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20 ways to save on groceries

11. Take a rain check. If you know that your store is offering a great price on something you use, but it's all gone when you arrive, get a rain check, says Kay.

12. Know the system. When does your store mark down goods that expire, like meat or bread?

"You can get significant markdowns on meats if you buy things that are about to expire that day," Foreman says. The deal: Use them that night or freeze them, he says.

Your store might also have a small section where they discount products that aren't as popular as the manufacturer had hoped. This area can be a gold mine for bargain hunters, Foreman says.

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13. Realize that more isn't always cheaper. "It's not uncommon for readers to say they found things in lots of 24 where the unit price was higher than if they bought one," says Foreman. "The days that you could take one big package and know you were saving money are over."

His credo: "Unless you're better at math than most people, shop with a calculator."

14. Request price matching. Want to get the best prices on everything without driving all over town? "Find a store in your area that will honor all competitors' ads," says Kay. You'll save money, time and gas.

This is also a good way to get bargains on things like meat or vegetables, where coupons are rarely an option.

15. Look for double coupons. "In most places, what you will find is that a coupon will let you buy the nationally advertised brand at the same price as the generic or house brand," says Foreman. Instead, if you favor coupons, look for stores that offer double coupons, which "can be a real saver," he says.

16. Weigh before you pay. All 10-pound bags of potatoes "are not created equal," says Kay. "There could be a pound's difference." Weigh the pre-packed bags, and get the most for your money.

17. Beware of "discount store syndrome." Just because you're in a bargain store doesn't mean you're getting the best price on every item. "You have to consider whether it's a good bargain or not, and not mindlessly buy because it's a thrifty store," says Kay.

Her example: a warehouse club sells paper towels for 89 cents a roll that you normally see in your grocery store for 99 cents. Good buy? Not necessarily. If you have a 40-cents-off coupon that the grocery store will double, the grocery store cost is 19 cents. So do your homework before you shop.

18. Realize that sometimes the best bargain isn't the lowest price. There are times when you want to spend a little more on things that are important to you. For instance, a good-quality ground chuck with a little less fat or a loaf of really good whole-grain bread. Saving is great, but beware of buys that could be "penny-wise and pound-foolish," says Foreman.

"Your health is worth that," he says. "Medical bills are tough, even if you do have a good health plan."

19. Check your receipts. No matter how careful you or the store staff might be, mistakes happen. "I can't say it's widespread, but I do get reports of people saying they check grocery bills and very often they find mistakes," says Foreman. "And, four to one, they are in favor of the store."

20. Put your savings to work. Whether it's a trip, a car or a savings account, have some specific goals for the money you're not spending on food. Says Kay, "What good does it do to save all this money in the grocery store if you don't have a plan [for] what to do with that money?"

Dana Dratch is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.


-- Updated: June 11, 2004
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See Also
Confessions of a coupon-clipping queen
Click 'n' clip: A coupon quiz
Frugal U. definitions
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