July 28, 2014 at 2:44 PM ET
Seems we're just not clipping like we used to: In a new ShopSmart survey, 28 percent of supermarket customers said they can't be bothered with coupons, while another 15 percent called coupons a "necessary evil." But how necessary are they really? ShopSmart magazine sent undercover shoppers through grocery store aisles and discovered plenty of other ways to cut your supermarket tab. Editor-in-chief Lisa Freeman stopped by TODAY and shared eight strategies that could save you hundreds.
1. Buy bags and bundles
You've probably heard that you can save cash by buying in bulk. But you don't have to cart home a truckload of food to reap the savings; modest multi-packs deliver great deals, too. For instance, ShopSmart scored an 18 percent discount simply by opting for a 12-pack of Chobani yogurt instead of purchasing individual cups. And five pounds of potatoes were 36 percent cheaper when bought bagged vs. loose. This trick also works for household items like pet food and soap.
2. Order cold cuts at the counter
Next time you need to pick up sandwich fixings, skip the vacuum-sealed packet of ham and take a number in the deli department. ShopSmart found that cold cuts sliced at the supermarket were up to 31 percent cheaper than commercially packaged versions of the same brand. At one store, for example, prepackaged Alpine Lace Swiss cheese was priced at $15.99 per pound, while the deli was selling the same Swiss for $10.99 per pound. Bonus: You get to ask for those yummy extra-thin slices.
3. Hit the discount rack
In ShopSmart's survey, one out of five people said they steer clear of the supermarket clearance section. Don't! Fresh fruits and veggies often are perfectly good, marked down to clear space for scheduled produce shipments. Other sale items might just be slightly out of season (Easter candy: always delicious) or recently discontinued by the manufacturer, Freeman noted. While it's wise to double-check expiration dates to ensure you'll use the product in time, you could save 50 percent.
4. Drop by the dollar store
Believe it or not, more and more dollar stores are serving up major steals on fresh staples, in some cases even beating the prices at Walmart. A loaf of bread at one dollar store came in at just $1.00 (vs. $1.60 at Walmart), while a dozen eggs was selling for $1.70 (vs. $2.00)! Look for rock-bottom deals on pantry items like ketchup and salad dressing, too — Freeman assures that discount retailers are branching out beyond "weird brands."
5. Look for larger packages
Don't be fooled by those similar-looking cereal boxes. ShopSmart discovered that you can nab major savings just by grabbing a bigger box or jar from shelves. A 15-ounce bottle of Hellman's, for example, costs $3.02, while the 30-ounce size sells for just $3.78 — that's 100 percent more mayo for just 25 percent more cash. A 9-ounce box of Cheerios came in at $2.57, while a box twice the size was a mere $3.25. (Just compare unit prices to confirm the better deal. Sometimes smaller quantities do go on sale.)
6. Go organic ... at Walmart
New this year, Walmart's Wild Oats Marketplace Organics line — which includes everything from canned veggies to chicken broth — is 18 to 40 percent cheaper than similar organic offerings at specialty supermarkets (and sometimes other big-box outlets), ShopSmart found. For instance, Wild Oats organic chickpeas were 30 percent cheaper than those at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, while the price of Wild Oats organic pasta sauce was 40 percent lower than the sauce at Target. Warehouse stores such as Costco offer good deals on organic food, too, provided you have a need for bulk quantities.
7. Sign up for subscriptions
For household essentials that require regular restocking — think diapers, bottled water and laundry detergent — a monthly home-delivery subscription could keep extra cash in your pocket, ShopSmart found. Two of the major players in this realm are Amazon, which offers steep discounts and free delivery through its Subscribe & Save program, and Target, which recently rolled out a similar service that extends a bonus 5 percent discount to Target REDcard holders. All told, such product subscription services can save you up to 70 percent over buying items at the supermarket, Freeman said.
8. Suss out sales
Even if you're not leafing through supermarket circulars in the local newspaper anymore, you can still keep tabs on special promotions. Try a smartphone app like Flipp to get store flyers and manage your shopping list. And sites like SundaySaver.com showcase featured sales from retailers across multiple categories (such as electronics and home improvement), great for those hectic weekends when you're running a million errands.