Grocery expenditures represent a major portion of a typical family’s budget, and while many shoppers know to hunt for sales and shop at the cheapest stores, there are many more savvy shopping secrets for savings. In order to maximize that budget and have some left over for fun, here are a few helpful hints to keep the stomach and the wallet full.
Buy Generic Brand Foods
Most grocery stores, from Fred Meyer to Walmart to Super Target, offer their own generic versions of most name-brand products. These stores stand to make more profit from generic brands than from the other food items they sell, so they often work hard to promote these and keep them in stock. However, a store can only profit if it sells what it has, so these companies work hard to ensure that their generic brand competes with the name-brand. Unfortunately for the stores, many customers still think that name-brand foods are somehow superior, and avoid them. This forces the grocery stores to offer their brand at a much lower price than the competition. Herein lies opportunity.
While their mascots are not as glamorous, and often not as sparkly, these generic brands almost always have the same ingredients as their name-brand counterparts. Sometimes, parents of picky children are reluctant to substitute the name-brand products they buy. However, a blind taste test may reveal a pleasant surprise: the biggest difference in taste between generic and name-brand is in the head. Moreover, the money saved from buying generic can often permit the purchase of tastier foods elsewhere, such as upgrading from hamburger to steak!
Know When Sales Rotate
Most stores change their sales on a certain day of the week, often on Thursday. When they have these sales, they will order larger quantities than normal. However, if they have a substantial inventory of a sale item and know that sales will decrease when the sale ends, these stores may put a special discount on their perishable items to keep them from going bad. This represents a loss for the store, but it allows for major gains for the customer.
When hunting for sales, don’t simply buy a sale item as a substitute right away. Shopping the day before sales rotate, then coming back the next day can allow a family to have access to a wider selection of sale items, keep foods fresh, and capitalize on the drive many stores have to push sales items. On sale rotation days, pay extra attention to discount racks to see if the manager has approved a sales push. These markdown items are avoided by the mainstream crowd, but are every bit as tasty and safe to eat as anything else in the store.
Although grocery store employees have little control over the prices, their managers often do – and often times, especially in perishable sections such as meat or produce, they keep close track of how long an item’s shelf life is. During busy days, managers may not have time to go through their departments and mark everything down by hand. If a ripe item isn’t selling, its price may be negotiable.
Haggling may seem like a practice reserved for large contracts and bazaars in far-off countries, but there is no risk to trying it out. No company is going to be rude to a customer, and in the worst-case scenario, it sells for the price at which it was already set. Try to see if an employee is able to mark an item down. There may be a great deal of savings. Just be sure to follow the next bit of advice.
Be Nice to the Employees
Believe it or not, grocery store employees are real human beings with feelings. Often time, they are occupied with their work, but working in a customer-oriented business, they enjoy most human interaction. However, behind the friendly smile of customer service, employees, like everybody else, form judgments about the people they meet. An employee is much more likely to work hard to help a customer they like than they are to help a customer they don’t like.
When buying all groceries from one store over time, try to get to know the employees by name. They will often reciprocate, and if they know a shopper’s personal preferences, they can be sure an item is in stock, or be ready to haggle as soon as they see the customer walk through the door. Moreover, the nicer the customer, the lower the price the employee may set for an item that is on a discount. Kindness can literally translate into savings in this interactive situation.
Buy in Bulk if Possible
Some stores offer discount to people buying large quantities of a given item. This means that when buying non-perishable items, or when shopping for a social gathering, avoid buying an item off the floor and approach an employee about getting a crate, box, or other large quantity of the food item in question. These boxes are easier to transport, more uniform, and haven’t been picked over by the customer base.
Buying in bulk also has another advantage: it prevents splurging in other areas. Creating discipline by getting a twenty-pound case of grapes means a family is not buying expensive candies or cakes, improves nutrition, and provides enough groceries to last plenty of time.
Many times, these savings can seem small. However, because everybody has to eat, there is no reason not to work on reducing an unavoidable cost.