Be a Better Consumer

Watch for weekly sale items at all the local grocery stores, not just one. Take into consideration things like distance, traffic, and your own time when deciding if driving around for a deal is really worth it.

You can purchase some of these sale items at a discounted price. Yes, we said ‘some of these items”. The weekly sales flyer is a form of marketing to the consumer, therefore buyer beware. Just because something is advertised as “on sale” does not necessarily mean it will save you money.

Sometimes grocery stores will attract you with what they call a “loss leader.” This is an item they will advertise on sale to persuade you to shop there. They are betting that by drawing you to their store with that loss leader item you will simply purchase other items while you’re there out of convenience. This strategy works so well for them that grocery stores have been marketing this way for at least five decades. What can you do? Well, buy the item and leave that store or carefully price out any items you do add to your cart.

Only purchase sale items when you are 100% sure it is a cost savings. If sale shopping is new for you, at first you may have to use your memory or a best guess method to figure out if you are getting a break on the normal cost. But beware of relying solely on your memory, Readers Digest published an article that states consumers typically only remember pricing from approximately four items on their list. After time and with the help of a few simple tools, such as your phone’s calculator app, you can be confident that you are not overpaying for the items that you purchase on a normal basis.


When shopping, compare brands. Oftentimes a store’s own brand may be just as good as a named brand item. Some stores, like Aldi, will offer your money back if you do not like their brand. As a matter of fact, Aldi offers a “Twice as Nice Guarantee.” If for any reason you are not 100% satisfied with the quality of any product, they will gladly replace the product AND refund your money. See their website for details.

If your family is fussy and stuck on only consuming name brand products, try removing the items from their store brand packaging and placing the in canisters and Mason Jars. This strategy works well and keeps the items fresher longer. We buy store brand crackers, chips, and cookies and never notice a difference.

The key to what the true price of an item is when comparing like brands, lies in the unit cost. To select the lower of two items, look beyond the price and compare the unit cost. Unit costs are displayed in small print on the shelf label. Make sure you are comparing the same unit measure such as ounces-to-ounces and select the lower cost per unit.

Bargains and Jargon

Retailers are masters at confusing consumers with math. You may see offers such as “Buy One Get One Free” also know as BOGO. Many people get tricked by thinking they have to purchase two items, when in reality you may just be charged half price for each. Check the stores policies online before shopping so that you will know in advance and can stick to your budget.

Buy 3 Items for $1.79

“Buy 3 Items for $1.79” – Can you quickly do this math problem? Supermarkets know that this is a confusing math problem so they price items in such as way that makes you assume that you are being presented with a good deal. If you pull up your calculator app and you will figure out that it translates to approximately .60 cents each. If you usually purchase these items for that same price then you know this sale price is only the illusion of a good deal.

We are all busy and distracted in the supermarket and may not always have access to our phones. Not to worry, we will give you another easy method to solve the same math problem without your calculator app. Simply round up the .79 to .80 which makes the total price of the three items $1.80 and then think what is 18 divided by three? You will arrive at the same .60 cents. Use whatever method works best for you.

Buy 2 Get 3 Free

Another sale we might be tempted by is the”Buy 2 Get 3 Free” sales. First, calculate the cost of each item. Second, know what the regular price of the item is. Even if it is a good sale, sometimes having a quantity of five for any single item that won’t be consumed before it spoils, is not saving you anything.

Get a $5.00 Discount at Checkout

Purchasing a weighty piece of meat at a higher price per pound to receive a $5 discount at checkout may not be helping you retain your hard earned money. It just makes you feel like you got a bargain. The higher price per pound should catch your attention. In order to figure this out you again need to do the math. Take the total cost of the meat, minus the $5.00 discount, and then divide the new total cost by the weight of the meat. This will tell you the price per pound. If this is the same or more than you usually pay, then you know you are not getting a deal.

Coupons and Shopper Cards

Using coupons makes sense if two conditions exist.

  1. You will use the item before it expires.
  2. The coupon final cost is lower than the best sales price.

We prefer digital coupons for ease of use and because we are not required to purchase a newspaper to receive them. Digital coupons are connected to your shoppers card. Usually they are an additional savings over the stores advertised sales price.

We like shoppers cards beyond digital coupons because they also allow the store to send you incentives to spend your money at their store. Sometimes that may be a $10 or $20 discount of $100 worth of grocery purchases. If you buy only sale items and get fuel points for those purchases you can really take advantage of the deal and maximize your savings.

Just because we prefer digital coupons does not mean that if we came across a paper coupon that met the two above conditions that we would not use it. These still hold some value, they are just not as popular as they once where.

Extreme paper couponing became big in the 80s and 90s. This is where shoppers were showing off their frugality by using coupons to get carts full of items for low cost and sometimes free. They would stockpile food and other household supplies. Television shows were made of people who turned their entire garages into their families own little store. If you are someone who enjoys constantly managing and rotating stock and checking expiration dates on the fine print of coupons, we applaud you. However this is not realistic for the average person and for most of us extreme couponing just is not worth the effort.

Grocery Shopping Online

What about those of us who do not even go into the store? Are we avoiding all the tricks and traps? After all, we do not smell the bread baking and see all the colorful produce. We are not presented with signage and end cap displays. We are already outsmarting the retailers right? Well, maybe not.

Instacart is still advertising to you just in a digital way. According to media source, paid search is a form of digital advertising where ads for relevant products and services are displayed alongside search results. On Instacart, paid search is incredibly powerful for brands of all sizes. Instacart Featured Products is the primary ad format on the marketplace. Coupons are another popular way brands are bringing attention to products.

Sale Items

With online shopping, you can open several browser tabs and move from one store’s website to another and see what the sales prices are. If the app you are using has a notification option allow it to alert you when items go on sale. Or you can download an app called Flipp that will show you all the online circulars in one place.


Don’t automatically check any box that allows for substitutions. The shopper, regardless of how good they are, is not concerned with your budget. Their objective is to fulfill the order. Some stores and apps will allow you to pre-approve certain substitutions and in some cases this may be a better strategy.

Price Comparisons

We looked for a way to price compare everyday items online but failed to find an accurate way to do so. The closest way was to use the Instacart app however we learned that they often mark up some items therefore you do not ever really know the true cost.

Delivery Fee

Skip the delivery fee and the tip. If you are able to drive to a nearby store such as Walmart or Harris Teeter they will shop for you and not charge a fee. Just pull up and pick up. Look up your local grocery store to see if they offer this service and if they do, check for minimums. Most grocers will not allow their employees to receives tips from customers so picking up saves you even more money as compared to delivery.