Thursday, April 1, 2010

Grocery shopping... who's smarter? You or them?

In the past few years, grocery store chains have figured out how to make more money. They do it by selling convenience and by advertising certain products as better quality...both product categories --- convenience and quality --- sell at much higher (and more profitable) prices.
Take cheese, for instance. A bag of shredded cheese at WInCo this week cost 23.5-cent an ounce. The same cheese sold in a block, (you do the shredding) cost 18.4-cents an ounce. Eggs are another example...this pits brown organic eggs against regular white eggs. The brown ones were priced  at $2.27 a dozen. The white eggs, 98 cents per dozen. But you say the brown eggs are enriched with omega3 vitamins as the labeling says. That means they must be a lot better, right? They probably are enriched, but I'll bet the difference between brown and white eggs is not very much on that score, certainly not at that price difference.
Let's face it, shopping has gotten a lot tougher (and less fun) in the past few years since grocery store chains realized they were losing customers to restaurants, fast-food outlets and take-home pizza places. So they've worked hard to make their stores appeal to consumers with little time for shopping by putting convenience items such as pre-made gravy at eye level. They've done it by emphasizing organics over regular items and by selling such items as "pure" water at $3.10 a six-pack when water out of your tap at home is free.
So how to avoid wasting money at the grocery store? There's more work involved....more planning and more time spent comparing prices where you're actually standing in the store aisles.
"Be Centsable: How to Cut your Household Budget in Half" written by Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee offers these suggestions:
- Plan menus using your family's favorite recipes list. Then use the menu outline to plan your grocery list.
- Make a real list. (Don't go into a store without one).
- Don't shop on an empty stomach.
- Don't go to the store for just one item. (It's impossible).
- Shop on a regular schedule...once a week, once a month. There will be less impulse buying.
- Look for rock bottom deals. For example this week I bought four-cube butter packages for $1.50 each. That's half the price of recent weeks. Butter freezes really well.
- Always shop by breaking down a sales price to a single -unit price. For example: Price per ounce for block cheese versus shredded cheese. Get out the carrot peeler instead of buying those cute little peeled carrots in the bag. Hey I'm guilty of that one.
- Pick up items to stock up on at rock bottom prices.
- Use discount coupons and loyalty cards to knock down prices. (But that's a topic for another time).
Visit BeCentsable.net for grocery resource links, product reviews and coupon databases.
"Out smart the stores," say Pate and McKee in their book. Stores "spend millions of dollars' worth of research and consumer studies working against our will power and organization to try to get us to stray from our lists and make impulse purchses." For me this is a big game....will I be outsmarted when I buy groceries.

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