month and free up some extra cash in the process.
- Download one or more of these apps that can reduce your grocery bill.
- Find out: Does using Amazon Prime Pantry save money?
- Better than coupons. Shop smart with great cash back offers on your favorite brands at your favorite grocers. Join Ibotta today.
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Alan Kerr, a former part-time university Economics professor, dabbles on the Internet in his spare time.