When I first started couponing, I thought that was all there was to saving at the grocery store. Then I learned about cashback apps and in-store promotions and rebates and so on. But it was when a friend opened my eyes to some of the more subtle grocer strategies that I realized how much I save really is up to me. Here, the more you learn, the more you will absolutely save!
Once you have learned to spot these grocer strategies, you can sidestep them to save even more on your groceries!
1. Don't take the weekly sales flyer too literally.
Yes, many of the products you see in the weekly sales flyer are actually on sale…but not all of them. Grocers may "advertise" a popular product that hasn't been discounted one bit, just to lure unsuspecting customers in to "save."
- How to spot it: Do your price comparing in advance, and be sure to consult KCL's stock-up price sheet to spot fake "sales" items!
2. Be wary of fresh-baked breads with exotic names.
Grocers have been known to make up a big batch of dough, pour it into different sized bread pans, score it or slice it in different ways, and then attach different labels…to the same basic bread!
- How to spot it: Closely examine the ingredients list. As a last resort, ask if you can have a sample before you buy.
3. Re-bag those open-air breads ASAP.
The open-at-one-end brown paper bags most fresh bakery bread is displayed in actually cause them to get stale much faster. This way, you will come back to buy more bread more quickly.
- How to spot it: Nothing you can do in store—so just repackage the loaves in sealed plastic bags as soon as you get home.
4. Ask about markdowns rather than lurking around, hoping.
For bakery/meat/seafood in particular, moving almost-expired items can be a real challenge. And, of course, your grocer would love to sell it to you at full price even if they mark everything else down the moment you leave! So if you notice an item that is nearing its "sell by" date, ask if they will mark it down for you.
- How to spot it: This one is easy—just pay attention to dates when you’re shopping.
5. Look past cut names to quality labels.
For meat in particular, it’s common to assume that any cut labeled "Angus" is going to be mouth-watering. But all this label really indicates is that the cut came from the breed of cow called "Angus." What you need to know instead is what the USDA gave that cut as a grade. These are the 3 tiers: Prime (1st best), Choice (2nd best), Standard (3rd best).
- How to spot it: Cuts should be priced according to these 3 tiers, so if you find a cut that seems mismatched, ask about a price reduction.
6. Steer clear of crowded shopping days and times.
For many, the only times they have available to do their grocery shopping are on weekday evenings or weekend days. No grocer in their right mind will want to do meat, seafood, produce, or bakery markdowns at a time when they have no trouble attracting customers!
- How to spot it: Ask department staff when markdowns typically occur (for instance, often store-wide inventory gets marked down on Wednesday mornings or evenings in preparation for the incoming shipments), and shop during these times instead.
7. Do your own math before adding the item to your cart.
Perhaps the most glaringly obvious grocer trick is the BOGO1/2 ploy. Here, the ad reads "Buy one get one 50% off." Translation: "Buy two and get 25% off each." Ack.
- How to spot it: Do your own calculations before assuming you are really getting a bargain.
8. Just say no to deli-prepared fruit and veggie salad.
Guess where all the banged, battered, bruised, and nearly rotten fruits and veggies from the produce department go when they become unsalable? Yup, right over to the prepared foods department, where they become those expensive pre-packaged salads.
- How to spot it: Buy whole, fresh produce and make your own salads at home.
9. Weigh produce when it is dry, not wet.
I can't even count how many times I've reached out to nab a bunch of carrots or an apple and been thoroughly misted for my troubles! But did you know mists a) can make produce spoil faster, and b) will add weight at checkout?
- How to spot it: Dry off produce before bagging it, so it’s as light as possible at checkout time (also feel free to tear off non-edible parts like corn shucking, tomato stems, etc.).