Supermarket Strategy: Time or Money?

Know when saving time is costing you money. And when it's worth it!

By Gary Foreman


Shopping for food consumes a lot our time and money. Because most of us are short on time and because grocers see this as an opportunity to increase their profits, canny shopper need to be aware of ways to save money at the supermarket while still finding ways to same time.

Supermarkets are stocked with any number of convenience foods designed to save us time (if not money). Many of us pay for the convenience of not having to plan meals when we buy pre-measured and prepared ingredients.

To Cook or Not: Your Choice
As a general rule, the less processed a food or product is, the less expensive it is, and the less packaging it needs. Less processing often translates into more healthful food, too, because you are buying it close to its natural state.

The next time you shop, take a look at your grocery cart. How much prepared food are you buying? You may not think you have time to clean carrots, but you will pay extra for the baby-cut prepared ones. You might prefer to buy marinated and seasoned chicken breasts, but it's less costly to marinate them yourself.

If you know the difference in price for these and scores of other items, you can make an intelligent decision when its in your best interest to save your time or your money.

Buying ingredients closer to their raw state usually saves money, but doing so means you will probably have to prep and cook these ingredients. This might take some time and know-how. Usually, the pay-off is worth it in terms of flavor, health, and family well-being. And don’t forget about the money you will save.

Compare Prices
Learn to compare prices so that you can identify and stock up when you find a true bargain. The paper towels on sale may not actually be less expensive than your favorite brand. If you know prices, you will recognize a bargain.

The best tool for this is a price book you keep yourself online or on paper. This is simply a listing of items you commonly buy and the lowest price(s) for each item you have paid for it. This will help you identify the true sales.

Shoppers who use a price book regularly claim to save up to 20 percent. Twenty percent of $100 is $20. If you spend $500 at the market each month, you will save $100. That can make a significant difference in the course of a year.

With even two or three adjustments, you may find you save a noticeable amount on your grocery bill. And your family may even eat more healthfully for it!

Gary Foreman is a former purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and ezine.