Did you know that clearance and reduced price items aren’t just for Wal-Mart & Target. You would be amazed at the hidden items you can buy each week to help stretch your grocery budget even further.
In my last post of our How to Save at the Grocery Store Without Coupons Series, I showed you How to Build a Stockpile. This post, will be our final installment for the series. Here, I will leave you with some great tips on how to take your savings further by learning how to find hidden savings at the grocery store.
I know that I told you before that you need to make sure to stick to our list. However, there are times that you find a deal so good it trumps the list! Let me show you how I find hidden savings each week throughout the grocery store.
When I find deals this good, I usually update my list right there on the spot, I still want to make sure I don’t overspend.
How to save in the produce department
The first place I hit at my grocery store is the produce department, it’s right there by the door. Plus, if you want to be really healthy and try to stay away from all the processed junk, it’s best to shop the outside aisles, produce having the healthiest choices. A lot of people find produce expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
Stop buying organic. I know that organic may be better for my family, but buying organic puts a huge price tag on your grocery bill. Instead of buying organic, make sure that you thoroughly wash those veggies as soon as you get home. Also, if you buy in season, and local, you will usually find produce that is just as good if you ask me. I have never purchased organic and grew up on regular old produce.
My family will too. I know that’s controversial for some, but I really can’t see myself paying double price for organic produce.
Buy in season. I have said this before, but it is worth repeating. Buying produce in season is always best. When items are in season they will be at their lowest price, plain and simple.
Even better, if you wait until the end of the season, you will see the price drop even more!
Find the discounted produce section at your store. As soon as your store sees that something is really beginning to ripen, they know it’s only a matter of time before this turns.
That is typically when they take the produce out of rotation and mark them down. For my store, they keep their expiring produce towards the back of the store, behind the “good stuff”.
Before I get the produce that is already on my list, I always check the back to see if I can get something just as good, for a much better price.
Just recently, my husband and I were able to find a boat-load of bananas (seriously there was a table set up just for these, on top of the regular discounted produce section) that were discounted to $0.15 a pound.
We always stock up on these and freeze them in pieces so we can add them to oatmeal, make banana bread, banana pancakes and more.
The best part, even though the outside was browned (and I mean dark), the inside of most could still be used just to eat or put in our cold cereal. You would be amazed at how much you can find that still looks good, or just has a bruise or two. Of course, you can still use these, you just need to cut off the one or two bruised parts and the rest is fresh.
This is how I find the best deals on berries and grapes and usually at least half of them (if not all) are still good to eat. The same for veggies, even for those that look like they need to be used today, are still great for cooking.
Most of the discounted produce is good for at least the current week. Just make sure to buy only enough to last that long, unless you freeze things, like the bananas we found. Of course there are duds every once in a while, it’s still worth a peek!
Thoroughly examine the expiration dates. Typically the “sell by” or “use by” date is about a week out. Sometimes it’s 3-5 days out. Play close attention and see if you can use these items before they expire.
I have realized, over time, that as long as I use these items within the week I purchased them, they will usually last up to around 7 days. Enough time for me to use up between then, and my next shopping trip. I aim to get no more than I know I can use within that week.
Don’t let bruising and marks scare you off. Unless something is overly mushy (squeeze to test like you would any other produce) you can use it. Don’t be scared off by things like a few bruises or a mark or two. You can easily cut these off and have a perfectly useable, and still quite tasty, product.
Decide if you can use it raw or if it has to be cooked. There are some times when an item is just not right for eating raw, it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not that good. However, cook it down and it’s perfect. Examine the discounted produce and make a command decision based on what you see.
How to save in the meat department
Look for “Managers Special” tags. Each day your grocery store meat manager has to find all of those that are about to “meat” their end (sorry, I just had to go there), and start hacking prices.
Usually you will see it marked “managers special” and will either have a specific price or a discount coupon.
One of my favorite stores keeps their discounted meat at the end of the meat department. They typically have “coupons” on them which the cashier will take off at the register. These are typically for around $3.00 or $2.00 off the price printed.
The calculator on your phone (or a pocket calculator) is great for this. I always figure out the price per pound, after the discount and compare it with my price book. If it’s less than my pricebook, I usually purchase one or two packages and freeze them for another time.
This helps for when I am creating my menu plan from what I already have on hand. Plus, meat can usually stay frozen and useable up to 3 months past the expiration date. A lot of people even say 3-6 months, but I like to err on the side of caution with this.
Look for packages marked as “previously frozen” Sometimes I will find ground beef for almost half the price when my local grocery store has “previously frozen” meat.
As long as you are going to either defrost and use immediately, or just keep frozen, this is a safe and very inexpensive way to save more on the meat you like to buy week to week.
Purchase fresh instead of going to the deli. Chicken can go on sale at my grocery store for around $0.89 a pound for a whole chicken. If I were to purchase chicken lunch meat at the deli counter, it would cost around $3.99 a pound.
Instead of heading to the deli, why not stock up on some delicious fresh chicken, make a nice chicken dinner, and use the left overs for sandwiches? Or if you’re feeling super frugal, just use it all for sandwiches.
Not only will you save around $3.00 a pound, but you will also have a much tastier, fresher sandwich.
How to save at the deli counter
Look for the “ends”. Did you ever want to know what happens when the deli gets close to the end of slicing up their product? Obviously for safety reasons, they can’t just slice up everything.
Instead of wasting this and throwing away those deli ends, they wrap them up and sell “Turkey Ends”, “Ham Ends”, “Cheese Ends” and more. Look around your deli counter, or ask the manager where they keep these, the next time you go shopping and you will find a steep discount.
Even if you don’t think these would be good for sandwiches, they are excellent for cooking. My family uses the ham ends for breakfast a lot, and the cheese ends are great for recipes that call for melted cheese.
Also, sometimes the “ends” are just slices that were too thick or too thin when someone was ordering. I like to mix it up when I go and get one package that’s a bit chunkier (for cooking) and one that’s a bit thinner (for using cold).
Purchase fresh instead of going to the deli. This works for lunch meat, but is can also work for cheese too! When there is a really good deal, you can usually purchase a nice log of cheddar cheese from the dairy section, and have a tastier cheese for your sandwich at a much better price!
How to Save on Dairy and other refrigerated goods
Look out for reduced prided dairy. You guessed it, there is usually a discounted dairy section too! I was able to buy a gallon of “iced coffee” from International Delight for $1.00 and it was one of the sweetest treats I got for myself this past summer.
I have been waiting to see these get discounted again. Here is where you will also see items that are going to expire within the week (though sometimes I have seen things out even a bit more).
Even milk will sometimes be here. I bet you did’t know that milk can last for one month in the freezer (another trick I learned from my friends over at Stock Piling Moms).
Yogurt and some other goodies can be had too. It’s always great to check this out, and keep an eye on the expiration, before you get the refrigerated goodies on your list.
How to Save on bread and bakery goods
Look for the day old bread section at your bakery. I find this towards the back of my store, but most will be near the bakery (it’s always good to ask if you can’t find this yourself).
I find some of the best deals on bread in the discounted bakery/grocery section of my store. Almost each week I see my store brand white and wheat bread here for $0.50 a loaf. This is unheard of for the rock bottom sales price, so I always stock up on these.
When the french bread gets discounted we usually get a loaf for french toast. Plus there are the deserts, donuts and more. I try to stay away from these, only because I know they are bad for me, but sometimes I give in.
I like to heat up donuts the next day instead of buying them out, for a weekend treat. Of course, shopping on Sunday afternoon/night usually helps me fight this urge.
Reheat day old donuts. Like I said, I love getting day old donuts it’s just so much less expensive that going to the coffee shop to buy them on the weekends.
Yes, sometimes they may be slightly stale, or maybe a little messy, but I find if you put them in the microwave for just 30 seconds, you can make them taste just as good as the fresh ones!
Keep bread in the freezer. In order to make your bread last, especially when you stock up on the day old bread deals, you can keep your whole loaf in the freezer.
When you are ready to use it, simply pull out and defrost exactly what you need at that time and put the rest back in the freezer. This is the only way we store bread at our house. If it’s an uncut loaf, simply cut ahead of time and put in the freezer.
How to save in the frozen food aisle
Stock up on frozen fruits and veggies. Yes, there are some things you want to have access to all year round. Maybe your kid (or even your husband) will only eat certain vegetables.
Maybe you love berries for smoothies. Instead of paying extra at the produce department for fresh ones out of season, head on over to the frozen foods section. Their quality is pretty close to the real thing, but the price is so much sweeter.
I can usually find all sorts of frozen veggies for $1.00 a bag/box at my store. Plus, they cook up quicker than the fresh ones too, so they are great for quick meals. Who doesn’t need those most of the time anyway!
Check for a discounted freezer section. My store has one, but these are the deals I see a little less often. However when I do see them it’s great! I see more during the summer time, and it’s great for ice cream and popsicles that I can treat my family with for the week! believe me, they will get gobbled up before they expire.
How to find deals on dry goods and more!
Check the aisles whenever you are shopping. You would be surprised to find secret savings just in the middle of the aisle. This tends to happen when there is going to be a re-launch or the item didn’t sell well.
I don’t usually keep an eye out for these, but if I’m going down an aisle already, I will peek around my staples and see if there is anything I can get a good deal on. I found a great deal on olive oil doing this once.
Check the holiday themed items after the jolly season is over. This works for all holidays, but is best around Christmas, Easter and Halloween.
There are so many things that they add snowflakes, bunnies and pumpkins to that just don’t sell well after the holiday hoopla is all done. At this time you would be surprised to find discounted napkins, cookies, and more. Just keep an eye out if you are already at the store!
Look for a discount section. Sometimes you will see some other items on discount too, my section is by the bread and bakery items, but it maybe somewhere else for you.
I take a quick peek and only sometimes find great deals with these. Sometimes its a seasonal thing, like when I got Halloween cupcakes and frosting that didn’t expire for another two years. Sometimes it’s an expiration thing, so keep a close eye, or even a damaged thing. Use your best judgement,, but its worth a peek.
What are your grocery store savings secrets? Please share in the comments below!