Are you drawn to supermarket sale signs only to be disappointed when you check the price? Do you always buy brand name items because you're sure they're higher quality? Become a savvier supermarket shopper by adopting some simple strategies.
- Don’t assume end-of-the-aisle displays (“end caps”) are sale items. Often they are not. Stores bank on shoppers not being able to resist what looks like a bargain when they see high stacks of packages.
- Be wary of “specials” or “sale” prices. They may only be pennies cheaper than the regular price. If you need the product anyway, fine. But it may be less of a bargain than you think.
- Don’t fall for “bulk” sale pricing (2 for $4, 10 for $9, etc.). Stores hope that shoppers will assume they must buy that number to get the sale price. But unless the fine print on the shelf tag says you “must buy 2” or “must buy 10,” you can buy any number you want and still get the “sale” price, prorated. Don’t be tempted to buy more unless you really need more.
- Look high and low. Supermarkets place the items they most want you to buy at eye level. And manufacturers pay “slotting fees” to get their items placed optimally, and for the most “facings” or front-of-shelf spaces. Often, you’ll find better bargains (and more healthful foods) on lower and higher shelves.
- Check unit prices. Though larger packages are often cheaper, they’re no bargain if you can’t use up the food before it spoils. Make sure the tag corresponds to the actual product you are looking at, since products may get shifted on shelves.
- Compare brands; prices vary widely. Generic and store brand items are often of the same quality as national brands but cheaper.
- If the “sell-by,” “use-by,” or other “expiration” date of the item in front is too close for comfort, reach behind, since supermarkets stock items with the closest dates up front. For example, a carton of milk in the front of the case might have a sell-by date that’s a week from the current date, but ones in the back might have dates that are two weeks ahead. The same goes for cottage cheese, yogurts and other perishables, but also for some non-perishables like cereal.
- Resist holiday-themed displays designed to tempt you to buy extras you may not have considered and don’t really need, such as fancy napkins and candles to go with your Thanksgiving meal. All the items you really need can still be found in their usual locations throughout the store.
- Buy organic only when it makes sense. Be aware that if there are separate sections for organic items, it will be difficult to compare the prices with those of conventional foods.
Published August 01, 2013