Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How to Save Money on Groceries, part 3

Sorry for my absence.  I'm on day 5 of constant headache, so I've been limiting my computer time.  (Staring at screens with my out-of-date glasses prescription aggravates the problem.  Don't worry!  New glasses are on their way.)  So if you continue to not hear a lot from me this week, that's why.  But hopefully this'll go away.  5 days is already way too long.

Price Matching
Many grocery stores will match any advertised price.  If you want to get all of the great prices from all of the different store ads you've been rifling through, but don't want to actually go to five different stores, this is the best way to go.  You'll have to do your own research as to what stores price match in your area and their policies, but I promise, it's worth it.

I typically go to Walmart when I price match.  (Go ahead, Walmart haters, boo and hiss.  Right now, frugality prevails for me.)  Because almost everyone has a Walmart nearby, I'll use them as a guide for this blog.

So, you've made your menu for the week.  You've listed out your grocery list on the side, complete with prices and the store, right?  Perfect!  Now grab all of those grocery ads and head to Walmart.  You'll be glad for that list.

Go ahead and start doing your shopping.  Whenever you find something on your list you were going to buy somewhere else, check your list.  If the price is cheaper at Walmart, great.  Carry on.  If your list is sporting a lower price, great!  Put that item in a separate corner in your cart.  Keeping all of your price matching items together will make your check out experience much more pleasant.

Some items Walmart simply won't have.  Like, the other day I wanted to buy Bosc pears and price match them.  Walmart didn't have Bosc pears.  They had a bunch of other brands, but not the ones I wanted.  I decided that I didn't really care about the type of pear I got, and the ones they had were similar in price, so I went ahead and got them.  Other times the similar item I find is way different in price.  You have three options.  1) Go ahead and get it and see if the cashier will let you substitute the similar item for the same price.  If they won't, you can always leave them at the register or go ahead and buy them anyway.  2) Buy them anyway.  You've gotta decide if the price difference is worth the gas and time it'd take you to go to the other store.  3) Go to the other store and buy the other item.

Store brands.  Sorry, but as great as the price for Kroger spaghetti sauce is, you won't find Kroger products at Walmart.  Happily, Walmart will price match store brands, too.  Just substitute with the same product (size and everything) with the Great Value brand.

Meat.  What do you do about meat?  Most of your grocery stores have a butcher shop.  Their advertised price for boneless, skinless chicken breasts are for the butcher shop.  Walmart doesn't have a butcher shop.  This is where price matching is great.  I'll be honest, Walmart has horrible prices for meat.  Because it's packaged elsewhere and shipped in, the prices just can't match a butcher shop price.  This ordinary flaw is your lucky break.  Would you rather have Tyson chicken than butcher shop chicken?  Go to Walmart!  That's their only chicken.  They will honor your price matching.  So Smith's chicken breast sale becomes Walmart's Tyson chicken sale.  Same goes with all of their other meat.  You just have to match the same type of meat.  So if your sale is for 70/30 ground beef, you still have to get 70/30 ground beef.  You can't try to up it to get really cheap 90/10 ground beef.

Check out.  This is the part that is the scariest and keeps most people from trying it.  If you're nervous, just do a couple of items your first time, and go at a less-busy time of day.  (Not Saturday, evenings, or Wednesdays (or whenever the first day of the majority of your stores' sales start.))  Cashiers are typically helpful if you tell them you're new at price matching.  Make sure you have the ads from the other stores.  Most of the time, the cashiers won't even look at the ads.  They go by the honor system (at least in Provo/Orem).  But you have to have them in case they ask.  (I also suspect that if they see them, they're less likely to ask about specifics.)  I have had cashiers ask what stores certain items are on sale at, typically the higher ticket items, like meat.  So it's always a good idea to write what store had that price on your list so you don't waste precious time at the checkout looking through ads to figure it out.  Having the price written on your list is even more important.  As the cashier goes through your price-matching pile (all put together for ease), have your list handy so that you can tell him/her the price quickly.  If you're really nice, figure out the price of the meat before-hand.  (Having a calculator in your purse (on your phone, iPod, etc.) is a good idea anyway.)  Otherwise they'll have to spend time figuring out what 4.7 lbs at $1.49/lb equals.

Then you're done!  I promise, the first couple of times are the scariest.  After that, it's a breeze.

A few other things to keep in mind:

  1. Sometimes Walmart won't price match specific stores.  For example, there is an ethnic market called Tenochtitlan that my Walmart won't price match.  I would recommend calling your Walmart before you start to see what local markets they won't price match.
  2. I usually end up with one or two items that don't price match for whatever reason and end up going to another grocery store anyway.  But I spend a lot less time hopping from store to store.  Whether or not you do this, however, is completely dependent upon your view of how much a dollar is worth.
  3. Walmart will not match percent off or store coupons.  The stores around here have been on a kick of having coupons in their ads for "Buy 4 of these cereals and get $6 off" making a box of cereal often around $1-$1.50.  You cannot get that same deal at Walmart.  They will not honor those coupons.  So if you want to do that deal, you'll still have to go to that specific store.  Same with percent off.  If there is a Buy One, Get One Half off sale, you're outta luck at Walmart.
  4. Not all grocery stores that price match will have the same rules as Walmart.  It's always a good idea to check with your specific store to see what their fine print is.  (It's not even a bad idea to check with your local Walmart, in case they have special rules for their specific store.)

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