Supermarket Bargains You can Find

Grocery Shopping It's easy to overspend at the supermarket, but, believe it or not, it's also easy not to.  The advice below will help you keep your grocery bundles and bills a reasonable size.


- Stores sometimes discount items close to expiration. If you use them soon, these are a good buy. Remember, most expiration dates on nonperishable items are about quality, not safety, and most foods don’t go from being just fine to being spoiled in just a few days. 


- Fruits and vegetables in season will be both cheaper and better than those not in season. 


- Read the newspaper and store flyers to find out what’s on sale and where. Be flexible about your menu for the week and switch to a sale item if it’s a food you enjoy. Be willing to go to more than one store since different stores have different specials.


- Forgot to check the newspaper food section? Don’t have a flyer with coupons? Ask at customer service, “What’s on sale today?” 


- Find recipes and marinades for less expensive cuts of meat. Prepared properly, they can be as tasty (and probably healthier) than the more expensive, marbled cuts. 


- Is there a membership “club” such as Costco or Sam’s Club in your community? Join and give it a try. If you are cooking for a crowd, the savings may be substantial. But be careful. Don’t buy in bulk more than you can ever use. The price may be right, but you still waste money. 


- Is there a co-op or a marketing day at a nearby school or community center? These are sometimes good places to get more for your food dollar. You don't have to do all your food shopping at the supermarket.


Consider these savings tips from Consumer Reports, May, 2009:


- Buy bagged produce. It’s often cheaper than buying by the pound. This works out especially well if the product has a long shelf life—as long as the bag doesn’t weigh more than you do.

- Buy at the supermarket bakery. Many sell store-made items for a lot less than the brand name product.

- Do it yourself, and save. Cut-up vegetables (such as shredded carrots) cost more.

- Location can affect price. At one store Consumer Reports mentions, Swiss cheese was sold at three different prices. It was most expensive at the deli counter, less if taken from the refrigerated case, and even less in chunk form. If you don’t care if your Swiss cheese is labeled premium or if you have to slice it yourself, go for the cheaper item.


- Look on the top and bottom shelves. Vendors sometimes pay stores to display products in more conspicuous spots, so check to see if the brand on the top or bottom shelf is cheaper. It may not be your tried-and-true favorite, but give it a try if you’re pinching pennies.


- Don't assume that products on aisle ends are on sale.  Some may be but not others.  Some may just be products close to expiration that the store is eager to sell.  Displays at aisle ends can boost their sales by a third, so don't fall for the trick.  Check prices.

- Avoid temptations at the checkout line. The individual items there (for example, a bottle of pop) will probably be priced higher than if you bought the same or a similar item (perhaps a six-pack of the same drink) from the shelves. Of course, you may not want six bottles, but, if you can use them, they’re a better buy than grabbing one cold drink while in the checkout line.


- Go to the store with a shopping list of items you really need.  Try to avoid impulse buying of items not on your list (unless it's a genuine bargain). 


- Don’t be intimidated by expiration dates. They are suggestions, not orders. Most are about quality, not safety. Neither a “sell by” nor a “use by” date means that the food will become “yucky” or dangerous to eat the following day. Before discarding an expired item, check the shelf life information on this site or call the manufacturer and ask how much longer it will be safe and tasty. (Get the phone number from the packaging or from the company’s website.) Customer service personnel can get you the answer. If there is no calendar date on the product, it has a coded date that tells the manufacturer how old it is.  


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