It's getting tougher to make ends meet these days, and ABC7 On Your Side is a campaign to help you save money. Watch Eyewitness News for money-saving tips and freebies to help stretch your dollar.
Using coupons do help, along with joining the store's club and buying generic and store brands. All are easy, simple - yet often overlooked - ways to get considerable savings.
To prove it, Eyewitness News bought seven of the most popular foods purchased in 2007: soda, milk, cereal, bread, bottled water, cookies and chocolate candy. We compared these prices at three major grocery chains: Albertsons, Ralphs, and Vons.
Without the club card, all the stores came in at $25 dollars and change, with Albertsons the cheapest by 30 cents.
Purchases without club card:
- Albertsons: $25.23
- Ralphs: $25.53
- Vons: $25.91
But using the club card at each store, Ralphs offered over a $4 savings, making it the lowest for club cards -- at least of this week, as prices and club offers change from week to week.
Purchases with club card:
- Ralphs $21.46
- Albertsons $23.10
- Vons: $24.92
Club card prices were for one item only. We did not factor club sales that required customers to buy more than one product in the purchase, like milk.
Many consumers, like Marcy McHenry, love seeing the savings on their receipt.
"I feel like it's the jackpot when I see the big savings," said Marcy.
Yet checking generics and store brands, Albertsons appeared to have more of these options, which in general are cheaper than using the club card. And keep in mind generics are often manufactured in the same plant with the same ingredients as major food companies. Buying generic does not mean low quality, and can offer savings often by as much as half.
When we checked, Honey Bunches of Oats cereal at Ralphs was $3.99. The store version was $2.99, and you get more cereal. If you had to have the real deal, the club price was two for $7. Many grocers don't require you to buy both, yet the savings get passed on to you.
When you check the seven most popular items, you'll see there are three or four we could do without. Taking a pass on soda, cookies and chocolate candy for a year, you could save over $500.
When it comes to bottled water, remember the price is right with tap. Lose a weekly six pack for a year and you'll save $117 more.
That doesn't mean giving up all of your favorite treats. But when you see how these treats add up, it might be worth omitting one or two things to make a difference in the wallet.