ABC7 On Your Side: The grocery game

But it is easier than you think. Here are some simple yet effective tips to win the grocery game.

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.

"I go to three different stores. I go to Trader Joe's, Albertsons and Ralphs. They're within a few miles of each other so it's easy to do," said shopper Wes Terry.

"If I can drive by a Vons, a Ralphs or an Albertsons and see that the prices there are better, why not?" said shopper Michael Lalla.

With food prices skyrocketing, many are attempting to win the grocery game. The markets offer ways to lower prices. The trick is knowing how to play, which some experts say begins at home.

Do your homework before you go to the store. Clean out your refrigerator and keep track of what you need along with what you don't, so that you don't double up on foods that might spoil.

"Studies have shown if you don't have a shopping list, you'll be spending 40 percent more on those dreaded impulse items," said market analyst Phil Lempert.

Not only that, but Lempert says hanging on to past receipts can also be vital to saving money.

"About 80 percent of what we do every month is the same, so keep those cash-register receipts," said Lempert.

Line them up, spread them out and highlight which products you continually purchase. Then Lempert suggests making a spreadsheet and using that as a master shopping list. That also makes it easy to spot which coupons to use and to watch for additional bargains.

"Well, I always go through the store brochure, I see what's on sale, and then if I have a coupon for it and they take a double-coupon, it's like a double-whammy," said Lalla.

And just like sales at retail shops, markets also have seasonal sales -- condiments go on sale at the beginning of summer, pumpkin and cranberries are cheaper in the fall, along with baking supplies for the holiday.

If there's room in the freezer, take advantage of sales during BBQ season when meat and chicken are often reduced.

"They'll have the regular sized chicken for 59 cents a pound and then I'll get two or three and put those in the freezer," said Lalla.

It's great to stock up on pantry items like cans and dried goods that can last for six months to a year, but buying big on perishables usually means wasted food - therefore wasted money - if your family can't eat it fast enough.

You'll also save money if you shop alone on a full stomach and in a decent mood. Statistics prove we spend more when we're cranky, hungry, and when we bring the kids.

Actually, the only time you want company when food-shopping is when you go to the big-box stores.

"We're seeing more buddy shopping than ever before in warehouse stores," said Lempert. "You'll have two or three or four people shopping together. They pull out their cell phones, they go up and down different aisles and they call each other," finding which items they are all willing to share, then they split it up in the parking lot.

That's a smart way to play the game, especially if you're single or have little storage space at home.

Click here to visit Phil Lempert's Web site,


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