How To Be A Smart Shopper
The weekly trip to the grocery store is a big expense for a family, so saving money on food can go a long way. But how do you save money? Is the only way to save by clipping coupons and buying no-name brands?
There are other strategies, and on today’s show, Nicole Olsen, the Financial Literacy Program Director for Financial Fitness in Windsor and Sarnia, Ontario, joins me back on the show to share her smart shopping tips.
Nicole explains that a study by the University of Guelph calculated that the average household of four will spend over $8631 on food in 2016 as food costs continue to increase. She teaches people to lower this cost through workshop and seminars and points out that
I’ve been able to, over the last couple of years and some hard work, feed a family of four on about $150 a week. So, you can scale that [back] quite a bit if you do the right things, and I have a four step process on how to make the most out of every dollar when you go to the grocery store.
Four Steps For Saving Money
1. Plan Your Meals For The Week
It’s easy to fall into a food rut and reach for items that you’re not sure you’ll actually use. Often, food goes to waste and we spend money that could have been saved if we had planned to begin with. Breakfast and lunch are easy (since we tend to eat the same meals every day). The challenge is planning dinners and Nicole recommends that once every week you plan out your family’s meals for the coming week. This way, you’ll know exactly what you need to buy and you’re less likely to reach for items that you don’t need.
2. Make a List & Shop Your Pantry
Once you have planned out your dinners for the week, you rush off the store and buy the ingredients, right? Wrong. Nicole suggests that you start by making a list of the ingredients you’ll need to make each meal. Next you need to shop your pantry and review what you already have on hand. For example, if one of your planned meals this week is spaghetti, check your supply of spaghetti. You may find that you already have noodles and just need the sauce.
Nicole has two other list making tips for listeners:
- First, follow your trends. She knows that her growing family consumes four gallons of milk and five loaves of bread each week, so those items are automatically added to her list.
- Second, look for patterns. Nicole observes that products often have three month sale cycles, so items like paper towels go on sale every three months. If this is the week one of your staple items is on sale, add it to your shopping list.
3. Shop The Flyers
Once you have your shopping list, review the flyers to find the best prices. Nicole warns that many shoppers do the opposite: they review the flyers first, then make a list based on what’s on sale that week. The problem with a “flyer first” approach is that you may end up buying an item you don’t need, because it’s on sale.
Start with your list first.
Today you don’t have to rely on paper flyers. There are many apps that can help. Flipp is an electronic flyer app that we discussed on our Best Money Apps podcast episode. You can search for the item you want, and it will direct you to the store with the best price.
But Nicole doesn’t recommend you go from store to store for the best price. Instead, she suggests that you shop at a store that price matches so you can get the benefits of each store’s sales, without spending money on gas and taking up valuable time to do it.
4. Coupons and Loyalty Points
Many stores offer on-line coupons or loyalty points for shopping at their store, so if you are shopping at the store anyway, take advantage of the extra savings. Nicole explains that some stores allow you to both price match and collect loyalty points, giving you the most bang for your buck.
Bonus Money Saver Tips
Bonus Tip #1 – Unit Pricing
Is everything always cheaper at a “big box” store? No. To find out, you must compare the per unit price of the item. Manufacturers are sneaky; they will lower the price, but put fewer items in the box. To avoid paying more for the amount of product she’s getting, Nicole carries a calculator with her to the store so she can calculate the unit price of each item in that box so she can compare the deals at each store and know that she is saving money.
Bonus Tip #2 – Scanner Price Accuracy Code
This next tip is something you may not have heard about before.
The Retail Council of Canada operates the Scanner Price Accuracy Code, which is a voluntary code followed by many stores. You can read the code and see a full list of participating stores on the Retail Council Scanner Accuracy Code webpage. Basically, if the store scans an item and charges you a price that is higher than shown on the product (i.e. a sale price) and the item is less than $10 (after the price adjustment), the store is required to give you the item for free. If the item is over $10, the store is required to give you a $10 discount off the item. This keeps store policies in line and knowing these simple rules can help to save you money.
Read the full transcript below.
Resources Mentioned on Today’s Show:
- Financial Fitness Tools and Resources – Lots of great free information
- Flipp – electronic flyer app
- Reebee – shopping app
- Retail Council of Canada Scanner Price Accuracy Code, with a list of participating stores
FULL TRANSCRIPT show #71 with Nicole Olsen
This episode was rebroadcast as Best Of Series show # 98
Doug Hoyes: This is Debt Free in 30. Most of the shows we do, we talk about debt and how to reduce debt and how do I get out of debt. Today, we’re going to take a slightly different spin on it and we’re going to talk about smart shopping. Because if you can spend less when you’re shopping, and specifically if you can spend less when you’re shopping at the grocery store, that obviously helps your budget, that can then help free us cash to help you pay off debt or stay out of debt in the first place.
That’s where we’re going on today’s show. We’re going to talk about smart shopping and I’ve got a guest who has been on the show briefly before. She was on our Halloween scary stories show back at the end of October. We’ve got her back for the full show today so I think it’s going to be great. Let’s get started, let’s get to my guest. Who are you? Where do you work? And what do you do?
Nicole Olsen: Hi Doug, my name’s Nicole Olsen from Financial Fitness. I’m the Program Director here. We’re a local non-profit credit counselling agency and we’re located in both Windsor-Essex and Sarnia-Lampton. And my job is to go out and so community workshops and teach people about budgeting. I’m essentially a financial literacy education if you want to say. And one of my most popular topics is smart shopping and how to save money at the grocery store.
Doug Hoyes: Fantastic. Well, thanks for being back here today, Nicole. So, smart shopping, how to save money at the grocery store, that is actually a seminar you run for people and as you said the Windsor area and Sarnia. So, let’s start with a basic question, what is actually possible? So, what kind of grocery bill can I actually get to while still feeding my family?
Nicole Olsen: Well, they just recently put out a survey from the University of Guelph and they kind of came up with it and they said the average household of four will fork over about $8,631 in food and groceries in 2016 because our food costs are going to be going up. And I’ve been able to, over the last couple of years and some hard work, feed a family of four on about $150 a week. So, I can scale that quite a bit if you do the right things and I kind of have a four step process on how to make the most out of our dollar when you go to the grocery store.
Doug Hoyes: So, around $150 a week so that would be obviously around $7,800 a year. Certainly less than the $8,651 that that study said. So, we’re going to get some good tips here and I assume your family is still eating decent food, right? They’re not all going hungry, they’re not just eating cucumbers all the time. Am I right there?
Nicole Olsen: Yes, I get a lot of questions – have we become vegetarians? If we’re still purchasing meat and we do it just takes a little bit of time and some people ask how much time do you have to do all of these steps? This must take a lot of work. And once you get on track with these steps, four or five steps and get it going, it might take about an hour a week to get everything done that you need to do to save money at the grocery store. But if you think you’re going to save anywhere between $20 and $40 a week really that’s a significant amount of money on a weekly basis that you can save.
Doug Hoyes: Absolutely, and I’ve got a lot of questions about that but let’s get to your four steps then ’cause that may answer a bunch of the questions I’ve got. So, smart shopping, how to save money at the grocery store. When you’re running your seminars what’s the first step that you talk to people about?
Nicole Olsen: So, the first thing we talk about, and it kind of goes back to that home-ec class that you might have had back in high school, essentially starting with menu planning. That’s really where it starts. Getting an idea of how – what you’re going to make over the next week, over the next seven days and getting an idea of what kind of food you need in the house. So, there’s a lot of great websites online that can help you with menu planning. They have some good ideas.
Our family we typically don’t menu plan for breakfast and lunch just because it tends to be the same things. Most people have one or two go to things that they’re going to be having for breakfast, whether it’s eggs or some toast. The same with lunches, my kids have peanut butter and jelly every day, so I’m not too stretched there as far as what I need to make. It’s the dinners that usually change. We like to have a little bit of different things in our diet and in our food so that we can change it up a bit. So, planning out dinner meals is going to be the biggest one.
Doug Hoyes: And so, it’s the dinners that change. So, in the course of a month or a week, how many different dinners would you have?
Nicole Olsen: I would say on average we might have 15 to 20 different dinner meals that I pick from. And I think about what’s going to be happening that week, yeah.
Doug Hoyes: So, you’re only going to have the same one once or twice in a month, then.
Nicole Olsen: Right, right. Some people might condense it and they might do that on a weekly basis so every week it’s going to be taco Tuesday and that’s fine, too. As long as you have a plan you could go from seven to even 30 different meals if you wanted to. As long as you know in this next seven days that I’m going to be doing my grocery shopping for, what is it that I need to purchase for me.
Doug Hoyes: Okay. So, do you do your menu planning on a certain day of the week? How does it work in practice for you?
Nicole Olsen: I do it right before I go to the grocery store. For me it works really well on Fridays. And that will get into some of other tips that we’re going to talk about, why Friday works best for me. If you have a family with small children sometimes I might even recommend doing your grocery shopping on a Monday or Tuesday. And the reason I recommend that is if you have school age children and you bring home a lot of groceries on a Friday, they’re likely going to eat most of it on the weekend. I think that’s just the way that kids are, they go through the pantry.
Doug Hoyes: Got you. And do you typically do your shopping once a week then or more frequently or less frequently than that?
Nicole Olsen: We do once a week because it works really well with our pay period. Some people might find that if they get paid on a bi-weekly basis it might be more convenient for them to do grocery shopping on a bi-weekly basis. So, they would then have to menu plan for 14 days versus the seven. But no more than every two weeks if you go any longer than that, say monthly you’re going to have to continue going back to the grocery store to get that fresh produce, dairy, sometimes meat. You can freeze the meat, you can freeze dairy as well, surprisingly. You can freeze milk, put it in bags and it will stay in the freezer. It might separate a bit on you but you could do that in a pinch.
Doug Hoyes: Got you, okay. So, your advice then is you pick one day a week, that’s the day you make the plan, that’s the day you go to the grocery store and it may be a different day of the week depending on how your family sets up. But so, the number one step then is menu planning, figure it all out. Is there more to say on menu planning or are we ready for step two?
Nicole Olsen: I like to also have people consider a vegetarian option just because right now meat is so expensive and it can be expensive. You might want to see what you can do and make some changes. So, if you have one day a week where you’re introducing a different type of protein, possibly some beans, that might be helpful or tofu in reducing your costs of meat. What we do at our house is we mix ground meat, so we’ll do a ground pork, ground chicken mix to try and save on a bit there.
Some things about meat as well, I find that if you get a whole chicken and you learn how to butcher it yourself and there’s some great YouTube videos out there, you can buy chicken with skin and bone on it and de-bone it and skin it yourself and that’s going to be significantly cheaper than purchasing the boneless, skinless chicken breasts that you can buy from the butcher. So, just by doing that work on your own you can save a dollar a pound, you might be paying more for the meat if you’re going to be buying it boneless and skinless. So, doing your own de-boning works very well.
Doug Hoyes: So, there’s a bit of skill involved here. But you’re saying it’s the kind of thing you can learn with practice. Watch a few YouTube videos, you don’t have to go to a cooking course for four years.
Nicole Olsen: No, no and sometimes the kids really enjoy it. We buy meat in bulk sometimes so that we can portion it out, put it in the freezer in some zip lock bags so that you’re saving a little bit there as far as meat’s concerned and then freezing the rest of it. So, that’s helpful as well.
Doug Hoyes: Excellent, cool. So, okay so menu planning is the first step, what’s the second step.
Nicole Olsen: Then you want to shop your pantry and make your grocery list. So, once you’ve got your menu planned and you think, alright on Monday I’m going to do spaghetti and meatballs. You’re going to go look in your pantry. You may already have the spaghetti from the last time you did spaghetti, but you’re possibly going to have to buy the ground beef and maybe the sauce.
So, by knowing what you have in your cupboards already, kind of saves you on what you’re going to be purchasing at the grocery store. I’m one of those people, I don’t know what it is, sometimes if I see margarine on sale, I’m just going to continue to purchase more and more margarine and then by the time you know it, I’ve got six tubs of margarine in the fridge downstairs. So, knowing what you have in the house will reduce the instinct to purchase more. ‘Cause, as human beings, we’re hunters and gatherers and when we go to the grocery store that’s a perfect example of hunting and gathering, right? We want to gather all of our items.
Doug Hoyes: And if you’ve already got it then why are you spending money on it? It doesn’t make any sense, you’re going to eventually have stuff going bad on you ’cause it’s been sitting around so long. So, shop your pantry, which means you’ve done step one, which is make a list and then compare that list to what you already have so that you can then generate a list for what you need at the grocery store.
Nicole Olsen: Exactly, what you really need. And keeping your menus in mind for what’s going to happen the next week so that you’re not doing that last minute running out to the grocery store picking up what you need for that item that you want to make for dinner that might. So, definitely shop your pantry.
So, you’re going to start to see a trend in the things that you’re going to be purchasing on a regular basis. So, for our family we know that we need to get four gallons of milk every week, it’s just been something that we’ve noticed over the course of a while. Same with bread, we know we need five loaves of bread a week. Those are things that are going to be staples on our grocery shopping list so I know that I can put them on every week and it’s going to be there. You’ll start to see things that you buy in patterns so it could be paper products, it could be paper towels or toilet paper. You’re going to start to notice oh we purchase this on a monthly basis or maybe we purchase it every other month.
Then you can start using that knowledge about what your grocery shopping list is going to look like and coincide it with things that are on sale. Because typically products have a three month cycle as far as their sales are concerned. So, if you’re waiting for let’s say paper towels to go on sale, you really like a certain brand, if it goes on sale one month, you can guarantee within the next three months it’s going to go on sale again. So, if you purchase things on a three month cycle you’re always going to be following in line with the sale items. Kind of like catching every green light as you go. You can do that with your grocery sales.
Doug Hoyes: Catching every green light, I like that. And yeah, I was going to ask you about sales because it sounds like if I make my list and go to the store and I buy those things I’m kind of ignoring sales, but you’re saying well, no there’s both a micro and a macro view of this. So, on a micro level I know what I need to buy this week. But I also know that over the next two or three months, this is how much toilet paper, paper towels, whatever I’m going to buy, so be aware of the sales and in those week you’re going to then stock up on those items is what you’re saying.
Nicole Olsen: Exactly. Yeah and this kind of takes into step three and gives us an idea, this is where you want to shop the flyers. So, most people will shop the flyers first and then they make their list based on what’s for sale on the flyers. And I recommend going on the opposite end. So, make your list, figure out what it is that you want to be as far as your menu planning and eating for the next week, and then go to the flyers and see what’s on sale. And you can kind of adjust from there. So, a lot of the flyers will come in the local newspaper. You can get them – we have them in the Star Review here in Windsor. And you don’t even have to purchase the newspaper, they’ll just come to you. Sometimes they’ll send them in the mail.
I like to use apps. So, if you have a smart phone there’s some great apps out there. Flipp is one of them, I think Reebee is the other one where you can go and check out all of the local flyers in your area. So, you want to have your grocery shopping list that you just made, you made your menu plan, you shopped your own pantry, crossed off the things that you don’t need, taking your grocery shopping list and then compare it to the flyers. And say okay I need mustard, who has mustard on sale? And kind of go through the flyers and see who’s got it on sale.
I kind of recommend along with your list, next to it, writing it who has it on sale so if I have mustard right next to it I’m going to write No Frills has mustard on sale. If I’m looking for Dr. Pepper I’m going to say okay, Walmart has the cheapest price this week and going through my list and finding all of those items. Occasionally, I may go through the flyers and see if there’s a really great deal on chicken. I may change my menu plan based on something that I saw in the sale flyer; hey this is the week we’re going to have chicken fingers because chicken’s on sale.
Doug Hoyes: But the key is it’s the list that’s driving it, not the flyers that’s driving it. So, yes you might make some exceptions, chicken’s on sale so we’re going to have chicken more often this week. But in general, you’re the one setting the agenda, make the list and then look to see where it’s cheaper.
Nicole Olsen: Exactly, and noting who’s going to be cheaper. So, when I was shopping paper flyers I got out this big red Sharpie marker and I would circle them for me. ‘Cause once we decide who’s got it cheapest on sale, some people will say, well Nicole, I’m not going to drive to seven stores to pick up all this stuff that I need at different places. And I say no, I don’t want you to spend gas driving to seven different stores. What I want you to do at that point in time make sure that the one store that you’re going to go to price matches and at that point in time you’re going to start price matching.
Doug Hoyes: So, explain that. So, that’s a key point, then, price matching, what does that mean?
Nicole Olsen: So, when I go to, I’ll use Walmart as an example ’cause that’s one of the local stores I go to and they do price match. If I see something at Walmart, I want to get a box of Kraft Dinner and it’s on regular price for $1.79. If I see in a flyer somewhere else that at Sobeys they have Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, the same box, the same size on sale for $1 a box, I’m going to take that flyer with me, purchase the ones at Walmart but when I get to the check out I say look they have them on sale at Sobeys and they’re going to price match for the dollar. So, I get those boxes for $1 each versus $1.79 regular price at Walmart.
Doug Hoyes: So, you’re getting the best of both worlds. You’re getting the cheapest price at every store but you’re only going to one, maybe two stores, not six or seven.
Nicole Olsen: Exactly. Now some stores don’t price match so you’re going to want to know where you are in your local area who’s the stores that price match and who don’t. For the most part quite a few stores have jumped onboard with the price matching. And I try to make it easier because a lot of people say well I don’t want to be that person that’s price matching in line that’s holding up everybody else with their flyers. And I understand that, time is precious to most people.
So, I kind of have a trick. Most grocery stores now have two carts, there’s a cart on the top level and there’s a cart on the bottom level. So, on the bottom level I put all my non price matched items so things that I’m purchasing and I know I’m getting the best price at the store that I’m at. And then on the top cart I put the things that I price match with other stores. So, when I get to the check out I unload all of my non priced matched items first and I let the check out person rings those out for me. I put one of those sliding bars across so that they know to stop and then I take off all of my price matched items next. So, that by the time I’m done unloading my cart I get up the check out, they’re ready, I’m ready and we price match those other items very quickly because we know that they’re all price matched.
Doug Hoyes: And I guess you’re probably going to be doing the shopping at the store that has the lower prices that week. And so you’re only price matching three or four items, not 15. So, it’s not as laborious as you would think, is that correct?
Nicole Olsen: Right, and I mean anybody can price match. I finally got my husband to start price matching. He doesn’t do most of the grocery shopping, I do. But he does like to go out and buy a couple of cases of pop if he needs to and now he’s even got the app on his phone, the Flipp app, and when he needs to go and purchase pop, he uses the search bar and he puts in Pepsi and he checks to see who’s got it on sale and then he goes to the store that he normally does and he picks up his pop and he price matches it every week.
Doug Hoyes: Wow, that’s fantastic. If you can get your husband trained then you’re obviously an expert in this. I know my wife’s been trying for 20 years and has had no success training me. So, that’s pretty impressive. So, step number three then is shop the flyers, what’s step number four?
Nicole Olsen: So, this is where we’re going to be talking about coupons, loyalty points, writing the manufacturer, just little tips and tricks to save money. I really like loyalty points and this is kind of why I shop on a Friday, so PC Plus, so any Loblaws store has the PC Plus points. It’s not a credit card or anything like that. What is it is it’s a store card. And every Friday they will load coupons, and they’re not really coupons to get money off, but what you can do is accumulate points if you purchase the items that are on this list that you’ve downloaded on Friday.
And the list is derived by your shopping habits. So, if I have a cat and I’m constantly buying cat food at my local Loblaws store, they’re going to notice that I buy cat food a lot and they’re going to start offering me points every single time I buy this cat food. So, you load them up on a Friday, as you do your grocery shopping, I know I’m normally going to buy tomatoes, they’re going to give me 500 points for buying tomatoes so I’m going to purchase tomatoes. And they start to accumulate. And like most of the PC products, once you get 20,000 points you get $20 off your next grocery shopping trip. So, it can really add up over the course of a year.
Doug Hoyes: And I guess the key is to make sure that you’re not buying stuff that you wouldn’t have otherwise bought or paying more for stuff than you otherwise would have bought.
Nicole Olsen: Exactly. But you can price match and you can do the loyalty points at the same time. So, I’ve done that with macaroni and cheese that I price matched at my local No Frills. It was on regular price for $1.69. I saw it on sale at Walmart for $1, I got points off of it as well and I price matched with Walmart. So, you can combine those two programs together and still shop what you want to and pay for the lower price if you need to price match it.
Doug Hoyes: Very cool, very cool. So, in the last minute or so we’ve got in this segment, what’s the one or two final tips that we haven’t hit on. Maybe it’s more about coupons or anything else when it comes to saving money.
Nicole Olsen: The big one is going to be unit pricing. I use that quite often. This really worked out when I was buying my children diapers. Really knowing what that unit cost is. So, when you take the box of diapers and you divide the price, $39 or so by how many diapers are in the box you’re going to come up with a unit price. So, each diaper is worth 19 cents is what it cost when I was buying diapers. So, knowing that every single time I look at a box if I divide by it, I know what my unit price is make a huge difference.
Because the sizing of items changes. This is why people, some of the big box stores they want to go to a big box store you think you’re getting a better deal ’cause you’re getting so much more for the price. But you really want to figure out the unit price. I might get a giant case of Bear Paws that my kids love at one of the big box stores but if I unit price it, it may actually be cheaper for me to go to let’s say a local grocery store and pick them up there based on the sales that they’re having. So, I always say know your unit pricing, know how much it costs, start to get to know your cost of items like bread, milk, so that you know that you’re getting a good deal when you see one.
Doug Hoyes: Fantastic. So, just buying at the big box store is not necessarily the best option. Well, those are some fantastic tips. I’m going to record them all in our show notes over at hoyes.com and I’m going to put a link back to Nicole, your agency, Financial Fitness in Windsor there with some links to what you’ve got as well. Thanks very much for being here today.
Nicole Olsen: Great, thank you very much.
Doug Hoyes: Thanks, Nicole, we’ll be back right after this. You’re listening to Debt Free in 30.
Let’s Get Started Segment
Doug Hoyes: It’s time for the Let’s Get Started here on Debt Free in 30. I’m Doug Hoyes and my guest today is Nicole Olsen who is a credit counsellor and financial literacy expert with Financial Fitness with offices in Windsor and Sarnia. And before the break Nicole gave us her four steps for smart shopping, how to save money at the grocery store. We talked about menu planning, shopping your pantry, making a list, shopping the flyers.
And Nicole in the final segment we were talking about coupons, loyalty points, that sort of thing and you ended up by talking about unit pricing and your point was that you have to know the price you’re paying for each unit because otherwise you can get into trouble. Is most of the trouble caused at the big box stores where you’re buying that box of 1,000 diapers and thinking that you’re getting a deal? Or is it the other way around? Is it the bad deals tend to be at the local grocery stores? Or is it a bit of both?
Nicole Olsen: It can be a bit of both. I find that it’s mostly the manufacturer. So, I like I say with diapers I always thought it was a big deal, like I was getting a big savings out of it but then the change in the amount of diapers per box always changes so I never really knew how much that one diaper was worth. So, I talk a lot about that with when you’re buying things like pop or cans of things, bars within a box of something, just knowing how much that unit price. And a lot of the stickers if you go to the grocery store and you see the price tag of what the item is, if you look in the lower right hand corner, usually they will write in the unit pricing.
So, at that point in time start to get to know oh this is my unit price, okay great, now I know what ketchup, every 100 grams is only going to be 30 cents instead of thinking about oh a $4 of ketchup, this is a good deal. It might not be a great deal because it depends on what size of the bottle of ketchup you’re buying. So, the unit price is the best way to figure out your prices.
Doug Hoyes: Well and you hit on a very sneaky trick that even someone as unsophisticated as me as noticed. And that’s that the size changes. So, it used to be that there was 100 diapers in a box, now there’s 82 in a box and next week they’ll be 74. A box is the same size there’s just more empty space in it. So, it’s very difficult to tell what I’m actually getting unless you do it your way, which is to calculate the price per unit and then you know what you’re getting. That’s why you’re recommending do it I assume.
Nicole Olsen: Absolutely, you’re never going to find me in a grocery store without a calculator. I am that person that is going all over the grocery store with my calculator. And honestly it’s my best friend at the grocery store. ‘Cause I just know, I know how much I’m spending on my groceries and I know how much my unit pricing is. And the calculator can be really helpful for when I’m checking out.
So, one of my biggest tips is knowing about the scanner price accuracy voluntary code. Not a lot of people know about this, but a lot of grocery stores, again it’s a voluntary code so they don’t have to do it but there’s a listing. If you check it out on Google you can find out what stores agree to this or not. And essentially if you go in a store and there’s a box of cookie that you really want and normally it’s $4 a box and they’ve got it on sale for $2 a box, it’s a great deal you want to pick it up. So, you put it in your cart, bring it to the check out. If when it scans in and it scans in incorrectly and it scans in at the $4, not the $2 sale that it’s on the retailer is supposed to give you that item for free if the item is $10 or less. If the item is $10 or more they’re supposed to give you $10 off of that unit item. Only once they have to give it to you, but it’s to keep them in line with making sure that all of their items at the grocery store are properly input into their scanning system.
Doug Hoyes: Wow and you’ve got to believe that the average grocery store has, I don’t know, 10,000 items, I don’t know what the number is, it’s just a huge number. So, there’s got to be a mistake or two in there somewhere. And the only way you’re going to know if there’s a mistake is if you know what it’s supposed to cost. That’s the only way you can tell if there’s an error, right?
Nicole Olsen: Absolutely, if you pay attention. So, I’ve caught this quite a few times because when I get to the check out I know exactly how much I’m going to be spending ’cause I add up all of my items as I go through the grocery store. So, if my bill is different than what I think it’s supposed to be, then I know I need to go back through my list and figure out what got scanned in incorrectly. And then from there I just tell the check out person or sometimes I’ll go to the customer service rep and say this scanned in wrong and they refund my money and I get to take my items with me.
Doug Hoyes: That’s an excellent tip but most people probably wouldn’t know about. So, in the last minute or so we’ve got tell me about coupons, is there anything we need to know about coupons or do they even exist anymore?
Nicole Olsen: Coupons are a little bit different in Canada than they are in the States. You might see those TV shows Extreme Couponing. It’s a little bit more challenging in Canada. You get most of your coupons online so you do have to have access to a printer so you can get them. But there’s a lot of websites that offer up coupons.
The only challenges I find with those is that there for brand name items and a lot of the times I can get an off brand item for less than I would even with a regular price and the coupon attached. So, you have to really like that item to get a coupon for it.
So, one thing that I recommend as far as couponing, and it works very well for me, is that if I really like an item and I did this with Campbell’s Soup, I really like their tomato basil soup, so I emailed Campbell’s and I said listen I really like your tomato basil soup, please keep making it, it’s delicious. There were no – I wasn’t planning on anything, I just wanted to let them know. And they sent me in the mail six free coupons for Campbell’s soup. A lot of the times you can get really far with just writing the manufacturer and telling them things that you love and that you hate about their products. For the most part they would love to keep you as a customer so they’re going to send you coupons for free items.
Doug Hoyes: That’s cool. The cost of a stamp or an email and you get some coupons out of it. That’s some fantastic advice, Nicole. Thanks very much for being with me today. That was the Let’s Get Started segment. I’ll be back to wrap it up. You’re listening to Debt Free in 30.
Doug Hoyes: Welcome back. It’s time for the 30 second recap of what we discussed today. On today’s show Nicole Olsen gave us a four step plan for saving money at the grocery store. Her four steps are menu planning, shop your pantry then make a list, shop the flyers and then use coupons and loyalty points. That’s the 30 second recap of what we discussed today.
So, what’s my take on Nicole’s shopping tips? I’m the first to admit that I’m no shopping expert. So, I learned a lot from Nicole on today’s show. I thought her tip about using your list first, not the flyers was a great idea. My natural inclination would be to search the flyers first, but just because something’s on sale doesn’t mean I should buy it. Nicole’s approach is far better. Figure out what you need first, then search the flyers and the shopping apps for the best deal.
Flyers and apps like Flipp are great resources. But if you end up driving around at five or six different stores to get the best deal, you blow all of your savings on gas. That’s crazy, which is why I thought Nicole’s price matching tip was brilliant. Find the best deals, shop at a store that price matches and then load the upper tray of your shopping cart with the price match items so that they’re easily separated when you get to the cashier. Those are great tips that will save you money.
That’s our show for today. Full show notes are available on our website including links to Nicole’s agency’s website and everything we discussed today. So please go to our website at hoyes.com, that’s h-o-y-e-s.com for more information. Thanks for listening. Until next week, I’m Doug Hoyes, that was Debt Free in 30.