Recently, I had a woman come to one of our workshops who said to me, "I'm sure you can't tell me anything I don't already know about couponing." That was a pretty bold statement, in my opinion, and not true at all. Why? There's always more to learn about everything. I learn things about couponing all the time and I do this for a living.
After that comment though, I thought it would be fun to put together a post about some of the things you may not know about grocery savings. Enjoy!
5 Grocery Saving Secrets Your Mama Didn't Tell You
(By the way, you have no idea how long it took me to figure out how to spell "mama." Geez.)
1. Loss Leaders: What the what? Yep, Loss Leaders. Basically, those are the items you see featured in the weekly circular from your local grocery store. The store is willing to take a "loss" on those items in order to attract you to the store.
For example, you might see .50 BBQ Sauce featured in the sales flyer, that's an AMAZING deal so instead of shopping at the local super center, you head to that grocery store for .50 BBQ Sauce. However, while you're there, you realize that BBQ Sauce is only good on steaks and if you buy steaks then you'll have to buy potatoes, potato salad, chips, pop and a million other things to go with it. By the time you check out, your .50 BBQ Sauce cost you $200. That, my friends, is why stores love Loss Leaders.
It's our job however, to shop smart and plan our entire menu around those loss leaders rather than letting them simply draw us into a shopping spree.
2. Watch the Sell-By Dates: These are NOT expiration dates. If you look closely at meat in your local Walmart or Sam's Club, you'll notice Sell-By dates. That means, they have more meat coming in and need to get that meat off the shelf. You'll also notice, the day before that Sell-By date, Walmart and/or Sam's will discount the meat 30-50% with those bright yellow stickers.
Other chains do the same thing, they just don't use stickers. Target, for example, will start clearancing meat by placing coupons or "peelies" on the products. That's great because Target sells name brand meat and you can usually find coupons for those products on manufacturer websites. Just keep an eye out for those dates and return a day before the Sell-By date to look for the discount.
3. Outsmart the Marketing: Grocery stores know your every move, they know a bakery by the front door makes you hungry and flowers strategically located will make you happy to shop. They know (and so do parents) that kid-friendly cereals at the eye level of our children will make us purchase more sugar coated flakes. They know it. We know it. Now, it's time to outsmart the marketing strategies and save yourself some money.
Menu Planning is KEY to saving money. I realize I have mentioned this 1,000 times or more but I cannot stress it enough. Plan your weekly menu around sales (Loss Leaders), coupons and your stockpile, then you will notice savings of 50-80% on your grocery bill. It is not hard at all. Plus, if you have a list and weekly menu ready to go, you are less likely to be drawn in by marketing hype and impulse buys and you won't be going back to the grocery store 5x's in one week because you forgot something. Simply plan your menu and you'll outsmart them all.
4. Buy in Bulk...with a Calculator: Everyone thinks buying in bulk is cheaper however, many times it is not. Again, companies are very aware of how we think so, things "appear" to be a great buy, if you don't do the math, you'll never know the truth. Also, don't assume bulk stores are great deals either. Using coupons and sales to purchase those same items individually will likely land you a much better deal. I'm not opposed to bulk buys, just make sure you're not buying bulk marketing.
5. Back-Door Deals: What's the secret behind stores like Dollar Tree or Big Lots? Well, even I was surprised to find out this bit of information from MSN Money, the example they offer up is about a store that purchases a ton of charcoal. They sit the charcoal outside but it doesn't sell, the bags fade and no one wants to buy it. The store then calls a reclamation service that re-bags the charcoal, re-brands it generic then sells it at a store like Dollar Tree or Big Lots.
They go on to say that the charcoal could be on sale at the original store for $16 a bag but the reclamation service pays only $1 a bag, then they sell it for $8 at a store like Big Lots. They mention that is why you'll see those way off brand cleaners and such, they're name brand products that have gone through the reclamation process. Now that's a secret!
Grocery savings can certainly be a game but it's a fun one and it is very easy to win. Don't be fooled by marketing, be a strategic shopper and you'll always come out ahead.