8 Ways to Save Money When Shopping For Food

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Grocery stores are notorious for tricking customers into spending more money. From displays set out to lure you into buying more to items made to appear as though they’re on sale, your grocery store will do everything in its power to trick you into spending as much as possible. Not only can you avoid falling for these tricks, but you can learn how to outsmart stores, ensuring you save money each time you enter a supermarket. Here are eight ways you can start saving at the checkout aisle.

1. Know how to use ads

You know all of those weekly ads you find stuffed inside your mailbox? Start taking time to look through them. You can also find store’s weekly ads — otherwise known as circulars — on their websites or (typically) at the front of the stores. There are always a few items sold at or below the normal price to help lure shoppers in. You’ll find these items featured on the front of a store’s circular, according to Kiplinger.

If the featured items can be frozen, will keep for a while or can be used in several meals, stock up. But also be wary when looking through the circular. Not all of these items are actually on sale. Kiplinger writes that some of the items are put there as a way to trick customers into paying full price. If it’s in the circular but doesn’t have a shelf sticker, it isn’t on sale. If you start utilizing coupons, you can save around 10 percent on your groceries, which amounts to an annual savings of $970 per year, per My Money Coach.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

2. Use your store’s loyalty programs

Stores want you to pick their store over others. Walgreens will do everything it can to get you to pick it over CVS, and grocery retailers want their store to be your go-to supermarket. As a result, many stores offer special rewards programs as a way to keep you coming back. CVS has Extra Bucks, which is cash built up on your Extra Care rewards card that you can use as cash off on your next purchase, writes Bankrate.

Most stores even have a coupon machine, allowing Extra Care cardholders to scan their cards and get special unadvertised coupons. Costco’s executive membership will enable you to earn 2 percent cash-back rewards, and Walgreens has its Balance Rewards program. Check out Discount Fanatic for a full list of grocery store loyalty programs.

3. You don’t have to buy more to get a deal

You probably see these deals everywhere. Whether it’s a “two for $5” special, a “three for $7 deal,” or a “four for $10” steal, you usually don’t have to buy all of the items in order to get the sale price. Today suggests looking in to your store’s multi-purchase deals. You can typically get the same per unit deal without buying both (or all) of the items. Instead of getting two of something you don’t need, you should just be able to get one for $2.50.

4. Stick to the outer loop

Grocery stores trick shoppers into weaving in and out of the inner aisles, Hank Coleman, the operator of the website Money Q&A, tells MSN Money. However, those aisles are “primarily junk food, higher-margin items and things we really don’t need,” Coleman says. “The smart consumer stays on the outside and saves money while eating healthier (items such as) milk, meat, and bread.”

The Wharton School of Business authored a 2005 study where there were radio frequency identification tags placed on carts, which revealed some consumers are beginning to outsmart stores by sticking to the outer aisles. If you aren’t already doing this, start now. It’s a smart move for your wallet and stomach.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

5. Download store apps

More and more, supermarkets are coming out with free mobile apps designed to offer shoppers exclusive discounts. This often ties in with the store’s loyalty program, so make sure you’re a member. You should then be able to add the deals you want to your account and have them applied at checkout, per Kiplinger.

But be a savvy shopper. Make sure you’re taking a close look at the discounted items, compared to the value pack prices. Sometimes the discount still isn’t enough to make it a good buy, making the value pack the better option.

6. Buy store brands

Sure, the packaging may not be as pretty as name brand items. But is it worth spending $3 more for a fancy label? Store brands are typically the same size as name brands and often taste just as good. U.S. News & World Report writes that many store brand items do just as well as name brand items during taste tests. You’ll save about 25 percent on groceries just by sticking with the store brand labels, according to My Money Coach. How much extra money does that put in your checking account? A whopping $720 a year.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

7. Opt for frozen, canned, or dried

Sometimes you don’t need all of your produce to be fresh. Canned, frozen or dried produce is typically less expensive than fresh but just as nutritious, according to Web MD. You can apply this concept to fish and poultry too, which are often flash-frozen to minimize freezer damage and maintain freshness. As long as you keep these items properly stored, it won’t go to waste.

You can also use powdered or evaporated versions of milk in soups, casseroles, mashed potatoes, or desserts, per Web MD. The bottom line? Instead of always opting for fresh, purchase the form that gives you the best price for your specific meal needs.

8. Don’t look in just one department

Make sure you aren’t missing out on the best deals by ignoring certain sections of the store. For example, Kiplinger writes there are four places in a supermarket that typically sell bread: the bakery, bread aisle, frozen section, and the refrigerated area. Looking for cheese? You’ll find some in the deli, the cheese aisle, and near the gourmet items.

The point is if you’re in the market for a product you know is in several areas, take the time to scope out each section. You won’t know which one has the best deals until you’ve checked them all out.

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