Grocery Shopping Basics Tips

Read these 27 Grocery Shopping Basics Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Grocery tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Do the companies really listen?

It Pays To Vocalize Your Opinions

Have a problem with a product? Vocalize your opinion.

Save the item and contact the company. Many companies are receptive to feedback and are serious when it comes to quality. Tell them the problem. They normally want to make you a satisfied customer and will send out replacement product, refunds, and/or free item coupons. The same goes for positive feedback. Do you love a product? Tell them so. Sometimes you get rewarded with free coupons.

   
Should I tell the cashier there was a price mistake?

It's Your Money

Please remember that it's your money you're spending when you shop. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to notify the cashier of a pricing mistake. Don't be intimidated by the customers in line behind you.

   
What is the ave mo expense to feed 2 adults, 1 child and 2 large dogs?

Average Grocery Budget

A question was recently asked:
"What is the average monthly expense for groceries to feed 2 adults, one child and 2 large dogs?"

Here's my reply:

The answer to your question can be quite complicated as there are a number of different variables involved:
*The type of diet you consume (i.e.do you eat a lot of meat or do you prefer a mostly non-meat diet?)
*Do you use coupons?
*Do you do rebates?
*The age of your child (i.e. is your child an infant on formula or is your child a teenager?)
*The diets of your large breed dogs (do you feed store bought food, table scraps, or high-end food like Bil-Jac or Eukunuba?)

I can give you the web address to a National Statistics chart listed on The Dollar Stretcher's Website. For a family of 3 the National Average is $101 per week ($435/mo, $5,228 yr) I haven't found any stats on budgets of families with dogs included. http://www.stretcher.com/stories/990705a.cfm

Now MiserlyMom believes that on a frugal budget you should allow for $10 per person per week. If you are new to frugality try for $15 per person per week. And it could go higher based upon types of products you buy. Here's the link for that information: http://www.stretcher.com/stories/00/000612b.cfm

Personally my family has 4 members (2 adults and 2 children age 2 and younger). Including groceries, Similac formula expendatures and brand name diapers, we spend approximately $208 every 3 weeks. That's after coupons but before any mail-in rebates that may be available. We eat steak, shrimp, a lot of chicken, lots of fruits and veggies. We use Pampers and Huggies diapers (at the rate of 1 pack of each per week) and also 2 cans of Similac with Iron Powder per week. We really don't lack for anything on our budget. I could probably save some more by buying less expensive cuts of meat, but that's an indulgence I can live with. As far as the dogs go, I have no idea what they consume. I had 2 small dogs (Lhasa Apsos) that ate approximately $30 worth of BilJac dog food per month. Big dogs would be much more. I would compare prices on the internet, use online coupons, utilize any of your local store's price match policies, etc. to get the best deal on that.

I hope this helps you a little. Good luck on your grocery budget.

   
What do I do when I constantly come across bare shelves?

Stock Up On Basics

If you know something you normally buy is on sale and you have coupons that bring the price down ridiculously low, by all means stock up. (Provided you have the storage space). Do this for items like paper products, personal products, haircare, all the things that don't go bad that you will eventually use. Don't stock up on 253 jars of sliced pickles at .05 each unless you own a restaurant, have enough friends to hand out to, or plan to donate to charity. Please use common sense.

   
Should I be concerned with expiration dates?

Check Your Expiration Dates

When shopping, please remember to always check the expiration or sell-by date on the foods you're buying. Some stores are better at rotating stock than others so it's always good to double-check this. Try to buy the item that has the most time until the expiration date. Some stores even have policies regarding finding out of date stock (like they discount an in-date item or even give you one for free) so be sure to check with your store.

   
What do I do when I constantly come across bare shelves?

Rain Checks

If a sale item is out of stock, don't worry. Most stores will offer rain checks when items have run out, but you need to remember to ask. For those that aren't familiar with these, rain checks are a paper “promise” to honor a specific price on an item when the stock is replenished. A rain check normally lists your name, some personal information, the name of the item, the advertised price, quantity of items requested, and an expiration date.

   
What do I do when I constantly come across bare shelves?

Shop When the Store is Stocked

Frustration is common when you go to purchase something and the shelf is bare. Next time ask someone with authority in that area when the store gets their shipments in, then do your shopping the day after (to allow for items to be put on shelves). You should have better luck finding your items.

   
Do you have any tips for beginners?

Weekly Sales Flyers

Plan your shopping list around the weekly sale flyers, especially what`s advertised on the front page. Stock up on an item when prices are really low. Then you`ll have enough to wait till the next sale to buy again.

   
How can I get better service?

Changes in the Marketplace

The fastest ways to influence change in the supermarket are:

* Don't purchase that particular product.
* Inform the store manager of your opinions.
* Contact the manufacturer's consumer affairs department.

   
no fat products

No-Fat Products

Are you still gaining weight after consuming no-fat products? Remember that fat is a “bulking agent”. Taking out the fat means that bulk needs to be replaced with some other bulking agent-usually this is sugar. Read the label, check the ingredients, and look at the calories. Believe it or not, you might be better off consuming smaller portions of the “regular” version.

   
When should I shop?

The 10 Worst Supermarket Shopping Days

The 10 Worst Supermarket Shopping Days
1) Labor Day weekend
2) Sundays
3) Saturdays
4) Memorial Day weekend
5) Afternoons between 4pm and 7pm
6) Thanksgiving eve
7) The day after a major disaster (tornado, earthquake, flood, etc.)
8) Christmas eve
9) Fourth of July (especially if it falls on a weekend)
10) Day after Thanksgiving

   
Is it on sale if it´s in an ad?

Is It Really On Sale?

Just because an item is advertised in a store flyer does not necessarily mean it's on sale. Some stores just advertise items at their everyday price. Be aware.

   
How can I get the best price?

Bigger Isn't Always Better

We as consumers commonly believe that buying in bulk is always cheaper. This is not always true. I have memberships to Sam's Club and Costco. Many times the prices work out to be the same as in my store. Why not buy what I need from my store AND be able to use a coupon? (Sam's/Costco do not accept coupons).

Do you really need a 100-oz jar of peanut butter? Will you use it before it goes stale? It may be a great deal, but if you throw half away the deal isn't so good anymore. Just something to consider.

Another example is baby formula. My local TRU has the 14.1-oz can of Similac for $9.19. The 30-oz can is $19.99. Which is cheaper? .6517/oz or .6663/oz. I was surprised to see the bigger can priced more expensively. Just be aware.

   
When should I shop?

Don't Shop When Hungry

Various studies have shown that grocery shopping while hungry will result in a shopper buying more than what they planned to.

Make a list, stick to it, and remember to eat prior to shopping.

   
Who offers name your own price groceries?

Wondering About Naming Your Own Price For Grocery Items

Question:
Wondering about naming your own price for grocery items then being able to shop at your local grocery stores. I remember seeing something about it on the tv. Could you help me?

Answer:
The "name your own price" refers to Priceline.com. Unfortunately they are no longer offering that service. There were numerous complaints regarding not getting credit for coupons used, for prices continuously being increased, etc. It was not as good as you would think. Have you tried ValuPage? http://www.Valupage.com

   
Do you have any frugal tips?

Save Money on Groceries-Frugality

Don't use the last bit of anything when you are doing the cooking, save just a little for next time, in case you don't make it to the store in the next day or two, or if you are "between paydays".

For example, you have just one stick of butter, one onion, a half pound of bacon left in the refrigerator (or a half pack of carrots or celery) or just a third of head of lettuce. Use the "next to last” three or four carrots or celery, cut the onion into half or thirds, use all but one or two slices of bacon, use half to 2/3 that stick of butter. Don't worry that that last bit will go to waste, it won't, just save it.

Next time you need something to flavor the green or pinto beans (bacon or onions), the chicken soup (that last carrot or celery stick, etc., or just a "pat of butter" for flavoring something you are cooking-- you won't be "out" resulting in a special trip to the store for just one item. The lettuce you could make a very small salad just as an appetizer to go with soup ("stretches" the appetizer and the main meal) -- but you would still have the last few "leaves” and hopefully a "tad bit" of onion to "dress up " that tuna salad!

   
How do I get discounts on meat?

Get To Know Your Butcher

If you frequent the same store all the time, one way to get discounts on meat is to get to know your butcher.

Your butcher knows what cuts are best, which is the freshest, etc. If you get to know him/her by name and come regularly you might be privy to special sales, markdowns on meat, or other special perks.

   
How can I get the best price?

Bring A Calculator When Shopping

It's a good idea to bring a calculator when shopping. Even though stores normally have some sort of unit price on the shelf sticker, many times they are not always in the same units. One brand of an item might be unit priced per ounce, yet the competitor might be unit priced by the pint. Look closely at your stickers and do the math yourself to find the best deal.

   
How can I get the best price?

Look High and Low

Stores are designed to have all the eye-catching items at eye level. This goes for both children and adults.

To try to get better deals, look on the upper and lower shelves. Many times you will find a better bargain than what is being "presented" to you.

   
How do I thaw frozen cheese?

How Do You Thaw Frozen Cheese?

Question:
I got your email about freezing cheese, but how do you thaw it? Thanks!

Answer:
Thanks for writing. If you know a few days ahead of time that you will be using the cheese, take it from the freezer and thaw in the fridge. (It does help if you shredded or grated your cheese prior to packaging and freezing). If you are thinking of using the cheese at last minute, I recommend just buying a new package for that meal. I DO NOT recommend leaving it at room temperature all day long to thaw because of the risk of bacteria buildup and possible food illness. Also I DO NOT recommend thawing in the microwave because it changes the consistency of the cheese to a rubber-like texture or it melts it into a gooey mess if you aren't watching closely. Thanks for your question.

   
How can I get the best price?

Stock Up When It's In Season

This goes without saying, stock up on food items when they are in season. Prices go down when the product is plentiful. Buy extra when in season and freeze/preserve when possible.

   
Where can I buy alcohol online?

Where Can I Find Alcohol Delivery Service?

Question:
Where can I find alcohol delivery service?

Answer:
You did not specify whether you are interested in wine or hard liquor. I personally do not buy alcohol online, however by doing a search on either "liquor" or "alcohol" should get you some results. Just read the fine print because not all stores ship everywhere, or it could be considered illegal in the state you live in to receive liquor from over state lines.

Here's some links:
http://www.spiritsusa.com
http://www.liquormart.com
http://www.liquor.com
http://www.wine.com

   
Can you tell me about online grocery stores?

Online Grocery Stores

Online grocery stores can be a great convenience to those that are homebound, have busy schedules, or just just dislike grocery shopping in general.

Although there are quite a few grocery stores online, they are not all the same. Here are some things to keep in mind:

*Not all online stores offer a full grocery selection of staples,fresh produce,and meat.
*Some of these stores offer a large variety of items, others have limited offerings.
*Some of these stores deliver nationwide, while others have limited local delivery areas.
*Only a few accept manufacturers coupons, most of the others do not.
*Delivery charges vary widely.
*Look for online coupons for these stores-it will save you some money.

See my list of links in the Guru Resource Center for many of the online grocery stores operating today.

   
cream cheese be frozen?

Can Cream Cheese Be Frozen?

According to the sources I've researched the conclusion is that soft cheeses such as cream cheese and cottage cheese do not freeze well at all, so freezing is not recommended.

   
How can I teach children about groceries?

Teaching Children About Groceries

If you have young children (pre-kindergarten to second grade), there`s a great series of videos about groceries. They are made by Schlessinger Media and come with teacher`s guides. The four videos in the "Agriculture for Children" series are titled:

Where Food is Grown
Growing our Food
From Farm to Table
What is Agriculture

Borrow them from your local library and teach your children how the food gets from the farm to your home.

   
Can I ship Nabisco products on a regular basis to Hawaii?

Can I Ship Regular Stella D'Oro Shipments to Hawaii?

Question: I would like to ship a regular monthly supply of Stella D`oro Anisette cookies to my family on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. What online grocer should I use to accomplish this?

Answer: Netgrocer carries these but they DO NOT ship to Hawaii and NabiscoGifts.com uses Netgrocer. I suggest having your family talk to a local store manager where they carry Nabisco products and see if they can be "special ordered" for them.

   
Looking For Product Shelf Life Chart?

Looking For Product Shelf Life Chart?

Question:
I am looking for a printable page on how long a product`s shelf life is. From Dairy to Breads, canned goods and meats. Can you furnish one for me or tell me what site I can find one in?

Answer:
Thanks for taking the time to ask the guru a question. Below you will find a great website that has the answers to your shelf life questions: http://www.msnbc.com/OnAir/nbc/Dateline/Food/shelf.asp It's an excellent resource.

   
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