Smart Supermarket Shopping Strategies

savealotgroceryshoppingfamilySupermarkets keep coming up with new ways to get you to spend more — including stocking costly non grocery items and overpriced snacks. Here are my latest smart shopping strategies…

Savings In the Store

Avoid nonfood items. Supermarkets now sell everything from books and kitchen appliances to hardware and pet supplies. You almost always can find these items cheaper elsewhere.

Ask for the sale price on an item even if you buy less than the “required” minimum. Most stores don’t want you to know that if a product is on sale at, say, four for $6, you almost always can purchase just one item and still get the sale price, in this case, $1.50 for one.

Buy fruits and vegetables in season. It is more important than ever now. Reason? Spikes in fuel prices have driven up transportation costs — this especially affects the price of produce when it is out of season in a particular region. For a list of what’s locally in season, go to www.foodnetwork.com and click on “Cooking,” then “Cooking Guides,” then “Produce Guides.”

Shop with friends at Costco and Sam’s Clubs. The drawback of warehouse clubs is having to buy large quantities, especially if your family is small.

My suggestion: Visit the clubs with a few friends. As you walk the aisles separately, discuss over your cell phones what bulk items you would like and who will get them. (This saves money and time.) Meet in the parking lot afterward to divide your purchases and split the cost.

Avoid trendy, expensive foods. Here are the hot — and overpriced — items on shelves now…

Food pumped up with supplements, including eggs enhanced with omega-3 fatty acids, to help maintain vascular health, and juices and cereals with antioxidants and phytochemicals that combat cellular damage.

My suggestion: Eat ordinary eggs and juices, as well as whole-grain cereals, to get the nutrients you need. If your doctor thinks you’re not getting enough from food, it is more cost-effective to take supplements in a pill form.

Portion-controlled snacks. Treats such as Oreos and Pringles come in 100-calorie packages for people who crave snacks but lack the discipline to control portions. These snack packages often are more than twice as expensive per ounce than the larger version.

My suggestion: Buy a larger box, and subdivide portions yourself.

Savings Using Technology

savealotquarterPlan purchases on-line before you go to the market. Most major chains have sophisticated Web sites that let you browse on-line circulars for promotions so you can decide which items to buy. You also can create shopping lists, which shortens your time in the supermarket. Some sites allow you to order on-line for home delivery (at an extra cost based on the total of your order) or pick up at the store at no extra cost. Favorites: albertsons.com… vons.com… safeway.com… kroger.com… publix.com… stopandshop.com.

Or check out Internet-only supermarkets that deliver. Examples: freshdirect.com (New York City metro area) and simondelivers.com (Twin Cities area, Minnesota).  Amazon is also delivering now in NYC area.

To find a delivery service in your area, go to an Internet search engine and type in “supermarket food delivery” and the name of your city.

Print out coupons and rebates from your computer or save them to your APP.  Kroger offers digital saving to your card which I prefer.  Search for coupons for items that you buy regularly at Web sites such as coolsavings.com (click on “Grocery Coupons”) and www.couponcart.com. Some sites let you specify the coupons you want to receive and then E-mail them to you, but read the small print — you may have to allow the coupon sponsor to share your E-mail address with other parties.

Shop at supermarkets that offer “scan” technology. How it works: You use your cell phone to scan a bar code for more information, such as customer ratings, about a product. Just download the free software from scanbuy.com. Then you are connected to the Internet to get price comparisons for that product from nearby retailers. For more information, go to the Scanbuy.com Web site and click on “Products,” then “Scanbuy Shopper.”

Another innovation: Several hundred Stop & Shops offer cart-mounted minicomputers that keep a running total of your purchases and let you order ahead from the deli counter.

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