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How to Save at the Supermarket

How to Save at the Supermarket

Whether you're a retiree on a fixed income or a Boomer belt-tightening to save for retirement, shopping at he supermarket can send your budget into a tailspin.

It's not your imagination. You are getting less for your money as food prices continue to rise. Finding ways to trim your bill is a priority.

Here's how to spend less time in line and keep a bit more money in your wallet.

Set a budget

Have a maximum budget in mind. While it might be difficult to set a targeted amount of food spending each week when you could be buying different products and prices fluctuate, you could find yourself saving more money if you set a maximum budget and aim to spend below that maximum every week, says Leslie Tayne, an attorney specializing in financial issues with the Tayne Law Group.

Create a list

You don't want to wing it in the grocery store, you'll wind up buying all sorts of stuff, some of which you probably don't even need. "Make a list and stick to it. If you come to the store knowing what you need to buy, rather than what looks good on the shelf, you'll be more inclined to keep your spending in check,' says Scott Gamm, family finance advisor for H&R Block Dollars & Sense. For extra convenience he says to download the Grocery iQ app on the iPhone, which allows you to create lists directly on the smartphone. Your list can also be determined in part by what's on sale and what coupons you have.

Think big picture

Let the sales circular be your guide. The biggest picture on the front page are usually the "must buy" deals, followed by more pictures throughout. "Ask yourself, is this something I will be running out of in the next 12 weeks?" says Teri Gault of The Grocery Game, www.thegrocerygame.com, where you can access sales, unadvertised sales and where to find coupons to go with them.

Stock up

Buy the limit. Whenever you see a "limit 4" for example, this is a good indicator of the very best deals, which are often called, "loss leaders". "I know you don't need four jars of peanut butter right now, but when it's 99 cents each, you do!" says Gault.

Stock up on up to five weeks of diary products like yogurt and organic milk which have a 5 week, "sell by" date. So when a 4-pack is on sale for $2, it's time to invest in as much as your family eats in up to 5 weeks, says Gault. Check the sell by date to get the most time. If you use a $1 off coupon on this $2 sale, you can get it for $1.

Go online

An online grocery service can be an excellent option. This saves you time, your most valuable resource, and can help you save money, says Elle Kaplan, CEO and founding partner of Lexion Capital Management. Online shopping allows for easy, effective product comparison and you can sort by price to quickly find the best deal. "You're also less likely to make purchases based on hunger cravings and more likely to purchase only what you know you need."

Do your homework

Find out if your supermarket host any special discounts days like for seniors or college students. Pay attention. Maybe your store marks down product on Tuesday nights because they get new shipments Thursday, for example. If so, shop on Tuesday nights or early Wednesday for produce.

Know too where to get what. Is there a farmer's market nearby? That may be the best deal on time for produce. Maybe you can get certain foods and paper goods, like toilet paper, napkins and paper towels at the dollar store, or drugstores may offer great prices for some items. While you don't want to burn up a ton of gas shopping all around, be mindful of what's available on the path you frequently travel anyway.

Watch out for supermarket tricks

Do the math. Those buy 2 get one free type of promotions can be great, but do compare the individual price of the item against the number of "free" items being offered to make sure you're really coming out ahead with the deal, says Tayne.

One sure way to spend less at the grocery store is to never go when you're hungry.

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Anonymous   |     |   Comment #1
I cannot recall the last time I went grocery shopping without a list in hand.  I even use a list at Aldi!!
Ally   |     |   Comment #2
I have used this site for about 4 years for my favorite grocery store. They send the Sunday ad on Friday, when my store has Friday and Saturday specials I  usually get that ad on Tuesday or Wednesday and don't have to wait to get it in the paper on Thursday. 
Scroll down and click on your state and then the store you shop at, read the bloggers  and sign up for  their emails. You will not get spam or junk mail. The bloggers I follow in Michigan do all the stores in my area using the regional ads and give links to coupon to print. You can print 2 coupons per computer until they reset and then you can print them again. My bloggers site has the stores coupon policy from each of the stores I shop at. It is wonderful. Some allow stacking coupons. 

The bloggers also do Kohl's, Target, Walgreen's, Menard's, Lowes, and many other  stores that  I  usually don't shop at. All of the stores in my area are within a mile or less.  They do WalMart but because WalMart doesn't do sales you will not save nearly as much money there. You will get 3 emails or so a  week. Some manufacturers limit the total amount the times a coupon can be printed, (especially the high value coupons) so that is why you want to print them when you see them if you use them. Some times the bloggers will say print this now because it will be on sale at ---- in 2 weeks. I like Greek Yogurt and purchased them for 45¢ each this week. Dawn liquid for 50¢, $2 off pork so I went to the meat case and purchased 4 thick cut boneless pork chops (on sale) in separate packages it was 17¢ a 4-6 oz  portion after I cut the pork chop in 1/2. Sometimes you can print many coupons and last summer we picked up 20 rotisserie chickens from $2.23 to $2.29 each, came home took the chicken off the bones, wrapped it up in plastic wrap in 1 cup portions and then put them in a zip lock bag and all the chicken is cooked for sandwiches, casseroles, chicken chili etc. I used the bones and skins to make chicken broth in several of the slow cookers we purchased for $5.93 at Kohl's with free shipping. 3-4  years ago when Weight Watcher changed their point system we purchased on two occasions 30 Smart Ones dinners for 10¢ each and then from Target we purchased 20 twice for 90¢ which is 4.5¢ each. You never know what they will have and some weeks are much better than others but believe me if you have good bloggers you WILL SAVE A LOT OF MONEY.

I have purchased a 26 cubic foot side by side stainless refrigerator from Lowe's (best buy from Consumer Reports) that lists for $1850 for $650, the next year I purchased the $1350- 5 burner matching stove with the convection oven and also the dishwasher both for $1038. Thanksgiving evening I went to Kohl's and purchased a 16 place setting (4 boxes) of white Corelle dishes for a total of $38 after rebates. I grocery shop at Meijers and it is amazing how much money you can save. I have purchased a 32 inch Westinghouse LED TV for $128 from Target about 3 years ago. 4 drawer files delivered free from Office Depot for $79 each and they are over $200 in the store. 
 If you get the Sunday paper, staple the coupons books together and use a sharpy and put the weeks date on it because sometimes they will tell you what week to go to for a coupon. About 4 weeks ago  I purchased several  bottles of Gardier Fructis shampoo and conditioner for 83¢ a bottle (usually $3.50 to $5) , 8 cans of Gillette shaving cream for free. They even send the Aldi ad in my area. 

I am a widow and my cupboards and freezers are full. I budget only $15 a week for groceries. I picked up free cans of Progresso soup this week also. In the past I have gotten 6 each of Campell's tomato, chicken noodle, mushroom and cream of chicken for free. 

What you don't use give to the food banks, or to friends that could use your help. I just stop by their house and say I over bought. Can you use it or I will drop it off to the food bank. 
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #3
Usually the butter market is at it's lowest around this time of the year, not this time..... butter and cheese markets moving up quite a bit, eggs too...... higher prices coming down the road as these are ingredients too.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #4
Sheryl, forget groceries, how about giving us some info on how to make extra money to compensate for the high grocery prices. We can not stop the price fluctuations, it is seasonal on most of the produce and you can save more money by shopping less, not more.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #5
How about extra money to compensate for the loss of interest due to the ZIRP.  This policy does nothing but support the bankers and the top 1%.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #6
I save several thousand yearly by following coupon and saving bloggers, stockpiling during sales, combining coupons with store discounts, subscribe and save thru Amazon Prime, I know this because  I kept track for several years to see if it was really worth my time and effort.  So even though I cant do a thing about monetary policies that hurt me as a saver, I am able to reduce my overhead and save significantly by shopping wisely thanks to all the saver and deal sites out there.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #7
Not the kind of info I expect to find at this site. Let's focus on what the original purpose of this blog was, deposit rates and alternative investment and/or saving options. This supermarket stuff is for an entirely different demographic.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #8
And what demographic would that be?

This site is dedicated to DEALS, DATA and DISCUSSION.  Have you thought about what you could save and invest if your household food purchases amounted to $15 a week?
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #9
Wow!  And here I thought for years this site was all about "deposit accounts"  being it is DepositAccounts.com
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #13
Saving Money is Making Money....!!!
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #14
This article is for CLUELESS PEOPLE. If you don't know how to save money when shopping for anything, including groceries, by comparison pricing, you'd best just stuff your money under your mattress and not bother with the fine points of CD's and related instruments.
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #11
You're dead wrong. A penny saved is a penny earned
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #10
 Learn how to game the sales and double coupons.
 No, you don't need to be a lunatic as seen on TV.

 As an example, just picked up 8 boxes of Duncan Hines cake mix , reg price about $19 for the lot, for the grand total of 60 cents.

 That's extreme, but you should not be paying full retail for anything except milk, and even that you should shop around for .
Mr Freeze
Mr Freeze   |     |   Comment #12
FREEZING is your friend. Really. I used to think my dad was nuts when he'd freeze everything under the sun that went on sale. But he's right. Bread's a great example. You wouldn't normally think of freezing bread, but when the bread I like (usually $3) is a day or two before the expiration date, the local store marks it down to $1.50. If there are 2 or 3 of them, I'll buy them all, then put the extra ones in the freezer. Then I'll take them out later as needed (or when there's no marked down bread), and it's good as new. By the way, I generally keep bread in the normal part of the refrig anyway... keeps it fresh longer. Freezing is also good for stuff like cottage cheese (on that, it slightly changes the texture.. freezing and defrosting it makes it more "whippy" like -- but I find I actually like that texture better, and freeze it/thaw it even when it's not on sale to get that texture).

Look at HOW MUCH you get for your cheap price. Sometimes you can really get great deals. Othertimes, they will put tiny amounts in big boxes and mark it cheap. Things like putting only a few ounces of cereal in giant boxes, making you think you're getting a great deal.

RULE: NEVER buy something "JUST" because it's on sale. If it's something you need and use, great. But don't just buy something that you wouldn't have normally bought just because it's on sale, or it's a good price -- otherwise you're just spending way MORE money than you would have otherwise. This is simple and everyone knows it -- but you'd be surprised how many times people forget it when they see "Super Duper Wet Tissue Paper" on sale at 50% off and buy a few because it's on sale...

Or... you could just go to Costco or Sams Club on the weekends and have your lunch be all the free samples...  (just kidding, of course).
Anonymous   |     |   Comment #15
How about CD and bond issuers surprising us once in awhile with "double coupons"?