Aside from coupons, here are some tricks to saving money grocery shopping, i.e., in your interaction at the store as a customer.
1. Use A Shopping List
Use a shopping list as a guide, not a mandate. Certainly, lists can help you save by not becoming distracted and buying items you don’t need and didn’t intend to. But to use an item’s absence from your list as the reason not to buy something on a fantastic once-a-year sale is foolish. I also use my list to scribble reminders to look out for those cyclical coffee mark-downs as well keeping track of sold-out specials (see #4, below).
2. Get a Frequent Shopper Card
Get one of those frequent shopper cards for all of the grocery stores you frequent that offer them. Not only do these cards provide you with cent’s off savings at the time of your visit, your purchase history is used to target you for coupons on the items, or type of items, you use the most.
3. Save Your Receipts
Pick a drawer or a shoebox and start saving those grocery receipts. (In fact, you should be saving all your receipts, but that’s for a different article.) If an item you purchase is in any way unacceptable, set it aside with the applicable receipt and return the item(s) to the store for reimbursement. If it doesn’t taste “homemade” like the TV commercial promised, take it back. If a bagged salad goes bad the same day as it expires, take it back. Don’t be shy about returning items and explaining why. Most customer service desk staffs are kids that your kids babysat for just a couple years ago.
4. Watch Those “Sold-Out” Specials
Many grocery stores will offer very good specials to entice shoppers inside. That’s great if you happen to be one of the first 30 shoppers able to get the item from the shelf. After that, you’re left just staring at that empty gap on the shelf where you were going to get premium peanut butter for $1 a jar.
You still can. On every shopping trip, take note on your shopping list of any sold-out specials that you run across – whether you intended to purchase that item during that trip or not. Stopping by the customer service desk – this time on your way out – will allow you to request a rain check for each item. (As an additional incentive not to be shy, rain checks are often hastily written and rarely include expiration dates.)
5. Try & Use Store Brands
A surprising number of store brands are completely satisfactory, if not just as good as premium brands. You’re just not paying for those primetime television commercials. And, having adopted recommendation #3, if the product is not to your satisfaction, just return it – with your wisely saved receipt.