If you choose to learn no other tip offered throughout this website, this one tip, by itself, will help you to save money.
There is no way around this. The only way you can really save money is to know if an item is really a good price is if you know what the price is on a regular basis.
Managers spend a large part of their budget learning what makes their customers tick. They incorporate that information into their sales using psychographics, which is a subliminal way to get the attention of people and encouraging them to spend more of their hard earned money.
It is subterfuge that is used to make you THINK the item is cheaper or is a great deal, when it really is not. This is done in a variety of ways: through use of colors, advertisement gimmicks, placement of packages, etc.
You – the shopper – do not even know that you are being reeled into a sales gimmick!
The tool is a Price Book. I use an Excel spreadsheet. Even someone who is a novice at using Excel can do this. I enter items that I normally buy along the left side and then the supermarkets that I frequently use along the top. I built calculations into the UNIT price column. From weekly circulars, I enter the prices for the items that I will need for the next menu for next week and the size of the item. The calculations show what the price is per ounce or per pound or per can.
A Price Book is the single most important tool to help you beat supermarket managers at their own game. Their game is not to pad your pocket! With this knowledge, you will instantly recognize when:
1. A sale is really a sale versus prices that are either increased so the “sale” price appears cheaper, or
2. Signs posted that make an item appear to be a “sale”
It is particularly important that you know the price of each item by unit price (ounce or pound). The reason for this is have you ever noticed that some cans of red kidney beans (as an example) are 9.5 ounces while others are 11 ounces and still others 15 ounces? That is why you need to know the price by ounce.
You will be amazed at how frequently an item really is on sale; however, the regular price of an item is cheaper when you have a manufacturer coupon (or an eCoupon uploaded to your loyalty card), or much cheaper at a farmers market.
Psychographics are throughout the store. ALL supermarkets use this trick: One such trick is to put a bright (usually YELLOW) “sales tag” over the regular price. Lift up that tag and look under it. Many times the “sale price” is exactly the same as their regular price!
Supermarket managers know that people are “conditioned” to think that a sale really is a sale when they see a BRIGHT YELLOW or RED SALES tag.
Red: People have been trained to know that RED means STOP
Many manufacturers use red package design because studies show it causes a sense of urgency and in this case, it makes you want to purchase the “sale” items RIGHT NOW.
Also take note that red is used as an accent rather than the primary color in a display. The reason is too much red annoys people.
Yellow: is the first color that your eyes see.
It also makes an item appear larger than it actually is, thereby making a consumer think he/she is getting a lot of a product for the price.
Remember to bring the sales circular to the store for the times that the clerk at checkout will not honor the price, telling you that the item you quoted is not on sale. That happens very frequently. Not that the clerk is being dishonest but rather that the sales prices were not entered appropriately into the computer system. With the circular in hand, you can enforce that they honor their sales price.
See my example below:
- First step: I highlight the food items in column A in blue that I will need for the menu for this week (see “Create a Useful Menu” on page 44 of this eBook). As I flip through the weekly circulars of the stores that I use most, I enter those prices and ounce sizes into my Price Book
- I have calculations in the “Per Ounce” column (=B11/C11) or (=E11/F11), etc. I enter prices in column B (Acme) and total ounces (column C), the unit price appears in column D.
- After I finish going through the circulars, entering prices and ounce sizes, I then highlight (yellow) the best unit price of items I will need for my menu. When I am done, it is a snap to see what stores I will need to visit to get the best prices.
- Line 17 (Baked Beans, Bush), it is a no-brainer which store has the best price, so I highlight that in yellow.
- Line 23 and 24: even though the unit prices are the same at Acme, Pathmark, and ShopRite, since Acme had many best prices, I had decided that I will definitely go to Acme and that is the reason I only highlighted the prices under Acme.
- Note that I also have cells highlighted under “Aldi” but no price. Because Aldi is about 15 miles from my home, the only time I stop there is when I will be doing something else in Elkton, MD (where Aldi is located). Otherwise, the money I save by going to Aldi (if I just went to the store only because the prices are the best), would be spent on gasoline. So, I highlight the items that normally are the best of all the stores so that I will remember to watch those items at all other stores for the times that I will be going to Elkton anyway. Those weeks, I pull the weekly circular from Aldi and enter the prices.
- The notes that I enter under “Comments” are to remind myself that those items are normally cheaper than stores. This time, I apples and bananas are not in my menu, so there is no need for me to enter the prices at supermarkets.
- Again, although bacon is not on my menu this time, notice that Amish Farmers Market is highlighted. That is because the quality for bacon at the Amish Farmers Market makes it a no-brainer for me. Unless there is a clearance at a supermarket, I normally only get bacon (when it is on the menu) at the Amish Farmers Market.
You can increase your savings when you learn when the sales rotations run at the various stores that you use. Supermarkets run their sales on a rotating basis (usually every 12-15 weeks). With a Price Book, you will be able to discover the rotation for each of your favorite supermarkets so you can prepare to capitalize on the true sales.
TAKE ACTION #1, Part 1: Create your own Price Book. Include all the food items that you normally use. Open a weekly sales circular from the supermarkets you use the most and enter the prices for those items that are listed in the circular. Calculate the price per ounce.
TAKE ACTION #1, Part 2: After you have worked with your Price Book for two months, take a trip to a supermarket and look at the items that you normally get and prove to yourself that you will automatically know the regular prices.
TAKE ACTION #1, Part 3: Make a point of lifting up those YELLOW sales tags and see for yourself how many items have the exact same price underneath as that which shows up on the yellow sales tag. Submit a comment detailing how many sales tags you looked under and how many prices underneath were more than the sale tag (meaning was the sales tag a real sales).
TAKE ACTION #2: Create your own taste testing night. Buy one brand name item and one store brand item. Be sure to completely cover the labels on both brand name and store brand items – – or remove the products completely from the containers they came in and put into small containers labeled “A” and “B”. A = store brand; B = brand name item. Which does your family like? Keep in mind that you will need to mix up “A” and “B” so that A will not always be the store brand.
I had my granddaughter with me one time while I was shopping. With her generation (Millennials), I have learned that the best way to get her interest is to pose a “problem” and make it seem very difficult for me to figure out how to get an answer.
She INSTANTLY figured out how to tell whether a “sale” was a good deal. She even discovered that by using a manufacturer coupon that I had made the brand name item even cheaper than the “sale” item.
When I made a big deal of how she saved money AND purchased the brand item using the coupon, she could not be contained! She asked if she could help with other items on my grocery list. She does this regularly now without even thinking about it!
The next “lesson” that I taught her in a completely non-imposing way, was to simply ask if she knew if the price UNDERNEATH the YELLOW sale tag was the same or more?
She asked what I meant. I asked if she checked the price under the yellow tag. She asked why she should do that and I responded that many times, the tags are subterfuge.
She immediately ran back to the “sale” tag, looked underneath, and returned to tell me that the price was EXACTLY THE SAME as the ‘sale tag”!!! And then continued by saying: “Nana – that is cheating”!
I explained that was a “sales gimmick” and unfortunately, that is considered cheating; however, supermarket managers discovered that people are trained to think that when they see “SALE” that it really is a sale, and most people, who are trusting, automatically buy the item thinking they got a good deal. And I finished by reminding her that you “cannot trust a book by its cover” (opening the door for another lesson at a later time).
Geez – talk about subliminal techniques. I am guilty of it myself!
By the way, with technology today, you can find out if an eCoupon is available and upload it as you are standing in front of the item in the supermarket. More info on that topic in the section: “Determine Free Items”
Below is another example to illustrate that you MUST know the regular prices:
For years, a local supermarket has run a MAJOR SALE in January. They named the sale the “Can-Can Sale” and they blitz the public with Moulin Rouge French Can-Can dancers (the music is catchy) starting several weeks PRIOR to the sale. They spend a significant amount of money on this gimmick, and always with the music because they are “conditioning” the general public. The entire charade is to get the people to focus on the excitement of the upcoming fantastic sale rather than on the prices.
- Of interest, about 2 years ago, the “Can-Can Sale” also began running in July.
- Next change, this past January, the sale ran for two weeks back-to-back.
- Weekly circulars that suddenly appear EVERYWHERE. (Those circulars are not cheap). It seemed no matter what channel you watched on television, you heard the Moulin Rouge jingle!
People showed up for the sale in droves and yanked products off the shelves at the speed of light – and by the case (rather than each item). It was actually comical. Because I now know what the regular prices are, I also saw instantly that MOST of those “sale” items were priced at their regular prices. They had a BRIGHT YELLOW CAN-CAN sale tag right above or below the items to call attention to those items that were “included” in the Can-Can sale.
There are always a few items that really are a great price, so that is when I stock up for the entire year because most of the items are canned goods or pastas. Most of the items are store brand items rather than brand name items; however, canned beans taste almost the same whether store brand or brand name. Also, through taste tests that I have conducted, I discovered that many of their store brand items are as good as brand items, and in some cases their store brand items are better than brand named items.
NOTE: another major supermarket in my area suddenly tried running a “Cantastic Sale” 2-3 years ago. What that told me was they had done their research and found out how profitable the Can-Can Sale was for their competitor so they got on the bandwagon themselves! However, I do not recall seeing that sale again this past July so I suspect that they could not compete with the Can-Can Sale, which has been advertised for years.
Other sales that run throughout the year are less advertised; however, if you know what prices to look for, which supermarkets will run those sales, and when those sales will happen, you can match manufacturer coupons to the upcoming sales items (manufacturer coupons are primarily on bottled items, canned, items, and paper products). Match those coupons to sales and re-stock your pantry at 45% – 50% or more off the regular prices.
- Paper towels and toilet tissue for approximately half price
- Boxed cereals are sold at amazing prices
- Ice cream is sold at certain times for half price
- Frozen veggie sales are rotational
- Cans usually have a 1-2 year shelf-life
- Manufacturer coupons are frequently on bottled and canned items, so combine them with the can-can sale!
The goal is to have enough of any given non-perishable product on hand so that you can wait until the sales rotations come around again.
NOTE: I subscribe to SmartShopper magazine and they regularly have an expert taste testing panel test a wide variety of items both well-known manufacturer brands as well as store brands and in some cases, warehouse brands. One thing that I notice is that many times, the store brands and some warehouse brands rank above the well-known manufacturer brands. My point in saying this is so that you keep an open mind when purchasing food items.
In fact, why not consider having your own taste testing nights. Not only is it fun quality family time, but you may be amazed that the “store brand” tastes as good as, if not better than, well known manufacturer items.
Bigger is not always the best way to get things. Sometimes smaller items cost less. Check the ounce price and then see if you can get a manufacturer coupon; many times, the smaller item will be totally free.