Surviving the Supermarket
You’ve spent more time in supermarkets than you care to imagine and if there’s one thing you’ve probably learned, it’s that most of them spend a lot of time and money trying to separate you from your hard-earned dollar. Those aisles can be perilous, unless you know what tricks are in store.
- Grab a bite. You’ve heard it before and it’s true: Try not to shop when you’re hungry. Everything looks good, especially high-priced convenience or takeout foods.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover. Manufacturers of some of your favorite brand of canned beans, for example, may just reduce the contents of the cans from 16 ounces to 15. The can looks exactly the same, and wouldn’t you know, so does the price. It’s nothing but a sneaky way to make more money.
- Don’t be a slave to brand names. Canneries and packing plants often handle several name brands as well as store brands. What’s inside the store-brand packages may be just as good as the big-name version, but for as little as half the cost.
- Bigger isn’t always better. When you are comparing various brands of the same product or different quantities of a single brand, read the unit price (those labels on the shelves that break down the cost by ounce). Larger containers often work out to be a better deal, but not always. It may even be cheaper to buy two of a smaller size than a single large one.
- Don’t go coupon crazy. If you didn’t want it in the first place, getting something for less is no bargain. And just because you have a coupon for something doesn’t mean it’s the best deal. Check other brands!
- Make a list and stick to it. But if you see a sale on a nonperishable food that you use often, stock up.
- Bend and stretch. Higher-priced products are often placed at eye level; lower-priced versions of the same item are usually on the top or bottom shelves.
- Look twice. Be careful of those big sales displays at the ends of aisles. The same item can sometimes be found for less in its usual place on the shelf.
- Stick to your mission. This is especially true when you’re picking up just one or two items. Getting milk, for example, means walking all the way to the back of the store and passing all sorts of temptations. If you think you’ll succumb, bring only enough money for what you need.
- Check out the checkout. Those scanners at the checkout line are connected to a central data bank, but shelf tags or computer listings aren’t always updated promptly. Watch the numbers, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you think you should be paying less.