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Easy Money: Supermarket Savings

before you go

make a list "Shopping with a list will save you 40 percent," says Phil Lempert, the "Supermarket Guru." "Since people tend to buy 80 to 85 percent of the same foods, use your receipts from the previous month to create a master list."
...and check it twice Cross off items you already have and give yourself some leeway. "Allow three splurges to keep impulse buying in check," says Lempert.
clip with care "Only clip coupons for items on your list," advises Lempert. Otherwise, you'll buy things you don't need.
pre-shop online Log on to your supermarket's website to see the week's circular; you'll get a jump-start on figuring out what items from your list are on sale.

walking the aisles

avoid temptation There's a reason you should always eat before you go grocery shopping. "The bakery and deli sections are placed up front to entice you to spend more," says Lempert. Unless muffins and smoked turkey are on your list, avoid these areas.
steer clear of the ends Just because there is a huge display doesn't mean it's a good buy. "Only 60 percent of end-of-aisle products are actually on sale," says Lempert.
shop in season If you can't get local produce, Lempert says buy canned or frozen instead; they're not only packaged at the peak of ripeness but are also much less expensive than fruits and veggies flown a long distance.
buy milk at CVS "Your local drugstore chain has the cheapest milk," says Lempert. "It's used as a loss leader to draw in customers to buy other products." As long as you avoid that trap, and don't have to drive out of your way to get there, you're the winner.
try generic Opt for the store brand unless you can get a better deal on a name-brand product with a sale or coupon offer. Switching entirely to generics would shave 40 percent off your yearly grocery bill!

at the checkout

put your blinders on "Ignore the candy, magazines, and other miscellaneous items strategically hanging near the checkout," says Lempert. Or count these often-overpriced items among your three impulse buys.
get a club card It's free! Plus, you'll get instant gratification from seeing how much you saved printed on the receipt. Some stores will even give you a free turkey during the holidays or a percentage off your next purchase based on how many points you accumulate with your card.

What about warehouse clubs? To maximize your membership if you have a small family, avoid buying perishables and instead shop for products without expiration dates -- namely, personal care and cleaning items. Otherwise, buy quantities you're sure to use within a reasonable amount of time. "Also, buying something in bulk doesn't always mean it'll be less expensive," cautions Lempert. Your best bet: Know your prices. Sometimes you can get a better deal stocking up during a sale at the supermarket than at the warehouse club.

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