Four Sales to Avoid at Food Stores

by Bill on March 26, 2012

Look for the best price not the advertised best price

I know this is a blog about earning and income, but its also a blog about spending. So this week I’m into spending and saving. And we’re going to the food store. I found out some interesting observations walking around aisles in the past month. Food stores have sales that you should avoid.

The 10 for $10 Sale

This is evident in a few stores. One around me uses this right as you get in the door. The front of the store has a section loaded with store-brand items that can be had at ten for $10. Be aware that you are buying a single unit of an item for $1. Now go through the store and find comparative items. Often you can buy the same item for less as a single unit. Look at the various brands when you do this. Also keep watch of your most used items weekly. Some items will suddenly increase in price when store brands go on sale.


Examples would be sales on soup, pasta, sauces, canned vegetables and sometimes small quantities of coffee or soda. Usually you find these associated with seasonal sales such as cookouts, holidays or “stock-up for x” sales.

 Buy One Get One

The buy “x” amount to get a discount on an additional unit. Variations include buy two and get one half off, buy three get one free. This is where the wording comes into play. When you see sales like this, you will pay full price for the most expensive items while getting the cheapest one free. The “buy one, get one half off” is basically the same as a coupon. Look to see if you can get the next size larger for the same cost.

An example would be a 12 ounce can for $1.09 with the second being $0.55 when you can purchase a single 24 ounce can for $1.59 (six cents cheaper per can purchased). Also look at the package sizes. If you are buying two 32 ounce cans you are actually buying 64 ounces of product. Are you going to use 64 ounces of that item? The ten for $10 mentioned earlier is a close cousin of this sale. Two questions arise here

  • Do you need ten cans/boxes of that item?
  • Do you have room to store ten cans/boxes of that item?

You can only do so much with ten cans of tomato soup or ten boxes of instant oatmeal. Been there done that. I ended up tossing out cans of soup.

End Cap Specials (a.k.a Manager’s Specials)

These are the deals or sales found at the ends of the aisles. Usually they’re the store brands with a big price tag marked as a sale or special deal. Ignore these and go down the aisle to find where they are next to the other brands. Once again, do your comparative shopping where the items are all together. I always wonder how people know the end caps have good deals? Did they go look and compare against other brands?

Look Up and Down

This is a tactic I only recently discovered around here. When you’re standing in front of the shelving, look up and down at the top and bottom shelves. In other words look at all the specials going on. Okay again using the local chain, I have noticed recently that many of the store brand items (and their sales) will be placed at eye level. They will put double the store-brand next to a national brand when doing this. You’d think they had a good deal going on.

Now, look up or down. You will quickly notice the national brands are either at your feet or above your head. And many times, these shelves also have special deals. I found this last week looking for Ocean-Spray juice. The store-brand was all over at eye level with a 2 for $5 deal. I looked up, and there was Ocean-Spray having a 2 for $3 sale. Yup, you gotta look for it.

So while you’re trying to save money buying food, don’t let the amazing deals at the supermarket fool you.

William Swan, writer

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{ 4 comments }

Amelia Ramstead March 27, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Just found your site! I think it’s absolutely crucial to have a good idea of the standard prices of the products you usually buy. I know exactly what my usual brand of spaghetti sauce costs, so when it was 10/$10 last week at my store, I knew that this time it actually was a good deal. Plus, you don’t actually have to buy 10 to get the deal. But when canned soup goes 10/$10, I know that this ISN’T a good deal. It’s tricky! The sale I absolutely HATE is the “Buy 10, get $5.00 off” sale that’s been running at my regular store. I don’t WANT 10 bags of Doritos or jars of mayonnaise or whatever! I don’t want to play this stupid matching game. I always feel like those sales are a scam.
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Bill March 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Hey Amelia!

I’ve seen the buy 10 “matching game” that you refer to. They allow you to mix and match varieties, but then you are still stuck with ten of something you may not need. Doritos, pasta and salad dressing are favorites of the stores here. I keep wondering why they can’t do one on ice cream. Every now and then they have a good one on soda or cereal where i can stock up on stuff – or I’ll wait for the canned pet food to go on sale and grab that.

Your example of buy 10 get $5 off is like many of the coupons I used to see in the Sunday papers where you get $1 off of four cans of something; by the time you get the four cans you only saved maybe $.25 in the end.

I always think some idiot bought too much of something and now the store has to get rid of it.

Jennifer @ Spend Less, Shop More March 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Hi Bill — I found your post through a tweet from John over at Married…With Debt. My recommendation for the $10 off 10 deals is to go for it when a) the product has a shelf-life of a year or more or b) you can split the deal with family or friends. I often go in on stockpile deals with my MIL — that way, we both save without turning our pantries into a hoarder’s dream. 😀
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Bill March 28, 2012 at 11:20 pm

Hi Jennifer!

Ya know, actually I didn’t even think of that one. If you can get groups or families involved the $10 for 10 would be a good way to stockpile. Thanks for the tip!

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