Best Bargain Tips for Super Center Shopping
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Get the Best Bargains
Next time you're shopping for whole grain pasta, canned vegetables, or frozen fruit at a super center grocery store, give the store brand (private label) a try. Store brands could save you an average of 30 percent off your weekly grocery bill, according to research from the Private Label Manufacturers Association in New York City. Plus, consumer surveys show that, in the majority of cases, shoppers rate the taste of store-brand foods just as good or better than national brands. And with our tips, you can save more than money! Click on to become a savvy store-brand shopper.
Consider Shelf Life Before Stocking Up
Incredible deals aren't incredible if the food spoils before you use it all, says Regina Leeds, author of One Year to an Organized Life (Da Capo Press, 2008).
"Once I bought a huge bag of bananas at Costco, and it was an incredible deal on paper," Leeds says. "However, most of the bananas became over-ripe before I could eat them, and I ended up giving them away to someone to make banana bread."
Keep a Record
Jot down the prices of foods you purchase regularly so you'll know a good buy when you see it. "Most prices are a good deal at warehouse clubs, but I have noticed a few items, such as canned beans, that go up and down in price," says Kati Neville, coauthor of Fix, Freeze, Feast (Storey Publishing, 2007).
Compare Unit Prices
Different package sizes can make it tricky to compare national-brand and store-brand prices. Check shelf tags for unit prices (the cost per ounce, quart, or other unit of weight or volume) and keep a small calculator with you.
Take a Cooler
If you have to drive a long distance to shop at a supercenter store, don't rule out refrigerated or frozen purchases. Take a cooler with you and pick up refrigerated and frozen foods right before checking out. Place fresh meat on the bottom of the cooler to prevent bacteria from contaminating other foods.
Buy Often-used Ingredients in Bulk
Buying more of what you love for cheaper prices is hard to argue. "I buy low-carb bread when on sale and freeze until I need a loaf," says Richard Swain, PWD type 2, Diabetic Living Facebook fan and superuser. Before freezing bread, wrap the entire loaf in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to avoid freezer burn.
Share the Good Deal
If you see a bulk-size product that you use only occasionally on sale for a good price, consider sharing the food or product with a friend or family member -- especially if it is an item with a short shelf life or can't be frozen.
Pick Generic Products for Cooking Ingredients
Worried about flavor differences between generic and brand-name products? Consider how you'll use the product. For example, if you use applesauce as a fat replacer in baked goods, you're unlikely to notice any flavor or texture differences between the store brand and the more-expensive national brand.
Some good-for-you products may not have an equivalent store-brand option. For example, don't trade in national-brand whole wheat hamburger buns for store-brand refined-flour white buns just to save money.
Check Expiration Dates Frequently
"With a bold marker, write a food's expiration date (usually stamped lightly on the package) so it's clearly visible when the product is stacked in your pantry," author Regina Leeds says. "Then set aside a day each month to check dates of pantry items -- as well as medications and other products that expire."
Label Storage Containers
Keep nutrition facts handy. Cut the labels from packaging and tape to storage containers so you'll know the serving size, calories, carbohydrate grams, and more.
Eat Before You Shop
"You want to go shopping for food when you're not hungry," says Rochelle Gilman, R.D., a health and wellness supervisor and corporate dietitian for Hy-Vee supermarkets. That way, your stomach won't overrule your planned list and budget. You can make healthier and cheaper food choices on a full stomach, and you'll be more likely to resist nutrient-poor, calorie-rich impulse purchases.