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Food - Groceries
Written by livecheap staff   
Thursday, 13 May 2010 03:17

Saving money at the grocery store is something we all strive for. While many people worry that their supermarket might Haagen_Dazscheat them by charging a higher price at the cash register, there are much more subtle ways that stores can take you for hundreds of dollars every year without you even knowing it. Some of these are out and out cheats, while others are just shrewd business practices that help them make more money. Little by little these  practices add up to a small fortune over your entire lifetime. Here's 5 of the most common ways that stores separate you from your money without you even knowing it.

Intentionally Lean Packaged Meats:

We don't mean low fat, we mean low weight. Earlier this week, the Ralph's grocery chain in Los Angeles was sued by the city for deliberately selling pre-packaged meats that weighed less than advertised. The Department of Weights and Measures found the practice was widespread dozens of stores. How do they do it? A combination of many different methods: including the package in the weight calculation, adding an ice glazing to the weight, and just plain selling meat that was less than the stated weight. In some stores the average was 3.5% lower than the specified weight. On a two pound package of $5 per pound meat, that works out to 35 cents. Doesn't seem like much until you think about buying 100 of those packages in a year or the chain selling tens of thousands of them every day.

Paying 15% More for Water:

The next time you grab a package of chicken look at it very carefully. You might just find the words "Up to 15% solution." The store will tell you it's to improve the flavor, but it's almost certainly done to boost their bottom line. So while you may be paying $1.99 a pound for that inexpensive chicken, its really more like $2.29. Virtually free water is what helps them boost their profits.

The Meat and Veggies in the Middle:

How often do you buy that big package of meat only to find that the cuts in the middle have a lot more fat or don't look nearly as nice as those that are visible from the top. Butchers have good cuts and not so good cuts and those that don't make the grade are often put into the middle or bottom of the package. Once you get it home, you may be trimming off that hidden fat and throwing it away. An easy transfer of profit from you to the grocer. The same happens with large packages of fruits and vegetables, apples on the inside are often bruised.

The Essentials: In the Back and Away From Each Other

Most people heading to the store will get some bread, milk, juice, meat, and some fruits and vegetables. Now stop for a minute and do a mental map of where all of these things exist in your supermarket. Chances are getting these essentials will take you across the full length of the store. The goal to get you to buy more as you migrate across the store. It is not a scam like our other points, but it does shift money from you the grocer and wastes precious time. Of course, you can conquer this one just by going to a much smaller store.

Price Per Unit, But the Unit Changes!

Head to the ice cream aisle and try to compare the per unit costs of different brands of ice cream. Should be easy right? One tag will have a price per ounce. The next one a price per pint and a third a price per quart. Take a direct comparison between Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry's. Not only is Haagen Dazs shrunk, but it sports a price per ounce while Ben & Jerry's has a price per pint. Grocers may need to have per unit pricing, but they can change the units on competing items to make it more difficult for you. Time to get out that calculator and remember your conversions from grade school.

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chad  - small not always better |2012-01-23 12:07:38
Smaller stores often have higher prices because they can't purchase the volume of lareger stores. You must be a disciplined and educated shopper. And to save money it will probably take more time. You pay for convenience.
jennydecki  - Oooh Ooh I have one! |2010-06-13 08:19:28
The biggest size is not always the best value! For some reason at our store the peanut butter varies wildly every week as to which one is the best value. Some weeks it's the itty bitty jar and very, VERY rarely, it's the huge "value" jar. So always check price per ounce - with your calculator if necessary - and don't assume the biggest size is a value!
Sh0pp3r  - Supermarket and Deal Hacks to Get What You Want At |2010-06-12 08:32:08
OK. This isn't a new thing but it's a new twist on the whole couponing approach to sticking it back to the grocery stores, drug stores and brands that gouge. Check out sites like - they show you how to make money by stacking promotions ( not just on.groceries... But that's where the big sacings are)- to a point where you can walk away actually getting them owing you money. They call this their "money maker". I have tried it and I have to say I got $100 worth of stuff for about $10 when it was all said and done.
Graham  - Added Water |2010-06-11 10:59:42
Another issue with too much added water is that it often comes out when you try to cook. When you are trying to sear or brown some meat to get a good color and flavor all you end up with is boiled meat. Often the meat loses so much liquid that it ends up as tough as old boot leather.

So not only are they cheating you by charging meat prices for water but they are also ruining the meal which makes the whole thing worthless.
Christian K.  - Meat Fats |2010-06-11 08:22:50
Marbling Fat & Gristle (fat on the outer edges) are two different things.
AveSharia  - RE: Per unit pricing. |2010-06-11 06:45:10
Saw this the last time I went to Wal-Mart.

Tyro Prate |2010-06-11 05:26:25
As for the essentials being in different parts of the store, take Michael Pollan's advice and shop the perimeter of the store. He recommends it for health reasons (it's where the real food is rather than the food-like substances), but it applies here, too.
frugal nomad  - spot on |2010-06-12 04:33:44
You'll get your produce, milk, eggs, meat and juice on the perimeter. And, if you must - and most of us must - go down the frozen food isle. The bread isle is the one that kills you - because they put it right next to the cookies. Sneaky little devils.
kim  - just plain expensive |2010-06-11 04:52:04
here in the UK, some products are just expensive in supermarkets, despite the impression given that all products are cheap. Eggs, for example, in the supermarkets are double the price of those sold in the mom & pop stores further up the road. People still buy because they just assume the supermarkets are cheaper.
frugal nomad  - Same on this side of the pond |2010-06-12 04:28:03
It's the same here. Sometimes the best value on a gallon of milk is at a 7/11. Here, many people assume that the wholesale outlets like Costco are cheaper.
Anonymous  - You missed one |2010-06-09 16:55:47
Large grocery carts. Bigger carts mean that they look more empty, so customers are likely to try to fill them thinking they don't have enough food.
Bee  - Yep |2010-06-13 20:57:06
At out store where I work we are required to get customers a cart (if they say yes) when they are carrying a lot of stuff in their hands. The reason of course is that with their hands free and room in the cart, they'll throw a few more items in before they check out.
Rebecca |2010-06-09 16:19:19
I think this is all good advice except for advising to shop at smaller stores. Chances are, you're getting less selection at higher prices.

Instead, just being aware of the way supermarkets manipulate you into buying stuff you didn't come in to shop for, and just... not doing it, is much better advice.
frugal nomad  - Make a list |2010-06-10 05:17:16
Make a list - check it twice and don't buy anything else. that's the ticket.
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