Smart grocery shopping pays off
Grocery-shopping savings advice has become ubiquitous in recent years, but all tips aren't created equal.
Some strategies can save you a lot of money, while others add more hassle to your life than money to your pocket. Grocery shopping is a popular topic because it's an area of huge spending for many, and an area of huge potential savings.
The average four-person household spends more than $9,000 a year on food — about $5,500 of which is food at home, meaning not dining out — according to the most recent federal Consumer Expenditure Survey. Add to that other supermarket staples, such as housekeeping supplies (about $750 a year), personal care items ($834), and alcoholic beverages ($467), and you start talking about real money.
Even modest savings could amount to $1,000 to $2,000 a year.
Here are some tips we've rounded up:
• Stockpiling. One simple-but-powerful tip reigns supreme if you're serious about saving money at the supermarket: Buy multiples when it's cheap; few or none when it's full price. Peanut butter or deodorant, for example, can be far less expensive when it's on sale or you have a coupon — ideally, both.
• Sales cycles. Items typically go on sale in 12-week cycles, so you don't need to buy that many to get you through to the next sale. “Contrary to what you've seen on TV, my house isn't filled to the brim with food,” said Jill Cataldo, founder of SuperCouponing.com. “For us, a three-month supply of ketchup is three bottles.”
• Half price. What's a good price? “My goal as a coupon shopper is to cut the non-sale price of an item in half or better,” Cataldo said. “That's an easy benchmark to remember.” You could keep a price list and scour the weekly sales ad for deals. But websites such as SavingsAngel.com, CouponMom.com and TheGroceryGame.com track sales cycles and find the best deals so you don't have to.
• Loyalty cards. Applying for supermarket loyalty cards is often the only way to cash in on store sales. If the cards get unwieldy, you can put their bar codes into your smartphone with a mobile application like CardStar. Cataldo put the physical cards on their own key chain, alphabetized.
• Store brands. Some store brands are quite good in quality and can be relatively inexpensive. But they don't have the same price swings brand names do and might not be cheaper compared with on-sale brand names, especially if you have a coupon, too.
• Non-supermarket venues. If you pay attention to sales and use coupons, warehouse clubs are generally not a good deal, but drug stores such as CVS and Walgreens, with their lucrative loyalty programs, can be.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Earlier openings make Black Friday shopping easier for bargain-hunters
- October mine inspections result in 127 citations
- Committee looks into beneficial uses of coal ash
- Florida roommates find a career in playing video games on web channel Twitch
- Retailers court web customers with free shipping
- Federal agency checking whether Highmark has enough doctors in Medicare plan
- Company seeks to reopen coal mine in Nottingham, Washington County
- Amusement parks fight off home entertainment threat
- Lower gasoline prices fail to spur consumer spending
- Holiday shoppers expected to spend conservatively
- Buyer’s remorse: Most mergers don’t work out for acquiring company