Know your grocery store

One of the most important tips to save money on groceries and get the best quality is to really know the store where you primarily shop.

I don’t mean just where the produce section is or what brands of bread they offer. I mean knowing every item, every price, when they have their sales, when their shipments come in, where their food originates.

All of this seemingly covert information translates into great deals on great food.

For instance, I know that shipments come into my local Ingles store on Tuesday and Friday nights. That means everything on the shelves goes on sale Tuesday and Friday mornings. Bread is .99 cents. Cut meat is packaged and half price. I also know I need to go a little earlier in the day to get these things because they are picked over if I wait until after work.

I know which produce is locally grown and when these local farmers have various crops. I also know that some slightly damaged or overly ripe produce is in boxes in the back cooler and they need to get rid of it before the end of the day Wednesday and Saturdays.

In my store, the organic company Harvest Farms puts their unsold meat on sale generally about every other day. I also know the butcher will cut a smaller cut of meat for me because, being a small family, a large cut would be a waste of money.

These are the things you need to know. The question is how do you learn?

It’s really simple. You walk around, look, and ask questions. When does the new shipments come in? When do you honor double coupons? Do you honor computer printed coupons?

You meet the produce manager, the butcher, and even the general manager. You visit a couple of times during the week at first to get an idea of when sales hit, what goes on sale, and when the crowds come.

Much of what you learn you will learn through observation. It’s like your on a secret covert mission and you must first scout out the territory. It may take some extra time in the beginning but it will save time and money in the end because you will go at exactly the right time to get the deals and avoid the crowds.

It also pays to become friends with those who work in the store, so be nice when you ask questions. They may, if your friendly, offer some advice that can be quite valuable.

“Better stock up on the beef now,” the butcher told me once. “Prices will go up next week.”

One very nice general manager at a local Publix even had an employee drop off a lamb roast at my house, which is in the country, for Easter. He had to get it sent from another store because they were out and I always bought my lamb – and a few other specialty items for our catering business -  there over the years. By the way, they didn’t charge me for the lamb either.

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