Editors’ Note: This piece is part of an ongoing series called “Get It for Less” that will appear every Wednesday on MainStreet, so check back for more shopping tips on your favorite products.
NEW YORK (MainStreet) — This has been a tough year for those looking to grocery shop on a budget. Prices for everything from coffee to peanut butter have shot up in recent months, not to mention the rising cost of corn, which impacts prices of meats, dairies and pretty much anything eatable.
Fortunately, even as the prices of these products rise, there are plenty of creative tricks shoppers can use to keep their grocery bill as low as possible. MainStreet spoke with two food shopping experts to find out the secret to getting your groceries for less.
Pick the Right Stores
Despite their name, grocery stores are not always the best place to shop for groceries, at least when it comes to price. It depends entirely on what you’re shopping for and which promotions are available at the time.
“Getting packaged food items at a SuperTarget or Walmart can be cheaper when regular price than at a grocery store and sometimes even less expensive than the sale price at a grocery store,” says Stephanie Nelson, the blogger behind the deal site CouponMom.com. Likewise, she says drugstores have more promotions and rebates on personal care items like shampoo, cosmetics and razors than one will find at a grocery store.
Of the supermarkets, chains like Kroger, Safeway and ShopRite rank among the most competitive on price, according to Nelson, thanks to their liberal policy for redeeming coupons. In many parts of the country, Nelson says these chains will let customers double down on coupons.
If you’re really looking to pinch pennies, though, your best bet may be to head to a dollar store.
“Don’t limit yourself to traditional supermarkets – dollar stores have a huge food business,” says Phil Lempert, editor of SupermarketGuru.com, which focuses on food industry trends and shopping tips. In particular, Lempert recommends shopping at discount chains like Grocery Outlet, Save-A-Lot and Aldi, all of which sell groceries at 30-40 cents on the dollar compared to what you normally pay in a supermarket.
Take Advantage of Lesser-Known Store Policies
By now, most shoppers (hopefully) know to browse their supermarket’s circulars for deals each week, but one of the best ways to cut costs is to do a little digging to find out pricing policies that the store might not advertise quite so clearly.
For starters, Nelson recommends checking your store’s website to find out if it has a senior discount, and if so, when. Kroger, for example, offers a 10% discount to senior shoppers on select days each month, depending on the location. Other chains like Gristedes, Albertson’s and Publix offer similar discounts.
Another trick that Nelson recommends is to always keep your eye on the register when the cashier is ringing you up.
“Most stores have some kind of policy that if they ring an item up at the wrong price, you get it for free,” she says. You just have to be aware of the policy and attentive enough to notice the mistake. “I’m not too shy to point that out in a nice way,” she says.
If nothing else, paying attention to the price of each item as it’s rung up can stop you from accidentally paying more for a product than you thought it cost.