Consumer’s Reports surveyed 27,208 shoppers who reported on 48,076 unique visits to supermarkets and warehouse clubs across the U.S. From the data and their own investigations, they compiled a large body of shrewd shopping advice. Below is a sampling of the more useful and practical tips.
1) Store brands are less expensive - on average you pay 22% less compared to regular brands. In most cases they are also of equal quality. A surprising 78% of shoppers found this to be true.
2) Beware of warehouse clubs – sometimes the low prices are not worth the hassles. A few of the main drawbacks reported by consumers are: being forced to buy the product in often quite sizeable bulk, long checkout lines, limited product choices, high annual membership fees, and very few service personnel around to help with any problems.
3) Slice and dice it yourself! In most cases precut or chunked food items will cost you more due to the preparation.
4) Coupons are still king! Americans saved $3.5 billion in 2013 at the supermarket with coupons. Surprisingly, in the age of smartphones, 91% of them came from newspaper inserts. More than 300 billion paper coupons were distributed in 2013, but only 2.8 billion were used. Web sites like SundayCouponPreview.com provide email alerts for the coupons offered in the next Sunday paper in your area.
5) Online coupon sites are popular and offer big savings. SmartSource.com and CoolSavings.com are among the leaders. According to their web site: “Each month, a million people visit Cool Savings to take advantage of money-saving coupons and offers from their favorite name brands. They also enjoy helpful tips and articles, newsletters, free recipes, sweepstakes, free trials, free samples and more!”
6) Always sign up for the store’s bonus or loyalty programs. More than half of the 27,208 shoppers surveyed belonged to a program and 84% were pleased with their money savings.
7) Be selective when buying the more expensive organic fruit and vegetables. Americans bought $31.5 billion of organic produce in 2012. Consumer’s Reports Lab recommends only buying organic for the produce most difficult to remove stubborn pesticides, even with rigorous washing. These include: strawberries, red raspberries, peaches, pears, imported grapes, cherries, potatoes, apples, bell peppers, celery and spinach.
8) Sign up for in-store nutrition information sessions and classes. More than 50% of supermarket chains across the US provide this service and 30% have in-store dieticians.
9) Use your smartphone to get organized and save money. Most supermarket chains have Android or iPhone apps that are useful for creating your grocery list, browsing the store’s circulars, adding specific product coupons to your shopping list, and adding items to your list by scanning the product’s bar code.
10) The five best and five worst supermarkets among 55 as rated by 27,208 shoppers who rated for satisfaction in the categories of price, quality of perishables, cleanliness, and service.
2) Trader Joe’s
5) Sprouts Farmer’s Market
51) Pick ‘n Save
55) Walmart Supercenter
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