In my last post I argued that you can save substantially on groceries—perhaps 19% or $760 per year—by having them delivered to you rather than going grocery shopping. Doing so saves a lot of time, too. But I also acknowledged that sometimes it makes more sense to shop for groceries in store. When shopping in store, there are still ways to quickly save money on groceries.
Following are 4 efficient ways to save money when shopping for groceries in the store:
1. Compare the Price per Unit
A very effective way to save money when grocery shopping is to compare the per unit price of two or more similar products. Not the total price, but the per unit price.
Let’s say you are buying cashews. You see the following three products and are open to any of them. You want to get the best value. Which one should you buy?
At first glance, you might think you should buy the Planters Deluxe Whole Cashews on the left since that product has the lowest sticker price at $6.89.
Looking more closely, however, you notice that the Planters Deluxe Whole Cashews contains 8.5 oz of cashews. The Back to Nature bag contains 9 oz. The Planters Cashews Halves & Pieces on the right contains 14 oz. Now you’re not sure whether the Planters Deluxe Whole Cashews on the left is the best deal since, though cheapest, it also contains the least amount of cashews.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to figure out which provides the best value. And it doesn’t even require doing any math!
Just look at the price sticker for the per unit price of each of the products. In this case, the price is expressed per ounce:
As you can see, the Deluxe cashews on the left cost 81.06 cents per ounce. The Back to Nature cashews, which I would have guessed to be the most expensive per ounce, are actually less expensive at 77.67 cents per ounce. And the Cashews Halves & Pieces on the right are the least expensive at 61.36 cents per ounce.
The Cashews Halves & Pieces (on the right) are 24% less expensive per ounce than the Whole Cashews (on the left), which you might well have purchased at first.
A quick glance at the per unit price saves you 24% in a matter of seconds. Imagine habitually saving 24% on all of your in-store grocery purchases! That’s a lot of savings over the course of a lifetime.
2. Avoid Groceries at Eye Level
Most grocery stores disclose the per unit price on the sticker. If you happen to be in a store that does not show the per unit price, a rule of thumb I’ve heard is to avoid grabbing products at eye level. The theory is that products that are easier to see and to reach tend to cost more per unit than products that require you to reach high or bend over to grab.
In truth, I haven’t done extensive research on this tactic since the per unit price is so often displayed. But I have noticed that the least expensive paper towels, for instance, tend to require you to reach high or low for them.
An exception to this rule is that products branded by the store itself (so, for instance, Safeway branded products in a Safeway) may be the best value but may be placed at eye level because they have a higher profit margin for the store.
3. Sign up for Frequent Shopper Card
Many chain grocery stores allow you to sign up for free for their frequent shopper card. Depending on the store, you can get a card from the cashier or by filling out your information online. It takes maybe 5 minutes to sign up.
Once you’re signed up, whenever you check out, you have the grocer scan your frequent shopper card. Invariably, some of the products in your cart are going to be on a sale that you only get if you have a frequent shopper card.
Back when my wife and I used to shop predominately at King Soopers, I’d guess our frequent shopper card saved us 10-20% on most visits. That easily adds up to hundreds of dollars per year, making the initial 5-minute investment in getting the free card well worthwhile.
3. Use a Credit Card with Strong Grocery Store Savings
Some credit cards offer meaningful savings on grocery store purchases. Using such a card, especially in combination with the three above tactics, can lead to even greater savings.
My wife and I use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card, which earns 6% cash back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in qualifying spend.
The card has a $95 annual fee, so you need to spend at least $1,583/year on groceries to break even. If you were to spend $4,000/year on groceries, the card would save you $145/year after accounting for the annual fee. If you were to max out the annual $6,000/year grocery store spend, the card would save you $265/year after taking into account the annual fee.
The card comes with a signup bonus of $150 cash back after spending $1,000 on the card in the first 3 months. (It also earns a solid 3% cash back at US gas stations.)
Walmart (including Walmart Grocery, about which I wrote in my last post), Target, Costco, and Sam’s Club purchases do not qualify for the 6% cash back. But most dedicated grocery stores do qualify.
While there are many ways to save money on groceries, what I’m interested in is how to save the most money in the least amount of time.
The four above suggestions help substantially whenever shopping in store. But my #1 recommendation remains to have groceries delivered to you instead.
Question: What other tactics do you use you save money on groceries? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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