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Friday, July 18, 2008

Grocery Shopping: Three Other Notes

I forgot to make these two notes in my last post:

1. Experiment with different brands. You probably won't want to stock up when trying a new brand the first time you try it, but chances are you will probably be quite pleased with a lot of the store brands sitting on the shelf. The higher priced brands, or brands with the biggest profit margin, tend to sit at eye level. So look up and down while shopping.

2. Get to know your grocery store layout. It is no longer the case that all pasta is in aisle 5. Today you might find pasta in two aisles as many grocery stores are setting aside "ethnic" brands in different isles. Spices are almost always priced less (far less) in the ethnic section. I've found pasta is priced less also, as is olive oil.

3. Check your receipt. Stores make mistakes and it can happen more often than you think. Watch the cash register carefully and try to check your receipt.


Anonymous said...

Great discussions. One point--in all of your discussion about coupons, you neglect to mention the danger of coupons. Don't pay more for something than you would otherwise because you have a coupon for it.

Case in point--the whole family used to use Dove Body Wash. It costs $6-$8 depending on the store. We'd often find coupons on it for $0.50 or $1 off. But now we buy Target or Walmart brand---it is just as good (seems identical), but costs less than $3. In most cases, we have found coupons are only on overpriced goods we don't buy anyways. Despite the discount, you are still paying more than you would on a comparable generic.

Miriam said...

amen to that! i used to clip coupons, but then I realized that it was easier (and cheaper) to get store brand stuff instead....

Anonymous said...

Companies don't publish coupons for their own health. They do it to entice you to buy. Unless they are store coupons for loss leaders, they will never beat the generics in price.

The only name brand I think we use over the generic is liquid Tide. We found the Walmart generic worked well, but they don't sell it anymore in the big containers, so Tide on sale is a better buy. No other generic seems to work, and when we consider how much we wash clothing, it seems the extra cost of Tide is paid for by the longevity of the family clothing. Anybody know an alternative?

twinsmommy said...

sometimes though a store brand just isn't good enough. Then I just LOVE coupons.

I decided there are certain things I will NOT buy generic.

Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil-- any other foil just pisses me off because I have to spend 20 minutes trying to pry it off the roll when it rips wrong.

Diapers---- I went through a period of a few months when I could use target brand or cvs brand diapers but then my kids bladders grew..... *sigh*. Now ONLY the name brands will work.

And for heaven's sake--- does ANYONE out there want to use NON two ply toiletpaper? We'll live in a cardboard box before skimping on the toiletpaper. :)

SephardiLady said...

With double coupons up to $0.99 plus the sales price, I often find brand names to be less. Like I said, check the circular, grab your coupons, and bring your calendar. I've even been paid to buy products after the coupon doubles.

Ezzie said...

In terms of storebrand stuff... we tend to not like many of them. However, if they say 'compare to', it often is the exact product that it being compared to from the same wholesaler under a diff label. Easy way to save lots of money.

ProfK said...

TwinsMommy, try America's Choice aluminum foil--Shoprite and Waldbaum's store brand in a lot of their stores--made by Reynolds and just as thick and easy to use. Otherwise I'm with you--the other foils aren't the same thickness.

SL is right, when the name brands are on sale then the coupons are the way to go. I got multi-grain Cheerios last week for 88 cents a box that way. I got the 100 oz. All when the store put it down for $2.99--a terrific price right there--but with a 50 cent coupon that doubled I paid 1.99 and bought ten. I buy soda only for Shabbos, but last week one of the stores had it on sale for 69 cents, limit of four. I had coupons that were 50 cents off for two bottles--with doubling the store paid me. Shoprite has Pepsi 12-pack cans on sale starting today at 5 for $10. I have 5 coupons for 75 cents good on any pepsi product--with doubling I'm going to pay 50 cents a twelve pack. One key is to not "waste" the coupons unless the product is on sale. Then you can clean up.

Re the store receipts: The computerized register tapes are wrong more often then they are right, especially on in-store specials and on the day they change from one sale to another. They had to refund me close to $11 on Friday because the computer picked up my national coupons but failed to register the store sale price. And one item came up higher then the price marked on the shelf. I sent them to check and they had to give me the shelf price. Also, if you are buying multiple items, count how many you were charged for. Frequently the checkout person scans one or two too many because they have lost count.

Anonymous said...

Aluminum foil. My wife found coupons for $1 off any size, and then a week or two later the small size went on sale buy-one-get-one-free, or $1.095 each. So she bought 40 (maybe more) of them for $0.095 (+tax) each. Now we have a whole cabinet full of aluminum foil!

She also bought a ton of diapers a year and a half ago when the diaper companies were changing their packaging. She got a bunch for 75% off and then at the end when they were almost gone, she found some at 90% off. Now, a year and a half later, we are just running out of those diapers (and have bought more at different sales). It is very handy with the twins still in diapers!

We also bought lots of olive oil at a terrific sale about 2 years ago, and still have a few bottles left from that sale. We store it in back of the pantry where it is generally cool and dark and haven't noticed any ill effects on the sealed bottles of olive oil, they still taste great and cook well.

Basically, the idea is to stock up on items that you use regularly whenever you see a good sale. Stock up even more when there is a terrific sale. And use coupons as wisely as possible.


JS said...

Are there websites that report what companies are actually making the store brands?

Ariella said...

Actually I think that some generic brands are all made by the same manufacturer. For example, it appears to me that both Super A and Stop and Shop ice cream are the same product. So it's possible the same holds for the seltzer and other parallel products under those names. The quality seems fine, though Edy's is still my family's general favorite for ice cream. Happily, it goes on sale fairly often.
The receipt check and check as prices are put in -- particularly for produce -- is all-too-necessary at some of the kosher stores here. They often fail to update their registers with the sale price, so it doesn't ring up right. Also the cashiers either key in the wrong code or just assume a different price for the produce that gets weighed. It really is a pain, though, to correct everything, as they then call for a price-check and need to get the key to void out the wrong price. But, halachically, I feel I have to alert them, whether the error is in my favor or theirs. Just as much as I don't wish to be shortchanged, I don't wish to cheat the store.

twinsmommy said...

profk, do you happen to know if there are any waldbaums or shoprite stores in cleveland? I'm pretty sure there aren't, but I've only lived here a few years, so I don't know. I'd love to try that brand but if they don't sell it here, I'll stick with Reynolds. :)

Lion of Zion said...


"Are there websites that report what companies are actually making the store brands?"
i'll bet the companies wouldn't like this.

i once called up costco to inquire if their brand of soy milk which they started to stock was really parve because it had an OU-D (thanks to the now-defunct OU-DE). i don't remember the details of the conversation, but they told me they were now selling the brand product under their own label.

incidentally, that is another reason i like costoc. a lot of their generic products are just as good as the the real deal (if not the exact product under their own label). an unfortunate exception is diapers, which we learned about the hard way.

ProfK said...

You want to know who is making a particular store's generic products? Ask the store manager. The shoprite manager has been open about all his products as was the Waldbaum's manager before they were taken over by King Kullen in our area. Stop and Shop will tell you if they know. So will Pathmark.

An assistant manager at one of the stores that I have become friendly with over the past many years explained something to me that you should be aware of. I asked him why his store brand product on a particular laundry product was not as thick as the one under the national brand label. His rueful answer? When they produce the brand for his store chain they add more water to the product--how else do you think it could be that much cheaper? Since the store product washes well why should we be paying more for a thicker product? I routinely cut the national brands with extra water now and have found zero, zip difference in washing power.

Truly let the buyer be ware.

Anonymous said...

We discovered with baby formula that just about all of the generics are made by PBM Nutritionals. Some of them carry hashgacha, and some don't. Depending on your Rav, you may need to look around. Safeway Brand and Walmart Brand are both O-U, but Target brand is not (though all 3 are from PBM). $11 per canister vs $27 for Enfamil. No contest!

RaggedyMom said...

A few years ago, I had the time, energy, and independence to shop around a lot more than I do now.

These days I tend to shop in three primary places:
Pathmark - about once every three weeks to once a month, for staples. If there's a sale on something I use, this is the time to stock up.

Fruit store - once a week. We go through a lot of fresh fruits and veg as I try to cook from basic ingredients whenever possible. I usually base my menu ideas around what is on sale here, putting an emphasis on what's in season.

Kosher store - every week or every second week. The kosher stores have the fresher/better selection of meat, poultry, plus cheaper prices on eggs than Pathmark.

One notable exception that I buy a lot of is milk, which is actually cheapest of all at 7-11, where they adjust their prices often and it stays fresh longest.

I've been baking my own challah for the past year, and have always preferred home baked stuff to the bakery stuff, so I don't visit the bakery hardly ever. Basically the only time is when my daughter needs something for school (Shabbos Ima or a birthday party) and it can't be homemade.

I keep my freezer and pantry pretty well-stocked, so once in a while I like to challenge myself to go for a week or two without buying any groceries and try to use up what I have. That, and rigorous inventorying of the fridge and pantry, help me throw away as little (almost no) food as possible. Also, we love leftovers.
What can I say, it must be the leftover trauma of arguments between my parents that mostly ended in my (accented) father pleading, "Don't throw NOTHING away! Nothing!" :)