Great Ways to Save on Groceries

Eight tricks to try the next time you go shopping

1. Watch the register. In most grocery stores, advertised sales change

every week, so the scanners have to be updated constantly. But

surprisingly often, they're not, so they charge you the full amount,

not the discounted price. To get the deal you're after, keep an eye on

the price being registered by the scanner, whether you're operating it

yourself or dealing with a cashier. Put all the week's specials in a

corner of your cart and line them up on the checkout counter together

so you can easily keep track of the prices you're being charged as the

items are scanned.

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2. Don't assume that regular-price items are being entered correctly.

After all, the person at the register may not know a pomegranate from

a persimmon. On a recent shopping trip, I watched as a cashier entered

my three-pound cabbage (39 cents per pound) as Brussels sprouts ($1.89

per pound) — an overcharge of $4.50. If I hadn't corrected him, my

family would've eaten some very pricey coleslaw that night.

3. Collect your payoff if there's a mistake. Many people don't know

it, but big chains like Giant, Safeway, and Kroger will often give you

an item for free if the scan shows a higher price than what's

advertised. (Tobacco, alcohol, pharmacy items, and dairy are excluded.)

4. Be persistent. If your grocer runs out of an advertised special,

ask customer service for a rain check — a written promise to sell you

the item at the lower price when it's restocked. Make sure the slip

specifies the maximum number you can buy for the sale price (usually

six). Ask about the time limit for using your rain check (it's usually

15 days).

5. Don't be fooled by deals like two for $1. You don't have to buy

two. If the ad says "Buy two for $5" and you want only one, you can

still get it for $2.50. If the item doesn't automatically scan that

way, point out the sale price to the cashier.

6. Stock up, but wisely. Before you stash 10 boxes of something on

your shelves, check the sell-by date. Even seemingly ageless products

like tea bags and toothpaste eventually expire — and you don't want to

be stuck owning eight more when they do.

7. Weigh before you pay. If you're buying a 10-pound bag of potatoes,

put it on the scale before you put it in your cart. Many items weigh

less than what the package says.

8. Don't pay extra for convenience. It's easier to pick up

personal-care products and other nongrocery items at the supermarket.

But this stuff often costs more than it does at a big drugstore chain.