9 Ways to Stop Getting Ripped Off At the Grocery Store

James Logie

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9 tips to save money at the grocery storePhoto by nrd on Unsplash

You’re spending more than you need to.

When it comes to getting groceries, there’s a better way to shop that you’re not taking advantage of.

Have you noticed how pretty much every grocery store you’ve ever been in looks the exact same? This isn’t an accident.

The layout of the store is specific, meant to keep you in longer and get you to spend more money.

In retail, the longer you spend in a store — the studies show how much more money you spend.

This is why grocery stores are kind of like casinos. They’re hard to get out of (unless you’re going to pay), and it’s easy to wander around for longer than you intended.

There are also a lot of tricks used to make you spend more than you need to.

Here are nine practical things you can do to save some money every time you need groceries. It’s time to beat them at their own game.

Tip #1: Get Used to Reading Flyers

This is the first place to start, as most people have no idea how much food should cost. Reading flyers will help you get familiar with the cost of the items you regularly buy.

Most people have a rough price idea of just four items: bread, milk, eggs, and bananas.

Side note: with the grocery store layout, where are bread, milk, and eggs usually kept? In the back of the store.

These are some of the most popular staple items and keeping them in the back forces you to walk through the entire store, being exposed to thousands of products.

The point is, start reading flyers so you get to know the value of things. This way, you’ll know if you’re getting a deal whenever you see promotions.

Tip #2: Buy the Generic Brand of Frozen Food

More often than not, the generic frozen produce is the same stuff that the brand versions contain.

When buying the brand version of something, you’re paying for the packaging and marketing of that product.

Then there’s the issue with frozen food itself. Many times, the frozen variety may be healthier than the fresh.

Let me explain: frozen produce is flash-frozen not long after harvesting, and this preserves the nutrients better.

With fresh produce, it is harvested, sorted, transported, sorted again, then stocked in the store. A few weeks could go by through this entire process, causing the product to lose its nutrients.

Nutrients start to deplete the moment something is picked, so the frozen variety could be a healthier option.

You could have fresh organic broccoli, but if it comes from the other side of the country, it will be less nutritious than the frozen variety because of the time it’s spent getting to the store.

Tip #3: Buy Chicken Breast With the Bone-In

If you’re a poultry eater, this will save you money, and give you more flavor. Chicken has become much more expensive in the last few years, and chicken with the bone in can cost half as much as the boneless version.

The other reason this is a great option is that you get more flavor from the bone.

Boneless chicken breast tends to be a dry protein, but the bone-in version will give you much better meals.

Tip #4: Ask Store Employees About Complimentary Add Ons

Many people are not aware of the options available to them in grocery stores. One supermarket I talked to mentioned how the butchers will tenderize the meat for you.

This makes cheaper cuts a great option and gives you more value.

Bakers will cut up fresh loaves of bread for you (so you don’t turn it into a mangled mess) and florists will add in extra greenery.

You just have to ask!

Side note: the reason bakeries often sell fresh bread in paper bags is that this causes it to go stale quicker, leading you back to the store to buy it fresh.

Store your bread in plastic bags to help extend the life of it.

Tip #5: You Can Get Rain Checks on Baked Goods

You might not know that this one even exists. It’s not across the board, but I’ve seen it many times — and can be a great money saver.

Some supermarkets will let you buy items from the bakery up to a month in advance. If you see a great sale, you can go in and buy it — but not have to take it home right then.

You just save the receipt and bring it in closer to when you need the item. This is perfect for birthdays, or events when you need these items.

Tip #6: Saving Money on Seafood

If you ever go out for sushi and are a fan of tuna, you may be interested that — legally — it has to come in frozen to restaurants.

And the same thing can happen in grocery stores.

A lot of the “fresh” seafood you see in display counters has often come in frozen.

The frozen alternative is usually the same thing and buying it frozen can save you up to 40% compared to the thawed option.

Tip #7: Watch Out for the 10 for $10 Specials

Or any version of this sale, whether it’s 5 for $5, etc.

This is a classic marketing promotion meant to clear out inventory, and you need to see if there is any value in what is being offered.

Most of the time, you end up paying more per item than if you had just bought 10 individual items that weren’t part of the “sale.”

Say a can of beans costs 89 cents. Ten of those would cost you $8.90 compared to the “$10 special.”

The other issue with this is, say you were only going to buy 5 cans at the regular 89 cents, buying ten for a dollar a can is making you spend more than you intended.

Tip #8: Make Use of the Butcher if They Have One

A good butcher can save you A LOT of money. If you shop in a place that has one, buy the largest cuts of meat, and have them trim it for you.

You’ll get a better deal, get more meals out of it, and can freeze what you don't use.

Bonus tip: if you like filet mignon, the cheapest way to buy it is by buying a whole T-Bone steak. Every T-Bone has a small filet mignon on the bone and a New York strip on the other side.

This can end up saving you $3 to $5 per pound.

Tip #9: Buy Dry Beans Over Canned Beans

Beans are not only a very nutritious staple food; they are very affordable. If you’re a bean eater, go for the dry variety over the canned.

It’s not that canned beans are expensive (unless you’re getting suckered into the 10 for $10 deals…) but dry beans cost next to nothing per serving.

The best move is to buy the beans in bulk, cook a sizeable amount, and freeze what you don’t need. For 1.5 cups of dried beans, the average price is around 34 cents.

When they’re cooked, you get the same amount that you would from two 15 oz cans.

Final Thoughts

These tips won't save you thousands, but right now — every little bit helps; and these are a great place to start.

A grocery store is another form of retail, and they all use specific strategies to get you to spend more money.

With a little knowledge in hand, you can learn the skill of maneuvering better through a grocery store, and saving as much money as possible.

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Personal trainer, podcaster, Amazon best-selling author. Writing about some health, a little marketing, and a whole lot of 1980s.

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