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10 Grocery Shopping Secrets from a Grocery Store Manager

2013 February 11

aaron_image1 Like most thrifty folks, I am always on the lookout for new ways to save money. And with the price of everything going up – including at the grocery store – I thought it would be helpful to get some “insider” tips. And so I asked a friend of mine who is a manager at a large grocery store chain if he could provide some shopping secrets that might help us all stretch that dollar a little more. 


  1. If a store does not carry an item that you want chances are that you can still get it from them. Just ask. It is a very good possibility that the store can special order it for you. Though, you might have to buy the full case of it depending on the store.
  2. Buying things that are on a special display outside the regular shelf will not always be at reduced retail. Sometimes that product will be at regular price.
  3. Items that are on ad price the week before will sometimes carry over the next week on sale to deplete inventory. This is very common in highly perishable departments like produce, deli, meat and bakery
  4. The best time to buy seasonal items at grocery stores is after the season is over. Although things such as seasonal candy might not make it to the next years holiday, you can still get some great deals on general merchandise and other shelf stable items.
  5. Just because a price tag states an item is 10/ $10 or 5 for $10 does not mean you have to buy that many unless there is a coupon involved that states otherwise or if the price tag words it that you will pay more if you buy less. But, most stores won’t do that. So unless you need 5 or 10 of something, just buy what you need.
  6. Even though some customers will swear by it, major brand milk and store brand milk are made and bottled from the same place (they just have a different label on it). Buy the store brand and save some money. I promise, you are getting the same milk.
  7. Most manufacturers will try and line up ads that coincide with coupons you see in the paper. So if you are a coupon clipper check the ads the week of or the next few weeks – chances are the item will be on sale and you can save even more with your coupon.
  8. Believe or not, most stores are set up for you to make impulse buys. My advice is to stay away from displays and just follow your list around the aisles and do what I like to call “tunnel vision shopping”.
  9. Buy store brands. While they may not seem so appealing, most of them are made by the major brands. Though, I admit not all store brands are created equal, most of them are just as good or better then your favorite brand. Give em a try and save a bundle.
  10. My last tip for you is a healthy one. Try and stay away from frozen dinners, entrees, meals for two and any shelf stable box dinner with meat because the sodium content is ridiculously high – I mean crazy high. Just take a look at the label the next time you want that quick meal.

Are there any grocery shopping secrets not mentioned that you find helpful?

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Aaron

Helped start Three Thrifty Guys with his friends Charlie and Mark after being inspired by how they lived their lives “on the thrift”. A designer by day, Aaron was once $40k in debt. After 5 years – he dug himself out and lives to tell about it. Aaron also blogs at the StarTribune

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5 Responses
  1. February 12, 2013

    Great advice! I also suggest buying whole produce instead of pre-cut. You’re paying 40-percent more for convenience and really, how long does it take to peel and chop carrots? I also avoid buying pre-baked goodies for the same reason. You can buy the boxed version and add oil, eggs and water for much less than what you’ll buy at the bakery department, plus it will likely taste better, too! Finally, the way supermarkets are merchandised is strategic and even sponsored by name brands. The cereal aisle, for example, will have all the name-brand, sugary cereals within kid’s reach, whereas the healthier and store-brand versions are on the top and bottom shelves.

  2. February 12, 2013

    Great insight! We use many of them ourselves. We do some advertising copy for a number of food related companies and it’s always interesting to see how they work things in order to get us to part with out money. Great point on the milk, by the way, we always buy store brand unless we have a coupon for a name brand which would make it cheaper.

    • Aaron permalink*
      February 12, 2013

      @Kendal – love the advice! Thanks!
      @John – yup, being in marketing too, all too familiar with the tricks :(

  3. barry permalink
    March 3, 2013

    I buy my milk at gas stations in upstate NY. Better dates then the megastores and 2.99 gallon, went up from 2.89 last week. Also xtra large eggs for 1.25 dozen, wnet up last week from .99. been like this for 8 years. and it’s name brand, Bryne Dairy or Crowley. Also Riteaid is 2.99 all the time

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