Grocery-Store Revolution

How much you spend--and save--depends on where you choose to shop

Money Matters

Grocery-Store Revolution

More than ever, how much you spend – and save – depends on where you choose to shop

-Susan Samtur, Select Coupon Program

cart in aisleThirty seven years ago when my super-shopping career began, grocery shopping offered relatively few choices. There were the Mom & Pop stores, dubbed this way because of their size and ownership. Generally, the whole family worked in the store. The hours were long, the prices were not competitive, and the selection was small.

Competition from larger chains started to push the Mom & Pops out of existence. Chains had a buying power unequalled by small shops. Except for local grocers in some of the larger cities where space is a premium, our Mom & Pop stores are a place of the past.

At the same time, Supermarket Chains, were gaining in popularity, technology and size. Today, supermarket technology has taken a giant step forward. With the creation of the bar code or universal product code (UPC) on products, the industry has created an automatic inventory system. Bar codes are also printed on store and manufacturers’ coupons. The purpose: to speed checkout and to eliminate errors.

Link this UPC information to your Store Loyalty Card, and the supermarket is able to come up with a profile of you as a shopper. Have you noticed those coupons that come out of the cash register as you check out? They, too, are linked to your shopping habits. I often buy soy products, so coupons for new soy items are printed as part of my checkout receipt. When I buy detergent, the competing brand issues a checkout coupon as well.

Store Loyalty Cards are issued by all major chains. A simple sign-up guarantees every shopper a card. For the shopper, they eliminate the need to cut out coupons from the store flyer: a big advantage for shoppers who often forget to bring their coupons. Tip: Carry those shopper cards in your wallet so you’ll at least be assured of the store savings if you make a unplanned shopping trip.

Warehouse Shopping was another milestone. The first Sam’s Club opened in 1983, followed soon after by BJ’S. The warehouse stores offer discounts on bulk buying, and require a membership fee to join.

Specialty Markets are another new shopping experience. Some of these include: Trader Joe’s, Stew Leonard’s, and Whole Foods, among others. Each of these fills a niche market for the already over-stimulated shopper.

So where is the best place to shop? My decision is based on the following:

• Does the store accept coupons (many specialty and warehouse stores do not)?
• Are coupon values doubled?
• How close is the store to my home and/or place of business?
• Are the sale products the ones I use most often?
• Is the supermarket often out of the advertised specials?

A few other thoughts to keep in mind:

• Some warehouse stores issue their own coupons and rebates. Costco now mails a coupon booklet chock-full of money-savers.
• Will bulk-buying at warehouse stores cause me to buy more than I can use? Detergent and paper goods will hold their value, but orange juice, eggs, and frozen foods all have expiration dates.
• Can I save as much in a supermarket as I can in a warehouse store? For me, the answer is yes. In a traditional store, I’m not limited to large oversized products and I can judge my purchases according to need, sales and coupon availability.
• I’m not loyal to one store; I choose the store according to the weekly sales.
• Additional trips to specialty stores have benefits as well. I love the smoked salmon at Trader Joe’s, and at $11.99 for a pound, it’s better than I can do in the supermarket.

Remember your goal: to save money, enjoy your shopping and learn with each new trip.

Printable Coupons of the Day:

A batch of coupons from Eat Better America (7 coupons include Yoplait, Fiber One, Total, Wheaties and Green Giant).

Susan J. Samtur is Editor and Chief and Publisher of Refundle Bundle Magazine started in 1973, and founder of Select Coupon Program, a grocery coupons site. Susan is nationally recognized as the “Coupon Queen” and has been featured on Live with Regis, Today, CNN, Fox & Friends, and Good Morning America. She is the author of the best-selling book, Cashing In at the Checkout – a million-copy seller, as well as two other books. She has contributed to Family Circle magazine for over twenty-five years and has been featured in hundreds of newspapers and magazines articles.

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