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Food Shopping: The Jarring Truth

Why is it that the odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with ONLY a loaf of bread are about three billion to one?

Food prices in the U.S. have climbed so dramatically in recent months, a stroll through the aisles of a typical supermarket is enough to kill your appetite. If that were the only place we spent our food dollars that would be one thing. But most families these days spend as much eating out as they do for food to prepare at home.

indecisive woman standing in grocery aisle holding an empty red grocery baske

It’s no secret that supermarkets and grocery stores purposely design their layouts to entice us to buy lots more than we’d planned to purchase when we walked through the door, but shoppers are not victims. It all boils down to the choices we make—not just for what we buy but when we buy it.

There must be dozens of ways to shop for groceries, and I’m certain I’ve tried them all. But when it comes right down to it, every possible method falls into one of two categories—needs shopping or reserve shopping.

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Extreme Bargain Hunting: The Best Time to Save on Everything

Over the years, I have learned an important lesson about getting the best deals on just about everything. Extreme bargain hunters have something in common: timing. They’ve got it down to a science, knowing specific days— even the time of day—when a bargain is at its best.

Pocket watch against a calendar concept for planning for best time to bag a bargain

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some of the top experts in their fields (love my job), and oh, what I learned. Want to save like an expert? Learn these deal-hunting secrets. 

Hotel rooms 

Best time to book a room? 4 p.m. local time on a Sunday, says CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg. Calling then can save you significantly, but the process can be tricky. Forget everything you think you know and follow these steps: 

1. Call the hotel’s local direct line, not the 800 number

The 800 number will connect you to a clearinghouse that books rooms for hundreds of locations. “The people who answer those phones don’t have the power to give you a better deal,” says Greenberg. Look up the local phone number for the exact hotel location.

2. Don’t ask to speak with Reservations

That will only get you routed back through to the 800-number clearinghouse. Instead, ask to speak to the manager on duty at the specific location. He has the authority to negotiate rates.

3. Be courteous

Tell the manager that you’re shopping for a great room rate during a specific week, followed by, “What can you do for me?” If you feel hesitant, think of yourself as a valuable commodity. After all, you want to take an unsold room out of inventory.

4. Say thank you and bask in your good fortune

Air Travel

There’s nothing more confusing and frustrating than buying plane tickets. One day you check ticket prices and think, Maybe I can get them cheaper if I wait. A few days later you check again—and the same seats have jumped $100 each. Arrgh! So how do you know when to buy?

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23 Ways to Chop Your Grocery Bill

Need a foolproof way to cut your food/grocery expenses by 25% this month? Announce to your family that there will be a complete ban on the consumption of food during the first week of every month. There. That should do it!  Twenty-five percent right off the top.

What?! Don’t think you can pull that off? Me either, but not to worry. Here are some much less painful—and I hope a bit more realistic—ways to chop the high cost of food.

 

You couple aghast at the cost of their groceries while looking at the receipt

Create a shopping list

Do this at home when you are hungry. You will be more creative and thorough.

Not hungry

You will be compelled to buy everything in sight regardless of what’s on your list. Tip: If you can’t avoid it, head to the bakery a pick up a cookie or grab a protein bar on your way in. That will be enough to silence your hunger and clear your mind.

Leave the kids at home

You will stick to your shopping list with much less frustration and stress if you fly solo.

Avoid convenience or specialty stores

You won’t find many bargains there.

Groceries online

Online grocery shopping is the latest and greatest for many (me!). It keeps me out of the supermarket where, even with a list, I’m an impulsive disaster just waiting to happen. I shop at KingSoopers (part of the Kroger Family of stores) and pay a flat fee of $4.95 per order for its Pick Up service, or now free for orders of $35 or more. Walmart offers its groceries online program with free same-day pickup is now available at hundreds of Walmart stores nationwide (store locator). Walmart does not charge a pickup fee but has a minimum order requirement of $30.

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