For nearly five years in my youth, I slaved away at a grocery store. I started out as a high school kid, bringing in carts and sweeping the floor, ending as the assistant grocery manager who was regularly left in charge of the whole store.
During the five and a half years I spent working in the industry, I picked up a few tricks of the trade that don’t normally make it into articles like this one. These tips will save you money the next time you go to the store.
There’s one really easy way to save money on groceries, at least at the store I worked at. Just find the grocery manager and see if there are any expired products he’s willing to sell to you.
When a product becomes expired on the shelf, the grocery department has to pull it off the sales floor even though most of the time there’s nothing wrong with it. Nobody wants to get chewed out by a customer for having rotten products on the shelf. Yes, many people do believe a product is unfit for consumption as soon as it passes the expiry date.
When it comes to getting paid for expired products, the store is usually out of luck. They have to pull it off the shelf and eat the cost. If you come along and offer to buy these products, often they can be had for pennies on the dollar. The manager just wants to get rid of them.
Next, let’s talk about the Scanning Code of Practice. Most major retailers in Canada are voluntary followers of the code which exists to hold grocers accountable for the accuracy of prices displayed on the shelf.
If you notice an item that isn’t priced accurately, point it out to the cashier. If the price was wrong on the shelf, you get the item for free or $10 off, whichever is less. Pay attention; this happens far more often than you’d think.
Some retailers won’t be very willing to give into a customer quoting the Scanning Code of Practice, but you’ll win if you stand your ground.
The easiest and best way to save money on produce, meat, and bakery items is to go early in the morning. That’ll give you the best selection of discounted items.
Fresh department managers are way more proactive when it comes to getting rid of close-dated products. Each morning an employee scours the department and marks down any merchandise that is close to expiring. As long as you get there soon after, you’ll have a great selection.
You’ll want to immediately freeze any meat bought with a close expiry date. Most meats can be safely frozen for up to six months without any noticeable effect.
Next, figure out what’s in season. September and October are great times to buy things like apples, blueberries, cauliflower, cucumbers, and a myriad of other vegetables. That produce will be cheaper than usual, so eat away when things are cheap. Come spring, switch to things like oranges, kiwis, potatoes, and carrots.
Meat is somewhat similar. Turkeys and hams will be cheap around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so make sure to stock up while prices are cheap.
Ready to get extreme?
There’s one other way to save some big money on food, something 95% of you will immediately dismiss.
Check out the store’s dumpster out back.
I know, I know. There are a lot of issues with dumpster diving. But we live in a world where stores will throw out perfectly good stuff because it no longer has a spot on the shelf or because it has passed a magical expiry date.
By jumping inside of a dumpster, you’re saving the earth while saving money at the same time. Think of it as your sustainable duty.
Okay, so maybe not on the dumpster diving. Still, now that you have a better idea of the inner workings of a store, saving money on groceries shouldn’t be hard.