Making Sense of Grocery Shopping

One of the big things I’ve had to be careful about with our limited income right now is grocery shopping. It’s one of those expenses I have some control over.

Grocery stores can be tricky, though. They’re full of temptations for the hungry shopper.

1. Bakery and deli smells.

Stores in my area have the bakery and deli right up front. Not only are these foods really, really tempting, they smell delightful as they bake. And then there’s the announcement over the intercom when a fresh bake of bread is ready and you can smell the loaves… mmm!

2. Temptations abound throughout.

Especially if you bring your kids shopping. I try hard to not bring them. It makes shopping more pleasant and I don’t have to say no to the candy and other treats strategically placed throughout the store and at the cash registers.

These first two are, of course, why you should never shop hungry.

3. Sales that make only a minimal difference.

Some sale items really are great prices. Other times I catch stores offering just a couple cents off and calling it a sale price. If you keep track of the prices you pay, you know if a sale is something that means it’s time to stock up or if they’re just trying to get your attention.

4. Mixes that save little or no time.

Not every mix is worth buying. You can find all kinds of recipes online to make just about anything from scratch, and especially when it comes to things like cake and pancake mixes, the time difference isn’t much, but you’ll save a lot by doing it yourself. It’s rather more challenging, of course, but good results really stand out.

You can also read the ingredient lists on those premixed spice packages and come up with your own for a lot less. Some are amazingly simple. This also gives you more control over how much salt and sugar you have in your recipes.

5. Notice product placement.

The more expensive products are most often at eye level. Cheaper is generally up high or down low. There are some exceptions to this rule, but it’s pretty easy to check out the entire section rather than just one shelf if you’re serious about finding good deals.

6. Notice the price per unit.

This can be tricky, as some stores will use different units to describe the price for different sizes of the same product. However, sometimes you can see that the smaller item is offered at a lower price per unit than the larger one… especially if you have coupons! If you can’t approximate in your head, bring a calculator and know how to use it.

7. Know if “2-for”, “3-for” and such deals really require that you buy that quantity.

There’s a store in my area that loves to do “10 for $10” sales. Fortunately, not only do they allow mix and match, they don’t really care how many items you buy. You get the $1 per unit price anyhow.

Not all stores run these sales that way, so keep any eye on how your store does it.

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4 Responses

  1. Dr Saxe says:

    I have found that most people believe that they have to purchase all 10 items (10 for $10) to get the deal of paying only $1 per, but that is not the case in most stores, it does pay to ask questions.
    Respectfully,
    Dr Saxe

  2. Vered says:

    “These first two are, of course, why you should never shop hungry.” So true. As savvy as I like to think I am, I ALWAYS end up buying too much, and stuff that wasn’t on my list, when I shop hungry.

  3. Never. Shop. Hungry. I third the motion!

    The other thing we do is always shop with a list. I actually make a meal plan every week by thumbing through recipe books and keeping an eye on nutrition (orange/red veggies? check. at least 2 dark leafy greens? check. high EFA fish? check…) The only times we make exception to the list are when we see specials on items we regularly use anyway — if there’s a special we buy extra, if not, just what we need for the week.

    That is, unless we’re shopping hungry, in which case, cookies? check!

  4. Nikki says:

    I’d like to add that you should bring a caluclator and double check their price per unit pricing. There have been several times that I’ve gone shopping when their posted price per unit was wrong and the item that was SUPPOSED to be the best price per unit deal was acutally the WORST. I have called those mistakes to the attention of the store manager and they do nothing to correct it – I go back the next week and see the mistake is still there. I bring it to the attention of the manager AGAIN and the next week I bring a black marker with me and see it is still not corrected so I correct it MYSELF! And THEN I tell the manager that I corrected it because he obviously had no interest in maintaining an honest store. The next week, I see a new tag with the CORRECT pricing information on it! Seriously, I’ve done this several times.

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