How to Buy Groceries Wisely

By Earl Proulx
June 3, 2009
Bag full of Groceries

Looking for ways to save money at the grocery store? Here are some practical money-saving tips that can be used for when shopping for groceries.

They’ll Catch Your Eye—And Your Wallet

  • Avoid buying items on shelves at eye level. Sure they’re easier to get to—and that’s why grocers put them there! Better buys are usually found on the highest and lowest shelves.
  • Avoid special displays at the ends of supermarket aisles. Many times, grocers doctor up those areas to make the items look as though they’re on sale.

It’s All the Same

Store brands are generally cheaper than the heavily advertised name brands, but you’re still not sure whether to use them. Don’t knock them until you’ve tried them. Many store brands are manufactured by the same folks who make your favorite name-brand product. The difference is not in the quality of the product but, especially with canned goods, in the uniformity. Maybe all the green beans aren’t the same length, or perhaps the corn kernels are smaller than the name brand’s. Check them out before you dismiss them; nine times out of ten, you’ll be satisfied with the quality, and they’ll save you money.

Be a Unit-arian

When you compare prices, especially on nonfood items, always make sure to compare the unit prices (the price per pound, ounce, or other unit). Normally, the unit price is listed on the same shelf tag that lists the product price.

Get Tough!

Save money on your food bill by opting for less tender cuts of meat—flank steak, for instance—and marinating it overnight before you cook it.

  • Store-bought oil and vinegar dressing make an easy marinade.
  • Place the meat in a sealable plastic bag, pour in the dressing squeeze out all the air, and place the bag on a plate.
  • Put the plate in the refrigerator up to 24 hours. The acid in the vinegar will break down the tough connective tissue in the meat, tenderizing it.

Fly Through That Grocery Store

One way to reduce the amount of time you spend food shopping is to pick one store you like and always do your shopping there. Once you’re familiar with the layout of the store, you’ll be able to find what you need quickly. Knowing where to go also decreases the chances of making impulse purchases, the bane of the bargain hunter.

Eat First, Shop Later

If you have a hard time sticking to your shopping list, try eating just before you head to the grocery store. Shopping on an empty stomach makes everything look good. Your willpower is likely to be a lot stronger if you plan your shopping trip for after a meal.

Coupons: Double or Nothing

To get the biggest saving with coupons, use them only where and when you can double or even triple them.

Join a Food Cooperative

Food co-ops are grocery stores run by their members. They generally offer better prices than their commercial counterparts. Unlike those larger stores, many co-ops sell certain foods in bulk. Some co-ops run on a membership basis; others allow anyone to shop but offer discounts to members.


"Practical Problem Solver", Yankee Books, 1998

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