Food for Thought: 3 Hidden Tips for Saving on Groceries

January 23, 2018

Although coupon apps and grocery circulars are straightforward methods to find daily savings, there are numerous – albeit, less obvious – strategies to keep dollars in your pocket. Here are three easy tips to remember the next time you’re cruising through the supermarket.

Don't always go 'By' the book. Far too often, perfectly edible foods unnecessarily make friends with one’s garbage can. Based on a misguided reading of the printed date on a product’s container, a food item with days left in its shelf life may meet a premature end. Luckily, knowing the differences between 'Sell By,' 'Best By' and 'Use By' dates can spare you from making this common oversight and shortchanging yourself.

According to, a product's 'Sell By' date refers to when retailers need to either sell or remove it from public purchase; typically, a third of a product’s shelf-life still remains by the 'Sell By' date. In comparison, the 'Best By' date is a suggestion for when the product should be consumed to retain its optimal quality, and the 'Use By' date is the recommended date to consume products before quality is expected to quickly decrease. And regardless of which ‘By’ date is printed, don’t underestimate the power of taste and smell to make a final call.

Be shelf-ish. There’s a psychological element to the layout of a grocery store, whether you appreciated being analyzed or not. If a store is a maze, we’re the mice searching for cheese (sometimes literally). Shelves, in particular, are arranged with a certain cadence: the middle shelves are the sweet spots, best positioned within a shopper’s immediate scope of vision. That’s where you’ll find the most recognizable – and often, more expensive – brand names. The bottom shelf is often where the generic brands, bulk items and less expensive ingredients call home. Although they’re not as easy to reach, the extra effort is arguably worth the savings.

The (unit) price is right. A product’s retail price is only part of the equation; its unit price deserves some time in the spotlight as well. When comparing two products, note their respective unit prices to more accurately determine which one is the better deal. As demonstrated by this example, you may be surprised by which product is the most forgiving on your wallet.

There's no need to miss out on savings, regardless of what's marked down on a given day. Keep these timeless tips top-of-mind, and you'll help keep your grocery budget under control.