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August 11, 2008

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Think. Some items in bulk or larger quantities are more expensive. You can buy a 5 pack of Kraft macaroni or 5 boxes of it. the 5 separate boxes are always cheaper. The stores and MFGs have caught on to the bulk thing and are using it to make money.

You just have to be careful. The stores I worked at did not price a case a certain way. If a customer didn't ask for a discount a case would just ring up at 12x the individual item price.

Just be alert of what the cost should be for the number in a case. To be clear, I wasn't talking about something like the kraft instance Meoip mentioned. But the larger case that might contain 12-36 of an item.

FMF, thanks a bunch for running my article! I enjoy reading this site and it's a pleasure to be on it.

You really should not be telling people to buy dented cans, that'll put someone on a fast track to a case of botulism.

Cans have liners in them, and when dented (even if there is no crease) then it can break the liner of the can. If the interior liner is broken, it WILL cause a reaction and spoil the contents.

If the can is dented greatly, it may also have an air leak in it, which will swell the can and again... botulism.

These are some great ideas. I would also suggest beginning a grocery price log. You can Google search that phrase and even find sample Excel templates to download. The basis behind a price log is to track the prices of each product you buy so you know the cheapest locations to shop when it comes time to stock up on ramen noodles and beef jerky. For example, I eat a ton of chicken breasts and the nearest Kroger store is the least expensive store by far, but Kashi cereal for some reason is terribly expensive at Kroger so I buy it at a nearby Super Wal-Mart instead. I never have to look at a price and wonder if it is a good deal or not because I can compare it against my price log.

I have never heard of that before, and I have been buying and consuming the contents of dented cans for years. My understanding is bulging or leaking cans are unsafe, not dented ones. If the crease is sharp enough that it may have caused a hole, I'd err on the side of caution, but the vast majority of dents are nowhere near that deep.

As for liners, I have only seen them in cans holding acidic contents, such as tomatoes. I have never seen a liner in, say, a green bean or fruit cocktail can.

Having dealt with dented cans, a store throws out anything that looks too severe. Again: be smart. I rarely consume canned anything, opting for fresh or frozen instead. I have purchased olive oil and other random things from the damaged rack--nothing wrong with them, just on clearance.

How about just not buying stuff! The grocery store is full of food that has no nutrition in it! What a waste of money! You do not NEED sweets and snacks, and the value of your dollar is greatly increased if you buy high nutrition (produce, bulk) rather than processed or packaged. I'm more and more worried about inflation each day, too. I'm retired, and on a fixed income and am pretty freaked out.

Each store seems to have loss leaders, but can you really save money chasing these? I just go to my store and figure it all averages out.

If you want to follow prices, track gatorade. It's a fun product if you like price psychology. The price is never the same week to week, but stays within a range. It fluctuates constantly. Frequently you get the X for $Y, or something like that. But even normally, the price never stays the same week to week.

Here's one I'd like a grocery insider to answer: Why do grocery stores buy so much stuff that does not sell? Orange gatorade and pepperoni pizzas sell. But blue paste gatorade and liver-and-onions pizza don't. (You know what I mean -- flavors of stuff no one ever buys.) This stuff just sits there while the limited quantities of the stuff people buy sell out instantly. Why don't grocery stores use their computerized inventory and customer purchase tracking cards to buy more of what sells and less of the stuff no one wants?

I stay away from canned foods altogether. Those "liners" you're talking about mayy contain BPA which can leach into the food. Google "BPA" and you'll find all kinds of info on how bad this stuff is.

Eat fresh foods or buy things in glass containers, then you don't have to worry about BPA or botulism.

Kroger is a chain that has very questionable practices, so much so that we have stopped going unless they have excellent deals, and even then, we basically buy what's on sale and avoid the rest. Here's three things that have gotten under my skin:

1. Yellow tags ALL over the store for sales. Yet, if you look closely, it seems that over half of them are a couple of pennies off, so it's $2.94 but the regular price is $2.99.

2. Not putting the regular price or how much you're saving in the ad. I think a lot more stores are doing this, which is too bad, but I guess when they're doing 'item 1' as much as I've noticed, it would make sense. Still, it's frustrating to not be able to see at first glance, how much you're saving.

3. This is the one that put me over the edge. Milk prices have gone up recently, so it's understandable that half-gallons of milk would no longer be priced in their 10 for $10 group. Back when regular gallons were going for $2.50 a gallon, that was common and a good savings. But, when milk prices started rising last year, Kroger took advantage the situation. Their regular price was about $3.15 a gallon. But, they started putting their half gallons ON SALE for 6 for $10, which equates to $3.33 per gallon, 18 cents HIGHER than the non-sale priced gallon. I would see people in the store with 8 or 10 half gallons in their cart and it drove me nuts! Yes, people should do the math for themselves, but to me, it's misleading advertising, it takes advantage of the goodwill that they'd built with years of 10 for $10 pricing, and most importantly, it shows that they have very little respect for their customers.

I shop at the same two stores every week. It's good advice to get to know your store and their pricing. And I also have noticed if something is 2 for $5 or some similar pricing, I am only charged $2.50 if I buy one of them. Plus, the store where I do most of my shopping has a gas station where I always get at least 18 cents per gallon discount, sometimes as much as 27 cents.

Sticking to the perimeter is right out of Michael Pollan's latest book "In Defense of Food". He advises that most of the stuff in the interior ailes is heavily processed, with lots of sugar, salt and fat. I notice I put lots of things in my cart at the start (in the produce aisle) but not much more in the interior ailes (except for dried beans, fruits, nuts, tea and coffee etc.) until I get to the other end of the store where the meat, dairy and frozen foods are located.

Michael, I recently started shopping at Krogers (new town, new store). It's better than wal mart, but I'm not too impressed. We'll see if I keep going there.

Pink Panther,

I'm not sure. I had a hand in ordering at one store for the freezer department. Some things can be kept for a long time with out problems. One great example: when cool whip or whipped topping went on sale we bought a TON of it. Like...100 cases. But it moves QUICK on sale, like 5 or 6 cases a day. Then we'd have left overs to sell at regular price (but we bought at sale price....so the store might make an extra .30 in profit.

Most stores use computerized ordering. The other chain I worked at had literally no back stock. That meant if a product was gone on the shelf, it was gone. That said, my first store did not do this. We had piles of stuff we didn't need, but it sold eventually. It reality it's a waste for the store: inventory ties up otherwise more liquid cash, and makes you books look like crap. Plus it's a pain to work around. Most likely, it's just a manager guessing wrong and ordering too much of the wrong thing. oops!

I think what you'll see in the future is more "membership" programs (like Kroger does). Then they get your all your personal info. You scan that card every time, the computer collects data on items you frequently purchase. Then the store can mail (or email to save paper hopefully) coupons specifically catered to your buying trends. Scary but very possible. Anyone know of stores that do this?

-CD

If you're lucky enough to have an Aldi's in your area, try it. You won't find national brands there, but almost all store brands are made by the same manufacturers anyway. Aldi's carries just 5,000 items per store (versus 100,000 for a typical chain grocer), but they are the highest-selling items (milk, bread, cereal, etc.). So you can't do all your shopping there, but you can get 80%+ of the items. The prices are sometimes unbelievable -- skim milk = $2.29/gal vs $3.69 elsewhere. They only have 3 employees running the store, and you have to bring or buy your bags. But I am saving about 40% on the basics we need every week.

@pink panther: one reason grocery chains buy things that won't sell is because the manufacturer wants them to try new lines. So they will give the grocery a discount on their regular items to take the new one in (in essence, giving the new item away). Also, the manufacturers will pay "slotting fees", or fees to get shelf space for their products. It's not uncommon for a chain to make more profit on slotting fees for some items than on the sale of those items. And, third, much of a store's shelf space is managed by the manufacturers -- they are responsible for keeping their shelves stocked, rotated and properly signed. You'll see these people in the cookie, snacks, soda areas most often, and early in the morning.


Most stores use computerized ordering. The other chain I worked at had literally no back stock. That meant if a product was gone on the shelf, it was gone. That said, my first store did not do this. We had piles of stuff we didn't need, but it sold eventually. It reality it's a waste for the store: inventory ties up otherwise more liquid cash, and makes you books look like crap. Plus it's a pain to work around. Most likely, it's just a manager guessing wrong and ordering too much of the wrong thing.

Great post and I have included it in the latest edition of the Money Hacks carnival as an editors pick!

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