1. STICK TO YOUR LIST. Donít buy on impulse. Stay away from samples and special sale displays. Shop on your own, not with the family. Youíll find it easier to stick to your plan that way.
2. SHOP THE EDGES of the store first. Most of the nutritious foods that you need, such as dairy products, fresh meats, and fruits and vegetables are found on the outside edge of the supermarket, while the processed stuff is in the center aisles. Stock up on the fresh food first, then go to the middle of the store for the few packaged items you need.
3. CUT BACK on expensive convenience items. Microwaveable bowls and individually packaged snacks can be budget busters. Recruit a member of your household to chop vegetables, make sandwiches, and pack lunches without pre-packaged items. While your time is certainly valuable, you may want to reconsider how much convenience you really want to pay for.
4. BUY IN-SEASON. Fresh fruits and vegetables are less expensive and taste better when theyíre in season. Remember to check out Connecticutís own locally-grown produce at a local farm stand. The quality and the prices are great.
5. USE STORE BRANDS whenever you can. Store brands are almost always cheaper, and while there may be certain items that your family wonít want you to skimp on Ė you can easily keep some family favorites and still save money as long as you use store brands for other items. Beans, rice or veggies that are going into a stew or casserole are obvious examples of items on which you can switch to store brands and save.
6. CHECK the dates on foods and beverages. Sell-by, use-by and best-by dates help you buy items that will provide longest shelf life in your home.
7. STOCK UP only on those sale items that you will definitely use. Just buy what you can use relatively soon. Canned goods, soaps, and paper goods can be purchased economically in bulk and stored for extended periods, if space allows. Freezing bulk-purchased items may or may not work for you economically. While you will often get better prices and save shopping trips and fuel, you need to weigh those savings against the cost of a freezer and power to run it.
8. ASK FOR RAINCHECKS if the store runs out of advertised sale items that you need. Unless theyíve noted limited supplies in their sale circular, stores must give you a rain check for sale items that they run out of during the sale period. If you canít find an item on sale, go to the service desk and ask for a rain check. The store should contact you when the item is back in stock, but play it safe and check back in a week or so.
9. USE UNIT PRICING to compare costs between brands or sizes. In Connecticut and many states, the orange and white price labels posted on most grocery store shelves include two numbersóthe larger, bolder number is the price youíll pay at the register. The number printed in smaller type on the side of the label is the Unit Price, which tells you the cost per ounce, pound, or pint so you can get the most for your money.
For example, which is the better deal? This can of tuna, which costs $4.00 per pound, or this bag of the same product, which costs $7.68 per pound...almost $4.00 more?
Many people believe that larger sizes are always the best buy. Not so. Sometimes, the smaller package actually has a lower Unit Price than the larger, so if you want the very best deal, always compare the Unit Prices. And donít forget that bigger is definitely not better if half the item goes stale on your shelf.
If your family isnít going to consume a quart of ketchup by the time itís past its prime, then youíre just throwing money away. In that case, spend a few pennies more per ounce on a more manageable size bottle.
10. WATCH your order get tallied and check your receipt. Although price scanning does help make the checkout process more accurate, errors still can happen. Make sure your prices and coupons are scanned correctly. If you suspect an error, complete your transaction, then step to the side and check the receipt while the clerk begins the next order. If you do find an overcharge or some other problem, go to the service desk immediately and point it out. Sale items are especially prone to checkout errors, but most people never look, and end up overpaying.
See our page about the "Get One Free Law," which will tell you what you can do if items scan or ring up incorrectly at the cash register.