Special Segment: Supermarket Savvy

March 15, 2009 8:41:48 PM PDT
In these days of high costs and tight budgets, it's helpful to know ways to save big.

It pays to shop around. A recent study of hundreds of grocery stores in the Chicago area shows a family could save upwards of $1,000 each year just by being supermarket savvy.

"Money's been tight. So, what we do is go to like three or four different spots looking for the better deals," said shopper Eddy Saldana.

"I go to Costco and then Aldi and Dominick's, and I find the least expensive of what I'm looking for," shopper Melissa Walters said.

"Dominick's, Jewel, Costco, Aldi, Butera. We hit them all," another shopper, Ellen Griffin, said.

Many shoppers believe the best way to get a great deal is to go where the bargains are.

"At Aldi, I only buy my vegetables and my fruits and my paper plates because they're cheaper than the regular stores. My meats I get somewhere else," Lakeview's Darinella Dorsey said.

During these tough times, discount stores like Aldi are thriving. Aldi opened 100 new stores across the country in 2008 and plans to open 75 more in 2009.

Ron Hirasawa teaches marketing at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He predicts stores like Aldi will continue to expand.

"There's a lot of people that still don't feel comfortable shopping in a 'discount store,' said Hirasawa. "But you will save 50 percent or more on your grocery bill."

Discount stores are not the only places to find bargains. www.checkbook.org, a non-profit consumer organization, evaluated Chicago area grocers to find the best in price and quality.

"One of the ways we like to compare these stores from a price standpoint is to assume that a family is spending $150," said Checkbook.org's Robert Krughoff. "Going to places like Walt's or Ultra Foods or Wal-mart Supercenter stores or Target stores or Meijer, they could expect to save something like between $800 a year and $1,800 a year compared to Jewel or Dominick's."

Wherever you shop, there are ways to save inside the store. First, avoid product displays, which are often positioned at the front of the store or at the end of aisles.

"The layout of the store entrance is very important. You see a lot of your high-margin, high-profit items," Hirasawa said. "The entire store, by the way, is designed to try to get you to impulse buy."

To avoid impulse purchases, make a list before you shop and stick to it. Comb Sunday ads and clip coupons. Check manufacturer Web sites for coupons online and use store savings cards. Shoppers can also try store brands and generics.

"We found that for people who substitute maybe 15 to 20 percent of store brand for regular national brand groceries, they could expect to save 5, 6, 7, 8 percent on their shopping," Krughoff said.

One more tip is to look on higher and lower shelves when shopping. Manufacturers pay premium fees to have their products set at eye level. Sometimes, those extra costs are passed on to consumers in the price.

For more tips or to find out how a your supermarket stacked up against others in the area, you can go to www.checkbook.org/abc7/supermarkets