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The savvy grocery shopper

By Susan Shinn
Salisbury Post
With gas prices soaring, being a savvy grocery shopper is more important than ever.
Local grocery stores are offering more ways than ever to help you save money at the checkout.
On April 28, Food Lion kicked off its Switch and Save program, which highlights its store brands.
At the Food Lion store on Jake Alexander Boulevard and N.C. 150, for example, shoppers can compare two grocery buggies full of items stacked side by side. The store brand buggy is $27.45 less than the buggy full of national brands.
“We’ve really ramped up our private brands,” says Kimberly Blackburn, company spokesperson. This includes Healthy Accents products in health and beauty.
Herman Freeman, assistant store manager, notes that Food Lion milk is made by Pet, and that other premium vendors supply private labels.
“You might as well get Food Lion brand,” he says.
“When you look at the national brands, you’re looking at marketing and advertising,” says Karen Peterson, company spokesperson ó and you’re paying more for those name brands.
The vast majority of products at Aldi are private label brands.
“We do not do coupons,” says Corey Stucker, Aldi’s director of store operations. “Private labels help keep our prices low.”
Aldi also takes a decidedly no-frills approach at its stores. Customers supply their own bags for packing their own groceries, and place a quarter in the buggy rack (you get it back) to retrieve a shopping cart. These procedures all help keep prices low as well, Stucker says.
Other grocery stores use savings cards in addition to coupons.
For the week of April 21, customers at the Food Lion on Jake Alexander saved $40,056.39 by using their MVP cards.
(Harris-Teeter has a similar program in its VIC card program.)
It’s all about becoming an educated shopper, Peterson says.
She notes that since more people are or will be eating at home, Food Lion has developed a line of convenience foods called On the Go Bistro.
“I’m a big fan of the baked ziti,” Peterson says.
Blackburn’s favorites include Chicken Alfredo and macaroni and cheese ó the line has a number of “comfort foods,” she says.
With On the Go, you get the convenience and variety of a prepared meal without the cost of eating out.
Food Lion also has a continuity program, such as getting free milk, or free turkey at Christmastime. Right now, the special is a free rotisserie chicken when you buy six.
“That’s my Sunday dinner,” Blackburn says.
It does take time to sit down and study store circulars and clip coupons, she admits. “But why not take time to do that? Everybody likes to save money.”
While convenience foods may have a number of coupons available, that’s not always the case in the produce and meat departments.
But Freeman says that in produce, one variety of apple is on special each weekly, along with a citrus fruit, a bag salad and a variety of potato.
The meat department is where the most expensive items are ó but there are ways to save there, too.
Scott Bauguess, market manager, says that popular items such as hamburger meat, steak, pork and chicken are rotated specials.
In May and June, for example, flatiron steak will be on special.
“It’s at a lower price but it’s an outstanding steak,” Bauguess says. “It will be back in stock soon. We try to reach out to what the customers are asking for.”
Having a large cut of meat cut down into single servings is one way you can really save money, Bauguess points out. “When you come into this department, you want to get the most bang for your buck.”
He’s happy to help groups with large orders.
“I love to help customers who are not sure what they’re looking for,” he says.
His wife is a great cook, he says, and he often passes cooking tips along.
Buying seasonally also helps you save money, Freeman says.
For example, soft drinks and snacks will be on special during the summer.
Buy-one-get-one free items are always a big hit with customers, Blackburn says. “You really feel like you’re getting a bargain.”
Check the end of the aisles ó or the end caps ó for bargains.
You can even save at the cash register with receipt coupons. With these coupons, what you buy determines the coupons you receive ó so they’re items you buy every week, Blackburn says.

Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.

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