As I mentioned a few posts back, I'm going to do a series of small posts revolving around the grocery tips that I compiled for the Washington Post. I thought it might be helpful to expand on the tips I listed, and hopefully my wonderful readers will comment about their own experiences, or how to improve how I do things. I know I have plenty of room for improvement, and maybe we can all learn together! Every bit saved is more money in our pockets - let's make it grow!
Shop in the morning - you are likely to find significant mark-downs on meat, produce, and bakery items that are still perfectly fine, but close to their freshest date. Freeze meat that you won't use right away.
I have found this to be the case at almost every store I visit. Sam's Club is the best, with markdowns of about 30% every morning on meat that is close to or on the freshness date. It's mostly beef at my Sam's here, with some pork and very rarely chicken. My local grocers all mark down meat in the mornings. Hen House prices the meat, bakery products, and deli items at 1/2 price in the morning and puts them in a specific area in the meat department. Price Chopper puts $1 and $2 off stickers on them to discount the prices. If you get the least expensive packages with the stickers, you get the best deals. Even Aldi marks down meat - I've found both $1 and $2 off stickers, as well as 1/2 price stickers. I bought several slabs of ribs there when I found them for half price. Always take a tour of the meat department!
Along with meat, there are often items in other areas as well that offer discounts. I've found that both Price Chopper and Hen House put discount stickers on items in the produce area (salads, jarred fruit, etc.) and in the dairy case. I love to find milk marked down, especially when it's Roberts brand and I can combine it with one of their .50 coupons. Often a pinch of salt dropped into the milk will keep it fresh longer - I have tried this many times. There are also markdowns on bakery breads from the day before at Hen House.
HyVee has their own method of "marking down" in my area. In the morning, at some random time, they set out Grab Bags in a cart at the front of the store. The bags are full of shelf-stable products that might be dented, close to date, or missing part of the label. They are a STEAL for $3, but I've only been lucky enough to nab them once! I think they usually come out between 8 and 10, so I am always on the lookout.
Now, to reverse this theory, and just to confuse you, shopping late in the day can also lead you to discounts! So if you can't do the early-bird shopping, it's okay - you can still save money by shopping late. If your store has a deli, find out what they do with the leftover rotisserie chickens at the end of the workday. I've known of two stores that simply put them on the counter marked free. Maybe you'll get lucky! (The stores near where I live now DON'T do this, but in previous locations, they have. One I remember well for doing this is Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market; however, your mileage may vary.) Also, we LOVE to visit the bakery in the evening. Most stores will take all the donuts and pastries that were not purchased and box them up in variety boxes for a great deal - usually $2.99 or $3.99. Wal-Mart does this in the morning, from what I understand - I don't go there. The kids think it's great to get bakery donuts the next day for lunch and don't even notice they are "day old."
These are just some tips and ideas from my experiences. I would love to hear from you - do you save money by shopping first thing in the morning? Is it better to go late in the evening? Which stores give you the best discounts? How full is your freezer? Chime in by leaving a comment!
Next tip is about coupons....be sure to come back tomorrow!!