Start by being aware of the normal prices of your purchases. “You won’t know a good deal,” says Kimberley Clancy, owner of the Canadian consumer website www.frugalshopper.ca, “if you don’t know what the regular price for that product is.”
Switching from Loblaws or Sobeys to a discount grocer, such as Price Chopper, can instantly lead to weekly savings of up to 30 percent, or $45 on a $150 bill. Total annual savings: more than $2,300. “The food comes from the same warehouse,” notes Clancy, “but the turnover at the discount grocers is often higher, so you might actually be buying fresher products.”
Rely on sales and coupons to reduce prices, and combine the two if possible. Sites such as Clancy’s Frugal Shopper help you match in-store savings with available coupons and save more than 80 percent on prepared foods or staples. Avoid hopscotching to a number of stores by shopping at a grocery outlet that will match sale prices from other retailers. “One trick,” says Clancy, “is to use more than one coupon on a buy-one-get-one-free sale, if the coupon allows it. You’ll get three items, or more, for the price of one.”
Deal or no deal?
Some stores participate in club or reward programs, such as Air Miles, but they’re valuable only if the benefits outweigh the cost. Remember, earning 10 bonus points by purchasing a frozen entree that is 30 percent more expensive than a similar prepared meal that doesn’t rack up any points is no bargain.
Seek quick sales
Look for the store’s clearance area for savings of sometimes more than 50 percent, but make sure to check best-before dates.
Under the Scanning Code of Practice, all major food chains guarantee that prices at checkout will be the same as those on shelves and will offer an item free, up to $10, if an error occurs. Clancy, who claims two free items because of errors every week or two, suggests watching prices as they are scanned, immediately noting any error and reminding the cashier about the code.
Make a list and stick to it. Don’t shop when you’re hungry, and go alone to stop your treat-crazy kids from stocking the cart with non-essentials.