Grocery Store Dollar Snatchers

by Erin Huffstetler

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Feel like sticking to your grocery budget is always a struggle? With all of the tricky marketing schemes grocery stores have in place, it's little wonder. Read on to learn about several of the lesser-known grocery store dollar snatchers that could be gobbling up your shopping budget.

Sales aisle - Many grocery chains have begun to use the first aisle of the store to display weekly sales items. Admittedly, the bargains on this aisle may look irresistible, but if you want to minimize your grocery bill, it's best to leave these "bargains" sitting on the shelf. Why? Because a sales aisle takes away your ability to comparison shop. Sure that particular brand of soup is on sale, but is it really the best buy? Unless you compare its price to the price of similar products you won't know.

Perhaps the more frustrating aspect of this aisle is its ability to add items to your grocery list. It's easy to fall for impulse buys, but it's even easier to fall for them at the beginning of the store when your cart is empty.

To keep the sales aisle from snatching your dollars, make it a policy to never buy anything from this area. Instead make a note of the items that you are interested in, and then compare prices when you get to their respective aisles.

Meat counter - Beware of the meat packages at the top of the pile! No, they don't carry Salmonella or Mad Cow's disease, but they may come with something just as frightening, which is a higher price! If you want to find the best deals on pre-packaged meat, you're going to need to dig. Often grocery stores place the most expensive packages on top, where they know a rushed shopper is likely to reach. Dig a little, and you'll save a lot.

Chip aisle - You know what would go great with those chips you just picked out? Some dip or salsa would be great. And gee, look it's sitting right next to the chips. How handy!

Perhaps a little too handy. When you buy dip or salsa from the chip aisle, you will usually pay a premium for it. Silly shopper, didn't you know you were supposed to pick out your dip or salsa way back on aisle three? You know, before you had decided whether you were going to buy tortilla chips or potato chips?

It sounds totally illogical, but this is just what you have to do to avoid paying impulse buy prices for these items. You see, the grocery stores realize this just isn't the shopping order that most people follow. They know that by placing these items together (as you would expect them to be), they can sell you smaller packages of dip and salsa at a higher price, without you even realizing it. Shady? Yes, but it's also reality.

To avoid this dollar snatcher, you have two options: buy your dip or salsa first (if you can remember to) or double back for your dip/salsa after you've picked out your chips.

Deli - Ever noticed how the deli tends to be the last stop in a grocery store? No accident, I assure you. You see, stores realize that it takes time to place and receive a deli order. You've got to wait for the deli worker to finish with other customers' orders, and then wait again while your order is prepared. All of this waiting gives you plenty of time to realize that you forgot to grab a loaf of bread or that you forgot to buy cheese. Now, you could run back to the other side of the store to get these items, or you could just pick them up from the displays in front of the deli counter. Convenient? Yes. A good buy? No. Generally, the food items found in the deli section are limited to premium (high-priced) brands.

To avoid this dollar snatcher, get in the habit of buying lunchmeat (and only lunchmeat) from the deli department. Bread, cheese, wraps, chips and condiments can all be found elsewhere in the store for a better price.

Learn to avoid the previous dollar snatchers, and you'll be much closer to realizing your grocery budget goals.

Erin Huffstetler is a freelance writer and mother of two who resides in East Tennessee. She is the Guide of the Frugal Living section at and the owner of the site My Frugal Home.

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  • See how a grocery pricebook could save you 15% on your food bill.
  • Look at your family's grocery habits and see what 'snatchers' are taking your money. Take steps to eliminate them.
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