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updated 5/30/2007 4:26:38 PM ET 2007-05-30T20:26:38

Savvy consumers today come to the store knowing as much, and sometimes more, about products and prices than those who actually work in the store. Armed with Internet-based information, this new breed of wired consumers often winds up with greater values than their fellow shoppers.

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A new study by eMarketer predicts that 139 million Americans age 14 and older, or 78.5 percent of Internet users, will shop online in 2007, and this percentage is expected to rise to 80 percent by 2011. Moreover, the $1,000 average that each online shopper will spend this year will likely rise to $1,295 by 2009.

New shopping-comparison sites make it even easier for consumers to find information on products and get the best prices. Here are a few:

  • HealthPricer.com lets consumers search responsible merchants for prescription drugs, contact lenses, over-the-counter remedies, vitamin and nutritional supplements, and beauty and personal care items. According to Pew Internet research, 80 percent of American Internet users, or about 113 million adults, searched for health information in 2006. As recently as April 2007, HealthPricer.com drew 250,000 unique visitors, and in May it passed its two million unique visitor mark.
  • GasBuddy.com tells consumers where the best gasoline prices are within 180 geographic areas in the U.S., conveys information to Web-enabled wireless phones, and posts links to other gas price sites, such as GasWatch.com and GasWarsOnline.com.
  • FindStrollers.com and FindBabySeats.com help new parents garner values on these essential items.
  • Kayak.com and SideStep.com are among a growing number of sites serving travelers.

But remember one of the easiest, oldest and best ways to save is still those Sunday newspaper coupon circulars. With just an investment of 15 minutes you could save 15 to 30 percent off your weekly shopping bill. Of course with bargain shopping, you will have to be flexible on the brands you buy, flavors and package sizes.

Phil Lempert is food editor of the TODAY show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to phil.lempert@nbc.com or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at SuperMarketGuru.com.

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