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Bargaining Basics at the Supermarket

Bargaining Basics at the Supermarket

Most credit union members think of grocery shopping as a necessity, a routine errand or chore, if you will, and not so much as an exercise in consumer psychology. There are, however, some complex marketing efforts at work (on the part of retailers and manufacturers) as well as some thoughtful strategizing happening (on your part), during a weekly trip to the market.

Part of this profound shopping process involves the location of items on store shelves and the actual or perceived meaning that results in the minds of buyers. Make no mistake, product placement is premeditated and related to price. So credit union members, especially those trying to save some dough on their next grocery bill, should take heed! There is also a veritable smorgasbord of hidden savings to be found by shoppers, in the form of in-store specials, coupon-clipping, shopping technique, and more.

8 Tips for Shopping Cart Savings from Credit Unions Online

If you often feel like a frantic, bargain-hunting contestant in a supermarket sweep, read on for some smart tips on how to play and master this grocery game.

  1. Bottom shelf buys.

As mentioned above, the reasoning behind product placement is important to understand. The Association for Consumer Research and Consumer Reports both agree that shoppers can find some great bargains by checking out items on the lower (and sometimes higher) shelves at the grocery store. The philosophy here, as explained by consumer analysts, is that shelves at eye level are in high demand among product makers. The reason being, shoppers are instinctively drawn there when looking at and reaching for an item. Thus this prime super market “real estate” is sold by stores to the larger name brand product makers with larger advertising budgets, in an industry practice called slotting. The result is higher priced items residing on those more easily accessible shelves. However, for the brave and perhaps more flexible consumers who are willing to look to the southern shelves, there are some great bargains to be had. Top shelves may offer similar deals as well so don’t forget to also reach up high. Some of the items you may find high and low include store brands, those discontinued by the particular store or super-size versions. Simply determine if these are things you need or want and if they are cost effective. If so, throw them in your cart, check ‘em off your list, and enjoy the savings!

  1. Value-size it.

Many grocery stores now carry super-size items (as mentioned above). These might fall under names such as club, value, or economy pack, and are similar to package sizes sold in warehouse stores like BJs and Costco. This is a great way to save money and stock up on things you use quickly and often such as paper goods, cereal, coffee, etc.

  1. Make a list.

Don’t leave home without a well thought out list for your shopping trip and stick with it once you get into the store. All too often, shoppers fall victim to impulse buying which results in unplanned purchases and a higher bill.

  1. Coupons, coupons & more coupons.

Clip coupons, find them online or in-store. The Sunday paper is a great resource for these money-saving nuggets. Also, be sure to check out sites like and for deals.

  1. Prescription pay-out.

Some stores offer significant cash rewards for transferring your prescriptions over from your existing pharmacy to theirs. If you don’t mind switching, this is a simple way to quickly pick up some extra cash for the grocery store.

  1. One-stop shopping.

Try to avoid visiting more than one store however tempting the weekly deals in all 4 neighborhood supermarkets may seem. Choose the one with the best specials for what you need at the time and the lowest prices in general. If you run around town venturing into multiple stores, chances are you will spend more than you had budgeted. You’ll also waste money on gas not to mention precious minutes of your already busy schedule.

  1. Bag those plastic bags.

Trade paper or plastic store bags for reusable shopping totes. Some stores will actually pay you to pack your groceries in these energy savers. We’re talking a few cents per bag used, but every little bit counts and you’ll be helping the environment at the same time.

  1. Seasonal sales.

Look for special sales at your favorite grocery stores. At different times throughout the year, certain foods and related items are being promoted and are priced to sell (i.e. holiday season, Superbowl, 4th of July, etc.). Also, most food markets have bonus/rewards cards for extra savings. Sometimes, stores will run specials where you accumulate a certain number of points to redeem for free merchandise or a percentage off your bill.

So next time you roll your shopping cart through the supermarket doors, don’t be intimidated by what may seem like a maze of brands, prices, and choices. Armed with the right tools and knowledge, you can become an efficient, frugal consumer, saving moolah with the best of them!

By Cyndi Cohen
Published February 14, 2012
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