Friday, August 1, 2008

10 tips from great grocery shoppers

Know what you spend the most on. Keep a list of the items you buy regularly and track the prices over a three-month period. Then you can buy when they reach the bottom of the range.

Be flexible with brands. If you want to save hundreds of dollars a year on an item, buy the brand that's on sale (or has a coupon or both.)

Don't assume the bigger package is a better deal. Consider the unit price on the shelf tag and buy what goes on sale. Often, a smaller size costs pennies or is free with a coupon.

Plan some of your meals around what's on sale. Make your shopping list with each week's circular nearby, and stick to your plan.

Buy enough of a good thing to last several months. Since many deals don't come around again for two or three months, buy enough when it's on sale to last that long.

Conversely, don't feel compelled to buy four of something just because it is on a four-for-$5 special. That's just a grocery trick to get you to buy more. If you think you'll use only one or two packages, don't buy any more than that. You'll still get the same price.

You can often use manufacturers' ads from one store at another. Many times grocery chains will accept coupons from another store, or that mention other stores on their face, as long as the manufacturer reimburses them. (They should say "manufacturer's coupon" at the top.)

Don't think that you can buy it cheaper at a warehouse club. Gault goes there only to buy eggs, butter and non-grocery items. Diapers, she said, are often a great buy there. But most other name-brand merchandise can be had even cheaper on sale at a major grocery chain.

Consider investing in a couple of copies of the paper if you've got a big family. You'll want more copies of the Sunday coupon supplements, which is where 82% of all coupons are located.

Know your store's coupon policies and rebate programs. Does your store double coupon? If so, up to how much? Is a nearby rival cheaper? Also, check out the rebate programs your chain has on its Web site. Can you accrue frequent-flier miles, free bottles of wine or money toward your kid's education with your spending?