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Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday grocery shopping tips

Sorry, kiddo, no caffeine for you.
This is the time of the year when most of us overeat which means it is the time of year we overspend at the grocery store. It’s hard not to overspend as the stores are pros at luring you into situations where you are vulnerable to either the sight or smell of a great holiday treat. That treat, by the way, is usually a high profit item and if it gets decent volume sales it can go a long way toward improving the 2% or so average gross profit of a supermarket.

I called on supermarkets for 20 years and I can tell you from experience, these guys are good. Here are a few tips about saving a buck that I have learned along the way: I’m old fashioned so I always keep a hand written grocery list at home that I add to as I get low or run out of standard items. It is a simple form of organization.

Always shop on "best food day" which in Phoenix is Wednesday; that’s when the ad comes in the newspaper. If you don’t take the paper, the store usually has a stack of ads at the entrance. Check the store’s website too as many times they will have coupons online along with the coupons in the ad. Be sure to have coupons that you may have clipped from various other publications too. Also, be sure you have the store’s "card" as that can mean savings when you swipe it at the register.

Private label (store brands) used to be junk. No more, I’ve found private label products to be as good if not better than many national brands. They are cheaper mainly because they have no advertising budget. Watch out for elaborately packaged items like bags of lettuce. That 3 or 4 color printed bag is part of your cost; check the cost difference of the bulk lettuce.

Watch out for the "peripheral" departments. Those are bakery, deli, nuts, floral, seafood, and many stores will have a Starbucks. Those departments make a lot of money for the store. If you want cheese, go to the dairy case. Deli? Go to the meat case. Bakery? Entenmann’s is cheaper but may be a step below the bakery. Seafood? It can be cheaper in the frozen case and tastes the same. If you feel Starbucks is worth its high price, go ahead and have a treat but understand you are paying for a product that yields a high profit to the store. Buy a bag of Starbucks in the coffee aisle instead.

Remember, peripheral departments usually mean higher price and profit. The areas like the soap aisle take up a lot of space and yield lower profits. It’s up to the peripherals to pick up the low profit stuff.

Two final tips: NEVER go grocery shopping when you are hungry! Everything will look good and you will buy the place out. Also, leave your cell phone at home so nobody can call you to add something to your list.

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