It is possible to get some real bargains at clearance grocery stores. With a sound knowledge of prices at other stores, taking note of the best by dates and some self control, buying a few of your groceries at these stores can help the home budget.
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Recently I shopped at a clearance store and was pleased to save $23.25 by purchasing five packets of VitaWeat crackers and five packs of Ryvita. These are items I buy regularly. Both products were heavily reduced because they had just gone past their best by dates. As both products were sealed in airtight packaging I decided they would still taste fresh and be crisp for a few weeks, the time my household will need to use them up.
Image by Marie Vonow
I also purchased two packs of Easiyo Greek style Yoghurt mix, three tubs of peaches in juice, one packet of dipping crackers and two small packets of chips. (The dipping crackers and chips aren't things I buy regularly but as I will be having friends over soon they will be useful for entertaining.) The total was $10.36.
Although you can make substantial savings at clearance stores you need to have your wits about you and avoid impulse buys of items you won't use or things you shouldn't be eating large quantities of.
Here are some tips for saving money:
Know your prices Some items in a clearance store won't be cheaper than the same item wherever you do the bulk of your shopping. Sometimes you would be able to buy the same item, but in a generic brand, for less at your favourite supermarket.
Generic equivalents may be cheaper
Keep up to date with the price of items you want to buy. It is quite possible there will be items at full price mixed in with those that have been reduced. Some items may be only a few cents cheaper than elsewhere so don't impulse buy thinking you are making big savings on these items.
Take note of best by dates Items that are heavily reduced are likely to have reached their best by date or be beyond it. These items are still safe to eat. There is confusion about 'best by' dates with guidelines varying between states. The use by date is generally the last day food is considered to be at its peak quality by the company that manufactured it.
Bread and baked goods can be eaten after the 'best before' date on the tag. However, these items will start to go mouldy soon after this date and then need to be discarded. Alternatively, you could freeze them as soon as you get home. Dry products in airtight packaging are safe to eat months beyond the use by date but with time will lose nutrition and the taste may not be optimum.
Practise self control It can be easy to get carried away with bulk buying of heavily reduced food items. Before you buy, consider:
Do you like the item?
How much will you really use?
Do you have the storage space?
Do you know this brand? What if you buy twenty packets only to find you and your household don't like it?
Will you use up your stockpile before it goes stale?
Don't spend your entire food budget here It is likely you will only be able to get a fraction of your shopping at a clearance store. You will still need to go to a supermarket, farmers' market, butcher or other stores to buy the rest of your needs. With this in mind, work out how much you can afford to spend at a clearance store and have money left for the rest of your groceries.
Bagging some serious bargains can help the budget and give a sense of satisfaction but only if you use all that you buy and avoid too much junk food.