15 Easy Ways To Save Money At The Supermarket

Saving money at the supermarket has never been more important or difficult thanks to the tag team threat of inflation and the Grocery Shrink Ray. Get Rich Slowly published 15 money-saving tips to help you hold onto your hard-earned cash.

  1. Make a list and stick to it. Lists focus your shopping and are the single best way to save money.
  2. Compare unit pricing, not box size. As with good things, good prices sometimes come in small packages.
  3. If you only need a handful of items, use a basket, not a cart. Empty space cries to be filled.
  4. If it’s not on your list, don’t pick it up. According to Paco Underhill in Why We Buy: “Virtually all unplanned purchases…come as a result of the shopper seeing, touching, smelling, or tasting something that promises pleasure, if not total fulfillment.”
  5. Shop at the edge of the store. That’s where the healthier, cheaper items hide.
  6. Disavow brand loyalty and swear allegiance to the lowest price.
  7. Consider generics. You usually get the same quality, without the unnecessary branding.
  8. Learn to love coupons. With practice, you can buy almost $150 worth of stuff for $5.
  9. Make one big shop, rather than several small ones. You’ll save on gas while inoculating against wasteful spending.
  10. Buy from bulk bins. Why pay for packaging and marketing when you can reach right in and scoop out exactly what you need?
  11. Check your receipt. Don’t let an errant scan ruin your hard work.
  12. Shop alone. Science shows that we spend more when we’re with company.
  13. Track your spending so you can see what’s eating your money. Committed receipt hawks can spot price cycles to help guide their shopping.
  14. Eat a meal before shopping. Shopping on a full stomach tamps down impulse spending and keeps you focused on your list.
  15. Shop without a car. Nothing limits spending like knowing you’ll have to carry your goods home.

How do you keep your grocery bill under control? Share your tips in the comments.

Saving at the Supermarket: 15 Great Grocery Shopping Tips [Get Rich Slowly]

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. Rando says:

    I disagree with #2. Supermarkets get these wrong 50% of the time, either on purpose or accident.

  2. parad0x360 says:

    I went to Stop and Shop yesterday and pick up some shampoo. It was Pert Plus and it said 25% bonus free on the bottle. I was amazed at this with all the shrinking so I got it for the same price as a normal sized bottle.

    i got home and jumped in the shower and when I used the shampoo I noticed it was alot thinner. I’ve been using that shampoo for years so I know what it looks like and this “Bonus” bottle looks to be watered down quite a bit.

    Its a shame these companies are getting more and more deceptive. Its also a shame they are raising prices so much per unit and blaming it all on Gas when the cost per item shouldnt rise even close to what it has.

  3. Rando says:

    @Rando: I also disagree with #7. Quality is definitely sacrificed on most generic items.

  4. parad0x360 says:

    Sorry for the double post, we need an edit button…

    I dont think #7 is true. Often times store brands taste like crap, or at the very least not as good.

    Also the quality isnt there. My Girlfriend was buying store brand broccoli for months. It was half the price but all you get in the bag was the stalks! I convinced her to buy a name brand which was more expensive but it actually had the heads in the package which means much more of the part of broccoli we actually like to eat.

    Oh and target brand (archer farms, market pantry) all taste like cardboard food so try to steer clear of those. Except maybe the chips, those are ok.

  5. RumorsDaily says:

    #7 is not always right. The store brand Eggos, for example, are much, much worse than Eggo brand Eggos.

    Sometimes it doesn’t matter (sugar) but sometimes it does.

  6. @RumorsDaily:

    Agreed. Quality varies amongst brand named items and quality varies amongst generics. A blanket statement saying generics are as good as certain name brands is incorrect.

  7. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    #16: Ask for discounts on packages that are dented or food near the expiration date. Most managers will offer a discount on the spot.

  8. mzhartz says:

    9 and 15 are counter intuitive. Make one big shop, but try to carry it all home?

    I agree with what everyone else is saying about generics. There are no difference for some things, but with others the difference is huge. It depends on the item.

  9. suzy-q says:

    @parad0x360: It may not be universally true, but there are in fact some really good store brands out there. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad Publix-brand product. In fact, I like some of their products more than the more expensive versions. Publix brand ice cream rocks.

  10. ChuckECheese says:

    Good list. Comment on #7 (generics). Wal-Mart has started to close the gap between the price of store brands and name brands. Here’s how, using the example I recently observed–Spaghettio’s.

    A month ago, a can of WM Spo’s was 58¢ and a can of Campbell’s brand was $1.07. This has been the price for these 2 products for over a year now in my area. At my next visit, WM Spo’s were 78¢ and Campbell’s were 97¢. Last week, the prices for both items was the same–88¢. The name-brands won’t put up with WM store brand price undercutting for much longer.

    Note also that in many markets, WM doesn’t sell generic versions of high-margin, frequently consumed products like toilet paper and laundry detergent. One has to search to find the best prices. For example, WM doesn’t even sell many Purex (a less expensive brand made by Dial Corp.) laundry products. For these, I have to go to the dollar store, where a box of Purex Ultra is $3.50, whereas an equivalent amount of name-brand detergent at WM would be $7.

  11. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    Also, shop at Trader Joe’s. Eighty-five percent of the items for sale are store-brand (generic).

  12. thelushie says:

    @parad0x360: Concerning #7, it is hit or miss. For example, I perfer the Kroger Brand Raisin Bran Crunch over the brand name. It tastes better and the flakes are thicker and have more flavor. As for your broccoli example, I agree with you. The name brand is worth it in this situation.

    The great thing about store brands is that, in some cases if you are not happy with them, you can take them back and get your money back. I know at Kroger you can.

    #2 is rarely true. Typically the smaller packages have a higher unit price. Pay close attention if you are buying out of a bulk bin (#10) as they can have higher prices if the company that supplies said bin is smaller which can lead to higher prices as they need to have higher profit margins.

    If you practice #9, then you might be increasing your waistline in the process as research has shown that having alot of food in your house may make you eat more.

    As for eating a meal before you go shopping, this works.

    Read Paco Underhill’s book, it is great.

  13. MikeB says:

    If you supermarket offers it, do you shopping online and schedule a pickup. It costs me about $6 to shop online but I am much less likely to get hit with impulse items and can much more easily stick to a budget. And as a plus, you can shop in your underwear.

  14. thelushie says:

    @ChuckECheese: Hmmm, it looks like Campbells is also lowering their price as Walmart is raising their’s. But I seriously doubt that it is Campbell’s “not taking it anymore”. With how large Walmart is, they can just pull the product from the shelf and it probably wouldn’t hurt their profit. Most of those corporations have offices set up in Bentonville to work closely with Walmart. My guess is this was an agreed upon move. And actually it could benefit Campbells in that more people will buy their product with the lower price.

  15. puka_pai says:

    I’ve always found Archer Farms to be one of the best store brands out there. Kroger’s Private Selection is also really good, especially their frozen vegetables. (Disclaimer: I’m a former Kroger employee.) I’m always willing to give a store brand a try, and if it sucks, lesson learned and we won’t buy it again.

    If you have the room, stock up on non-perishables when they go on sale. You’re always going to need toilet paper and it’s much better to have a truckload under the bed than have to buy it at regular price when you run out and have no choice.

  16. Corydon says:

    Store brands are variable in their quality. Anything labeled “Good Day” is generally crap. But Safeway has some good store brand stuff. You just need to learn which is which.

    Personally, I lean towards riding my bike to the store. It forces me to just get what I really need—I generally can’t carry more than that (and it negates the gas advantages of doing one big shopping expedition). I also like shopping for stuff on the day I need it (or close to it), it helps ensure things like vegetables are fresher.

    On the other hand, it’s also a good idea to invest in a deep freeze and fill it up when really good sales come on. Read the ads and shop at places like Costco or Sams for buying in bulk.

    Yes on unit prices, but bring a calculator with you. Often the same products will be measured in different ways! Paper towels are the worst for this.

    @ConsumptionJunkie: Careful on the dented cans. Make sure it’s not dented on the seam (that might allow air into the can) or swollen in any way. There’s a risk of botulism.

  17. AcidReign says:

        Our local Publix actually reverses rule number 5. At the edge of Publix are: the deli, with all those pricey Boar’s Head items and fancy breads, the Produce department, the seafood and meat counters, and the fancy organic/vegetarian counters. All of the cheap canned goods and freezer items are in the center of the store.

        I use Publix store brand on a lot of things. You wouldn’t necessarily want the store brand on a main ingredient of a recipe, but Publix canned mushrooms are fine in a casserole. On the other hand, I have to be desperate to buy a “Great Value” item. They are the worst of the worst, of store brands.

  18. moushi says:

    These are great tips. If you’re going to be nit-picky about name vs. generic brands, just go for the name brand on stuff you know you love. But switching to store brand on stuff like water, paper towels, soaps, detergent- that stuff is probably an easier switch.

    Also, Why We Buy is an excellent book, and actually really fascinating as a study of consumers in general and the reasons that motivate purchases. He talks about shelf and rack placement in retail spaces, what stores do to subconsciously influence shoppers- really neat stuff. Anyone who reads this site would definitely like it. He also did another one about the mall (Call of the Mall? I think) that was just as interesting, if not more.

  19. gibbersome says:

    I think the point of the post is to make you consider trying something new. If name brand works for you, great! If it doesn’t, then stick to brand names.

    #11 is especially important. I like to make sure that I’m in clear view of the screen while the cashier scans the items.

    And #12 is another big winner. I live in a college town and the bus fare is free of charge for me. Biggest money saving decision I made was getting rid of my car. No monthly car payments, insurance (especially since I’m under 25), no gas and no car maintenance to worry about.

    Of course, getting rid of your car is not possible for many of us; but if you’re lucky enough that you have a choice, I heavily recommend trying it.

  20. catcherintheeye says:

    I’ve got a great one! If you live in Cook County, go to DuPage county to do all your grocery shopping!

  21. gibbersome says:

    Oops, meant no-name brand above*

  22. catcherintheeye says:

    @catcherintheeye: Actually, even though I was in jest, now that I think of it that’s another money saving option – if you live close to a county border, go grocery shopping in the cheaper one.

  23. t325 says:

    @RumorsDaily: But with Eggos, that’s like saying a dog’s turd tastes worse than a human’s turd.

    Some things, I can’t tell a difference between generic and name brand. A lot of cereals, pasta and bread (that’s comparing generic vs something like Wonder Bread, not the expensive gourmet crap), there’s no difference that I can tell.

    Dairy, on the other hand….huge difference between a lot of generic and name brand cheese, especially cream cheese. Ditto for orange juice. I bought generic OJ once. Never again. I’ll stick with Tropicana or Florida’s Natural for that.

  24. t325 says:

    Oh, and #15 just isn’t possible for some of us.

  25. gmoney says:

    @parad0x360: I think it comes and goes. The eggos are a great example indeed of generic inferiority. Also house brand frozen OJ vs. Minute Maid.

    But I find many housebrand cereals ok and I swear by house brand condiments, sugar, and commodity type things.

    In other cases it’s a matter of use – house brand frozen veggies are inferior but perfectly acceptable for things like pot pies, seasoned veggie salads, etc.

    I don’t agree at all with #2 “Make a list and stick to it. Lists focus your shopping and are the single best way to save money.”

    At least in our area, our stores have many unadvertised specials. If you don’t go up and down the aisles looking for them, one is depriving oneself of some of the best deals in the store and they are often on very useful things but ones I would not have thought to put on my list. It just takes the discipline to bear in mind what it is you are looking for as you do this.

  26. gmoney says:

    @ChuckECheese: Are you implying that WM is caving to the whims of their suppliers? I used to negotiate contracts with WM and I can assure you that nothing could be further from the potential truth. I’m sure there’s a rationale to the trends you note but equally sure that “somebody not putting up with WalMart” aint it.

    They call the shots. There’s a good book called The WalMart Effect, very interesting.

  27. gmoney says:

    Further to my other post on WalMart and The WalMart Effect, did you know that WalMart was responsible for the Deodorants being sold right in their applicators rather than in boxes? Needless bulk and packaging expense said WalMart and thus was an industry change born.

  28. B says:

    For me, most of the grocery store house branded products are as good or superior to their name branded counterparts, although some of them are worse. As for walking vs driving, I try to walk to the store when I just need a few things, but I’ll drive when I need to do my big shopping trip.

  29. Etoiles says:

    I lived in major cities (New York, Boston) for the last six years, without a car, and had to do all of my grocery shopping with a backpack and a tote bag at a variety of small, overpriced supermarkets. Since April of this year, I’ve lived in suburbia (the VA side of Metro DC) and having my choice of grocery stores — that have sales! — and an actual car to transport my purchases home with has been like entering Paradise.

    I was also underemployed and penny-pinching for those years in New York, and I find that buying on sale and in bulk here in the ‘burbs is far more cost-efficient. Instead of spending $22 at a time twice a week and buying only what I could carry, I’m spending about $65 at a time twice a month tops, and buying things I can store on sale. Produce is still a sticking point (they want HOW MUCH for those mangy-looking oranges?!) but everything else is available more cheaply with sales and coupons, even when I “have” to have the brand-name product. (I’ll go back to buying whatever is cheapest if/when I have to, but for now it’s nice to be picky about quality.)

    Going on a full stomach is definitely the wisest idea, but buying in sale and storing is, in my experience, far preferable to only buying what you can carry.

  30. mindshadow says:

    Number 14 should also include, “Don’t shop when you’re baked.” That’s a quick way to empty your wallet on junk food.

  31. edrebber says:

    @gmoney: Exactly. Try to buy anything that is on sale or clearance.

  32. juri squared says:

    I’d like to add one: Shop at Aldi, or your local discount grocery outlet. Just like any outlet, you can get overstocks, discontinued items, and things near their expiry date. They also have a ton of decent generic items.

    As for #7 and the generic/brand-name debate, I agree that not all generics are created equal. Here’s some of the generics I’ll always get:

    toilet paper They make “premium” store-brand toilet paper that is comparable to Charmin and the like.
    canned veggies especially beans (we eat a lot of chili in my house)
    milk and butter I have never been able to tell the difference.
    pasta Aldi sells generic whole-wheat pasta! Dominick’s/Safeway does a really good job with fresh pasta, too.
    cereal I honestly think some generic cereal is better than its brand-name counterpart.
    drugs FDA-mandated to be exactly the same as the brand name.

    Things I won’t buy generic:
    tissue I have allergies and soft tissue makes a big difference.
    orange juice I won’t buy orange juice from concentrate, either. I’m picky.

    Things that can be hit or miss:
    frozen pizza Some is great, some is…bad.
    pasta sauce Usually good for recipes.
    meat Aldi’s chicken patties are better than Tyson’s, in my opinion. But I don’t trust their red meat.

  33. ptkdude says:

    @Rando: Don’t rely on the store’s calculation. Take a calculator and do the math yourself. This is especially true since two similar products may have their unit pricing calculated differently. For example a 12 pack of Coke may show the unit price per can, and a 12 pack of Pepsi may show the unit price per ounce. If you have your own calculator, you can get accurate numbers.

  34. snoop-blog says:

    The best way to save at the supermarket is to NOT GO when you are stoned!

  35. bohemian says:

    @gmoney: I think people really should look closer at brand name food items at Walmart also.

    They had a special on boxed potato side dishes, either Betty Crocker or Pilsbury last Thanksgiving. When I got there I noticed why they were .88 cents rather than $1.29 at the grocery stores. The box had a difference design and when I looked at the ounces of product in the box is was significantly smaller than the quantity in the similarly sized box sold at all of the grocery stores in town. I knew they did special product versions for Walmart in things like tools and appliances but had not seen it in food until then. I think if someone looked close many of those food bargains just aren’t.

  36. target_veteran says:

    I’ve gotta disagree with #9. I tend to spend more on impulse items when I’m doing a huge cost, since the large cost of the whole order hides the cost of the impulse items. What I do instead is plan out my weekly meals and stop on the way home to pick up any perishable ingredients for the meal. I end up going to the market almost everyday, but I just get exactly what I need.

    Plus, all may stuff fits in reusable bags taht way.

  37. synergy says:

    Shop without a car. Nothing limits spending like knowing you’ll have to carry your goods home.

    Exactly! I used to do this a couple of years ago when I was really, really broke. I had a co-worker say the other day that it’s impossible to do. Meanwhile there’s a bus that goes from in front of the grocery store to a couple of blocks from his apt complex. Yeah ok.

  38. synergy says:

    @Rando: That’s why I don’t rely on the stickers. I can do the math in my head although it shouldn’t take much to do it with a calculator either…

  39. 44 in a Row says:

    All I know is that the generic Malt-O-Meal version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is only $1 a box at CVS, and it’s de-godamned-licious.

  40. @parad0x360: It’s a matter of taste, I suppose, but I’m generally a fan of Target’s house brands. I generally agree with you on getting more of your money’s worth with national brands, but if you find one or two private labels you like, stick with them.

    @synergy: And re: #15. I love this method. 20-ish single guy, lives two miles from the grocery store, and I can always get a week’s worth of groceries in my backpack and carry home on my bike. Not for everybody, I suppose, but if you can, it’s good for you, your wallet and the environment.

  41. 6a says:

    @Rando: Indeed. Quite easy to carry a small calculator to double check (and to keep a running total, if one should desire)

  42. I team-shop with my husband. Yes, it’s two of us, but sometimes he can see a deal that I miss and visa versa. We kind of make it a game to see who can find the best deal.

    Also, we shop at three different grocery stores. We’re currently in Denver, and we shop at Albertson’s, Sunflower Market, and King Soopers (part of the Kroger family). We pretty much only buy loss leaders from Albertson’s and King Soopers, although we get a fair amount of food staples from KS. Sunflower’s produce is so freakin’ cheap that it doesn’t really matter, although we usually only buy anything if it’s on sale. We stock up on chicken/red meat when it’s on sale and freeze it to use later.

    Also, if there is a farmer’s market in your area (and not one of those frou frou rich-old-white-lady ones), you can save tons on produce. But be careful quality-wise. Oh, how I miss the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market in Atlanta…

  43. parad0x360 says:

    @gmoney: I’ll give you that. Maybe I was being too broad and yes in some cases store brand arent all terrible and some can in fact be quite good. Just in my recent experience when compared to name brand they just dont hit the spot on average.

    We tried a whole bunch of store brand stuff over the past few weeks to save a little money and we quickly went back to name brand for most of it.

    I guess the one good thing that will come of these increases is I eat alot less junk food now. I used to go through a medium sized bag of cheetos, a package of oreos, a quart of ice cream, a bag of pizza rolls, and maybe a bag of Wize popcorn by myself in a week but now I just pick 1 to buy to save some money. I doubt I’ll lose weight because my BMI is only like 24 but I may add a few years to my life and delay that heart attack I was working towards.

  44. thesuperpet says:

    Hannaford and Price Chopper have always been my favorite grocery stores. Price Chopper is cheep and that is awesome but the quality is not always the best. Hannaford is very reasonable, but does not have super sales. The best thing about Hannaford is that their store brand products are VERY good.

  45. tedyc03 says:

    @Rando: I thought that was governed by the State Department of Weights and Measures…don’t they HAVE to get it right?

  46. @t325: “huge difference between a lot of generic and name brand cheese, especially cream cheese.”

    Yes, low-fat cream cheese in particular it’s hard to get a good generic.

    We actually switched back to name-brand parmesan-in-a-can (okay, I give up, can’t spell it) because the Kroger brand TASTED just like the Kraft stuff, but the stupid-ass packaging was cheap and the lid wouldn’t stay flipped open while you shook it. It was worth the 10 cents extra to me. :P Now the Kroger lids are better so back to generic, but it was seriously maddening. Drove me nuts every time.

    (And I’m too lazy to shred my own parmesan every time, that’s why. I know the stuff in the can is crap, but it’s EASY crap.)

    @ptkdude: “For example a 12 pack of Coke may show the unit price per can, and a 12 pack of Pepsi may show the unit price per ounce.”

    This should be illegal, it makes me crazy. Sometimes I’ll be doing two packages of cat food in the same brand and one is price-per-ounce and the other price-per-pound! (Although I suppose the metric system would solve that problem.)

  47. mgy says:

    Only rule that matters: Do not shop when you are hungry.

  48. my trifecta:

    1. shop ONLY the weekly specials that are ~1/2 price of normal (if what you want isn’t on sale this week, chances are it will be next week at some store)
    2. Dented/reduced items are a nice treat and just look weird but taste the same
    3. Day old bakery items (bread, bagels, etc)

    keeping it simple has served me well

  49. mbz32190 says:

    Most store-brand generics are made by one company so it doesn’t matter if you are buying “ShopRite” or “Albertsons” or “Target” brand…it is likely made by the same place. Many items are made by the name-brand company to begin with. (Things like cereal and store brand soda usually aren’t, but Salt, flour, bread, basic stuff like that, is).

    Sometimes you can do better on the name brand equivalent if you can find coupons/rebates/etc.

    But generic/slightly off brands are a huge way to save money. I laugh at people that spend $9.99 for a bottle of Tide when i’m walking out with $1.99 bottle of Arm & Hammer detergent, which does not clean any differently IMO.

  50. Sasha_Pie says:

    I know that the rule is to not shop hungry, but if I eat before I go shopping, I end up not buying anything at all because thinking about cooking on a full stomach makes me nauseous.

    I prefer going shopping just a little bit hungry, so when I walk up and down the aisles looking for good sales, I can gauge how likely I am to want to eat something…. Sure, “canned meat bits” might be a great deal for $0.50, but am I actually going to want to eat it later? I usually shop for a week’s worth of meals at a time and generally base my meal plan on what’s on sale. Inventing meals on the fly requires some imagination and a slightly hungry belly.

  51. celticgina says:

    For paper goods, plastic wrap, foil etc, I LOVE store brands. Ditto on some of the cereals too.

    The problem I have with coupons is that they are usually for items I don’t buy or only a small amount off a larger quantity. (25cents off 4 cans)Even if you double it, it’s generally still not worth it.

    However on the detergent example, I like arm & hammer, but my daughter has allergies and is so used to tide, that if we use anthing else, she gets rashes.

    My tip is to stock up on sale items that you do use. I have a basement pantry that saves me. Ditto on a freezer for the basement. When meat is on sale, I just buy and freeze.

    My tip?

    NEVER TAKE THE KIDS!! Even as they get older. My shopping bill is twice as much if the teenagers are with me!!

  52. OneQuietDave says:

    I think coupons are over rated as a way to save money if you already save money by not buying processed food. After all, when is the last time you say a coupon for broccoli? Now if you are after prepared broccoli in corporate “cheese” sauce, they have a coupon for you. Mmm, tasty chemicals for $0.25 off ($0.50 on double coupon day). Enjoy your heartburn!

  53. bcsus83 says:

    @Rando:

    Why rely on the supermarket to do very simple, basic arithmetic we all learnd in 3rd-4th grade? It’s really not difficult to divide the price by the number of ounces and get the price per ounce. Most people can do roughly accurate division in their heads, and if you can’t, you should carry a small calculator so you can do it.

    My tip is to carry a small calculator. They come in very handy–both in my example in this post (figuring out price per ounce if you can’t do it in your head), as well as actually watching what you are spending. It’s easy to just throw things in a grocery cart and run your debit card at checkout. However, if you’re paying attention…seeing that you’ve already spent, say, $105, you will tend to shop stricter and only get needs throughout the rest of the store.

  54. nsv says:

    I absolutely disagree with #1.

    I do bring a list, but never stick to it. Whenever I’m in the store I swing by all the items I use regularly. When they’re on sale (frequently buy one get one at Publix,) I’ll pick up several.

    So I bought four bottles of laundry detergent this week, even though it wasn’t on my list. I paid for two and they won’t go bad.

  55. betatron says:

    i would me-too the calculator advice. I carry a Hewlett Packard HP-12c. Sometimes, unit pricing analysis saves me lot of money.

    It is virtually impossible to untangle the obsuscatory unit pricing in one’s head when they mix dollars/cents units with english/metric/each (where “each” is a bundle of packages of a different size/units than the unbundled packages).

    Carry a decently sized calculator that you can actually use and read, not one of those microscopic give-away things the size of a book of stamps. Proficiency with the function is very helpful, too.

  56. Benny Gesserit says:

    Now that I’ve visualized my usual store, #5 is SPOT on, a good suggestion.

    #9 and #15 apply to us – we don’t own a car (yes, we’re a couple in our 40′s and don’t own a vehicle – don’t look at me like that.) Once a year or so we’ll rent for a weekend, run many errands as possible and – please don’t laugh – we buy a year’s worth of toilet tissue, facial tissues and laundry detergent.

    We’ve always looked at it as a convenience thing as we hate carrying bulky packages home on foot during our weekly grocery runs but a year’s worth means we’re immune to both price hikes and the shrink ray – at least in the bathroom/laundry room.

  57. gmoney says:

    @mbz32190: Totally agree with this! Especially for me, most of my wardrobe (since I work from home) is clearance rack stuff, so I’m gonna spend $2.50 on Purex every day of the week.@celticgina: Yes! Chest freezer in the garage = greatest purchase of my adult life.

  58. NumberFiveIsAlive says:

    If you want to save money, just buy all ramen noodles. Don’t whine and get tired of them, cause you will save a lot of money.

  59. chrisexv6 says:

    Something along the lines of checking box size, unit size vs price….

    Been noticing at Stop and Shop lately that they are putting larger items on sale as a 2-for and they come out cheaper than the smaller version of the same item. There are no requirements to actually buy 2, so you can get the bigger box *cheaper* than the smaller box. Really prevalent in the cereal aisle, something like Honeycomb big box was on sale at 2/5.00, the smaller box was 2.99. Bought more cereal and saved 49 cents, go figure.

  60. Wubbytoes says:

    #15 doesn’t work for me out here in the country. I don’t feel like walking 20 miles to go to the grocery store.

  61. ChuckECheese says:

    @gmoney: This isn’t the old days of Wal-Mart clobbering their suppliers to squeeze out every last dime (I’m aware of what you’re talking about though). They started to give that up by mid-2004, as reported in several major media sources. Why? 1. Diminishing returns. WM determined that reducing margins was no longer leading to increased sales & profits–their sales were flat by 2003. No need to drop prices more (and alienate your suppliers) if you don’t get more sales. 2. WM’s suppliers began to get seriously uppity, even considering legal action against WM. Sales at P&G and Gillette had never been better, and profit margins never thinner. Vlasic (pickles) and Newell-Rubbermaid filed bankruptcy, despite being WM suppliers. So WM backed off a bit. The consequence of this is that you pay much more for name-brand laundry detergent (prices have approximately doubled in 2 years), razor blades, and certain other products. And the pickles now come in 2-qt jars, not gallon jars as before.

    @thelushie: Sure, Campbell’s gets more sales out of the deal, but at the expense of consumers, who now have to pay at least 34% more for the same product if they buy the store brand. The only people who benefit are die-hard Spaghettio’s consumers, who now get a 29% discount. The rub is that there is no more benefit to buying the store label.

    As somebody else mentioned here today (and I mentioned elsewhere on Consumerist a few days ago), I believe this shrinkage is a psychological manipulation, as mfgrs and retailers know if shelf prices go up much more, people will pull back hard on purchases. Your typical shrink-ray event ends up creating a de facto 15%-20% price increase. I don’t think that this is a sign of WM giving in to suppliers’ whims. It’s a sign that producers and sellers are being seriously squeezed. I’m sure WM listens if a major supplier complains that WM store brands are undercutting name-brand sales. There’s no other reason that I can come up with for WM to raise its prices on generics while cutting name-brand prices to the point that there is no cost advantage to buying generic.

  62. thelushie says:

    @ChuckECheese: Campbells will pick up more customers as there product is now “as cheap as” the store brand. Those who would normally pick up the store brand (but still want the name brand) will start buying the name brand with the prices being equal. Campbells would win by gaining more customers. Wal-mart could lose in this situation as they are not making as high of a profit off of name brands. But given the profit Walmart makes, I don’t think they will care.

  63. ElizabethD says:

    Clearly anyone who advocates walking or riding a bike to the supermarket to “limit purchases” does not have several teenagers in the house! I’d like to see someone on a bike (without a trailer) bring home the groceries I need to feed our crew for a week.

    And coupons: These mostly go against the advice to shop the edges of the store for healthy foods. Coupons seem heavily weighted toward highly processed sweet/salty products or frozen “meals” that are high in fats and salt, not to mention additives. (Still, I do clip a few that I’ll definitely use, such as for Bounty paper towels and Kleenex brand tissues, both brands that IMO are worth the price over generics.)

  64. Mom2Talavera says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie:

    Eating whole foods local from scratch is cheaper than “box buying”, no doubt about it. All that organic boxed and packaged stuff is really expensive. But it’s very cheap to eat whole foods organic from scratch. It does cost a bit more to buy from scratch foods that are organic vs NOT organic, but we still get our food extremely cheap in this culture and I think we are all spoiled a bit and have been cultured with a sense of entitlement to getting our food cheap. I think there is a whole different mentality to the frugal hard core scratch cooker and your average organic boxed buyer, or the people making their own daily bread, and those buying organic bread. Those feeding their kids steel cut soaked oats for breakfast and those feeding their kids boxed organic whole grain cereal. Huge difference! One is neither better than the other (though of course I have my preference) but comparing the two in terms of how much they cost in terms of food budget is like comparing apples and oranges. So, in that aspect if ya have the money to spend, more power to you, but it does irk me when I hear people complain about the cost of organic food who
    are eating mostly organic boxed/packaged. Instead of complaining, I wish they would get a clue and empower themselves to learn how to eat healthy and cheap .its more than possible and I know from experience and being hungry and having no money. I think the whole thought that people without money can’t afford to eat healthy is a myth.

    -They either do not want to spend the time to empower themselves with knowledge,
    -don’t want to make the choices based on said knowledge,
    -or they don’t care.

    Which is fine until I hear them complaining about it! Over the past few years I’ve come to some big realizations. It boils down to my TIME &MONEY. I know I could go back and work full time and be able to afford some things that I just cannot right now, and it would grease my life
    in a financial way that would be much easier. But our quality of life as a family would suffer in other ways, and those ways that it would suffer would overweigh the benefits of having more money. We know. We have done it both ways. So, I don’t complain about having little money
    (except to friends :b) I know its my choice, my TIME or MONEY .Time away from my daughter (my cute singleton…one and only! ), DH and the ability to attend to all the things that make our life more meaningful…….or to have more money That is what motivates me to work harder at ways to become more frugal as far as food and lifestyle. Because I have to, but also, because I choose to. The biggest thing I value in life is our intimacy as a family. There will be plenty of time for me to work and make more money when daughter is grown. This time will go so fast I want to soak up every last minute of it, and I love being a SAHM.

    So, I could go work for someone else and pick up a loaf of bread at the store, or I can knead it and bake it while having a conversation with my daughter .I choose that.

    - the broke…hippy…lazy…. vegetarian :-p

  65. nsv says:

    @Mom2Talavera: It’s really nice for you that you’ve got someone who is willing to work to support you while you make your own bread. Not all of us have that option.

    And when I was working 120 hours a week (my regular 40 hour per week job, plus opening a restaurant,) you’d better believe I wasn’t baking my own bread. On weeks when I was lucky enough to get to the store at all, yes, I bought prepared food.

    Some of us just can’t bake our own bread and raise our own chickens and grow our own veggies. We don’t have the time, or the land, or the help from someone else who will give us the choice to not have a job. We’ve got to buy foods which make it possible to pull dinner together after another late day at work. And that’s expensive.

  66. animeredith says:

    #10- I love bulk bins, but they’re so hard to find these days. When I was a kid I used to love getting candy and dried apricots from those big barrels they had at Giant. Nowadays it’s only the super-expensive organic grocery stores that have bins like that. :(

  67. TACP says:

    @mbz32190: You’re right. Some products make it very obvious. For example, Wal-Mart stocks Johnsonville bratwurst right next to their generic version.

    Their version has the same exact package, weight, shape, and size as Johnsonville, only with a different label. It has to be made at the same place. There’s probably a hundred other products that are the same way.

  68. Mom2Talavera says:

    @nsv:
    Not everyone is “me” and other people have different challenges when it comes to time
    and energy in ways they are able to feed their family….I get that. If a parent comes home at the end of the day, andshe’s exhausted from working several shifts and is burnt out. She has 2 hungry mouths to feed. She may not have had the time and energy to plan for, shop for, learn about, prepare from scratch, and clean up after making a wholesome, organic meal…..
    I am not pretending to speak for *all* poor health conscious people ,or pretend I can relate to each person’s situation. That’s why I try to check my judgment when it comes to people and their food (don’t get me wrong, I’m notsaying I’m never judgmental, LOL, but I am working on it)

    OTOH It’s not all or nothing. If parents/caregivers wanted to make it(home cooking…ect) a priority they could. Just do whatever fits the needs of your family! Do it on a smaller scale. Cant make a home cooked meal 7 days a week do it once a week. My friend works fulltime, but she plans a cooking day once a month and makes all these bulk meals (dinners) that she freezes …and then uses throughout the month . This site is good.
    [www.frugalmom.net]

    or if you don’t want to do that you can start a little salad garden with your kids…ect ect. There are tons of little “frugal do it yourself” things you can do.

    Stuff like this always seems daunting /time consuming but it isn’t…baby steps

  69. P_Smith says:

    My tips:

    1. Carry a fixed amount of cash when you go into the store – no credit cards, cheques, or ATM cards. When you have a limited number of dollars in hand, you tend to be more frugal, switching names for generics or buying bulk instead of packaged. You also tend to avoid frivolous things.

    2. Go with company and buy bulk in groups. The cost per person drops, plus group buying allows you to get things together that you ordinarily wouldn’t buy but can divide between you when you get home. For example, buying 20 pounds of chicken breasts at Costco versus two breasts in a pack at Safeway.

    3. Shop on a VERY empty stomach. You’ll want to get through the store as quickly as possible so you can go eat.

    4. Write the shelf prices of items on your shopping list as you pick things up. You can check the total as you go, and if the computer price is higher than the shelf price, you can get it at the right price (or for free, if the store has that policy).

    5. Buy and use a folding shopping cart. If you only buy what you can fit into it, you’ll be more prudent in choices. Carts are also help avoid paying for plastic or paper bags at the store, and most will fit into the empty trunk of a car.

    6. Buying the more expensive item is sometimes cheaper. Generics and cheaper brands are usually the same quality, but not always. There’s no point in continuing to buy something inedible or unusable. You’ll just end up buying the more expensive item in the end because it’s better and/or lasts longer.

  70. Mills says:

    #15 has changed my life. I’ve been biking to go to the grocery store lately. It’s started a chain of grocery goodness:

    1. I shop more often because I’m not worried about gas
    2. I only buy enough for a day or two because I can go every day if I want-it’s exercise and errands
    3. I buy less because I’m not worried about gas prices/sharing the car
    4. We don’t have as much food in the house (so we use all of the vegetables we have in one meal because we know there’ll be more tomorrow instead of saving them and forgetting them in the fridge)

    And I shop for myself and my two roommates this way. With my side baskets, we’ve even switched to good liquor. It’s hard to let yourself buy bad beer when you know it’s uphill on the way home.

  71. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    a lot of stores now have online shopping and i use it not to place an order but to price check before i even get to the store.
    i can convert unit prices, look at unadvertised sales [meat and dairy drop dramatically as they approach sell by dates] and i can make a shopping list and know my total in advance.
    make sure you select the actual store you will be going to since sales vary, especially on overstocks of fresh items.

    some of the stores i know of that offer online shopping websites in some areas:

    harris teeter
    lowes foods
    albertsons
    bristol farms
    safeway
    vons
    sams club [not for meat or most produce]
    acme
    farm fresh

  72. mike says:

    One tip I would like to add:
    * When buying produce, e.g. apples, oranges, etc, buy smaller sized. I’ve found that the smaller the fruit, the more you can buy, and you don’t notice it when you’re eating it in one serving.

    I’ve even found it taster.

  73. revmatty says:

    15 strikes me as fairly idiotic. For a lot of people (particularly, oddly enough, upper middle class and wealthy neighborhoods) there is no convenient public transportation, and a taxi would eliminate all savings and then some. If you’re someplace like Chicago or NYC with a real public transit system that’s one thing, but for most of the rest of the country it’s a joke at best.

    Also consider families with several kids: getting enough food for a family of four or five for the week will require you to either break rule number 15, 12, or 9.

    These sorts of lists are ok as a general guideline, but you have to be realistic as well.

  74. P_Smith says:

    @mzhartz: 9 and 15 are counter intuitive. Make one big shop, but try to carry it all home?

    There’s two good reasons I can think of to do that:

    1. Social services tell welfare recipients to do their shopping in on fell swoop because (a) they can get bargains by buying in bulk, and (b) it means only one taxi ride per month rather than two, three or four. Every penny counts to such people, and five dollars could be better spent than on cab rides.

    2. I do a single big monthly swoop because Costco is too far from where I live. If it were a mile or so away, I might hoof it or pull my grocery cart, but not six miles. Because it’s so far, I take a taxi home while overloaded and only have to carry it from the curb to the door.

    I hit the local supermarkets weekly or more because they’re on the walk between home and work. It costs a little more, but it guarantees the produce will be fresher.

  75. TheLemon says:

    In addition to keeping up with the Consumerist, check out some grocery forums to pick up a lot more tips both old and new. You can also learn more about the stores in your specific area this way. There are so many out there, just google “coupon forum”. Here’s an old site that was recently revived, with plenty of great info (check out the FAQs).
    [www.fatwallet.com]

  76. I love Price Chopper’s “Central Market” brands here in the Northeast. Good stuff! The prices on certain things can be a little higher… but the quality is good enough for me, and still cheaper than other things.

  77. gmoney says:

    @P_Smith: Again, this: “Carry a fixed amount of cash when you go into the store ” can be very counterproductive. I went into a Harris Teeter a few weeks back and they had Minute Maid frozen OJ concentrate for $1. This is the only frozen that I think competes with the fresh-squeezed stuff, which is going for $3 a half gallon on sale at the time. This can makes 48 oz so it works out to $1.33 per half gallon. So I bought 20 of them. If I had been working off a strict cash allowance and stuck only to my list I would have wasted gosh knows how much on OJ, or alternatively the gasoline to come back with more cash.

  78. Ikky says:

    Did anyone mention that many stores will price match? I know WalMart does.

  79. balthisar says:

    I wish I could remember who it was here, on this site, that recommended “The Grocery Game.” I’d have used you as a referral!

    Since joining “the game” (and treating it like a game!), I’ve changed from a snob that shuns coupons, sales, and other stupid gimmicks to someone who actively tracks his spending and the amount saved. I’ve subscribed to the newspaper (to get the coupons), and get the sales cycles from the site. I’ve only been into it about four weeks, but my current savings is 38.5%, by following the plan. I should save more as time passes, because I’m still purchasing “non-list items” for having not gone through the whole cycle. Before, I might get a sale here and there, but it was just luck. Now it’s a sport.

    I’ll emphasize that. I’m a dude, a married one at that. Playing the grocery game is fun, competitive, and I treat it like a sport. (Just got back from 3 days canoeing/camping, so you don’t have to suggest that I also take up something more manly, thankyouverymuch).

  80. Marshfield says:

    keep an eye on items on sale you buy often and stock up when they are on sale.

    For example, around picnic holidays in the summer like the 4th of July, mayo goes on sale. In our case, 2/5 bucks vs 4.45 each. Like 50% off.

    Breakfast cereal also goes on sale from time to time for 1-2 bucks a box vs 4 plus a box.

    Lots of items go on substantial sale from time to time, keep your eyes open and stock up when you can.

  81. chandler in lasvegas says:

    As I read through the dozens of posts, I get a sense that that big box shills have become more sophisticated and that Consumerist has become a bigger target for them but in a much more subtle way. I have never been suspicious of the comments till now. Generic broccoli all stems, WHO KNEW? Puleese.

  82. Nepkarel says:

    #1 is absolute bogus. You should always be on the look-out for sales of non-perishable goods that you use a lot. Things like pasta, rice, cans of vegetables/soup, sodas, chips, whatever. All that stuff that you can easily keep in the pantry for a couple of weeks.

    Even if you are not planning to eat pasta this week, why wait till next week buying 4 boxes, when it’s not on sale.

    BTW: Never buy too much in bulk. Most stuff is on sale regularly. At some point I had perfectly figured out that my supermarket had a monthly cheese sale. Guess when I stocked up on cheese!

    Buying generic, and checking per weight pricing are good ways to save money.

  83. maddypilar says:

    I put #15 into use always but it helped a lot this fourth of July after we had already picked up a watermelon on sale – the weight of our purchase prevented us from picking up unnecessary desert items…and then one of our guests brought blueberry cobbler. Win!

  84. ringo00 says:

    @Rando: No one said to rely on the store’s math for this. That’s almost as bad a trusting a car salesman. Just divide the price of the item by the amount of product it contains. Just yesterday at the grocery store, I bought 2 24-count boxes of tea bags at 79 cents each. Right next to them was a display of 48-count boxes for $1.99. I wasn’t about to pay almost 40 cents more for the convenience of only opening one box.

  85. BytheSea says:

    10 – I cant’ buy bulk. It may be cheaper, but I used to work in a grocery store and I watched the kids AND ADULTS cough and sneeze and pick their nose and then reach into the bulk bin, ignoring the scoop. Do you think people really wash their hands after the bathroom? Do kids?

  86. anyanka323 says:

    Watch the sales patterns at the store(s) you shop at. Most of the stuff that is on sale frequently is either store brand or in the case of name brands, not of the best quality. The good quality name brand stuff goes on sale maybe once every couple months. I try and stock up on those when they do go on sale.