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Funny Money: Check Out These Ways To Adventurously Whip Grocery Costs

grocery cart

via Prevention.com

Some people see grocery shopping as a monotonous chore, unaware of the wild, dangerous adventure it really is.

That’s no grocery cart — it’s an abandoned mine cart you’re pushing through dark tunnels filled with treasures such as laundry detergent and Chex Party Mix.

That folded-up piece of paper in your hand is no shopping list — it’s an ancient codebook that you’re using to discover rare artifacts, such as cartons with fewer than three broken eggs.

And the check-out clerk? That’s a … well, a check-out clerk. But if you ask really nicely, you can convince them to pretend to be ancient guardians of the lost temple of Safeway, willing to let you pass through the posts they’re manning only if you can answer the confounding riddle: “Paper or plastic?”

Not feeling it? Thinking I’m a dork? Try out these money-saving shopping tips and maybe you’ll change your mind.

Decode the hidden hieroglyphs.

Slide out the price cards on the racks. Store workers often tip you off to coming sales by slipping cards with cheaper prices underneath. If your detective work reveals a future price cut, let the suckers buy the Cheez Whiz at the current price while you’ll come back and score the savings.

Use the magic keys carefully.

Magical cost-cutting talismans known as coupons can save you cash, but can also trick you into spending more by convincing you that you’re getting a good deal when you’re not. Keep in mind that coupons aren’t benevolent acts of charity from manufacturers trying to cut you a break. They’re marketing tools, much like shrinking, spike-filled rooms, meant to get you to subsidize ad wizards’ high-rolling lifestyles. Stick with the generics over the name brands unless you’re able to take advantage of an extreme coupon reality show-worthy exploit, such as triple coupon day or tacking discounts on to sales.

Consult the oracle at the top of the mountain.

Indiana Jones doesn’t stick to just one cursed temple in his movies, and nor should you remain loyal to one store. There are tons of apps out there that act as all-seeing soothsayers. Consult them to find the best deals of the week, then plan your shopping expeditions accordingly.

Romance the stone.

A way to score the best deals without having to travel red-dotted lines all over the map by hitting different stores is to take advantage of places that offer price matching. Some people price match by poring over the grocery ads, patching together binders that show all the best deals, but there’s no need to go to all that trouble when the store will do it for you. Just point to your milk and say you’d like to price match it. Some grocery store always has an obscenely cheap milk deal going in order to draw you into its clutches, and the check-out clerk will most likely be aware of whatever it is and give you the price he’s given the past 300 shoppers who asked for it.

Swing over the bottomless pit in the nick of time.

Memberships at warehouse wholesalers such as Costco and Sam’s Club are ways to score consistent savings, but there’s a way to recoup your fees. Just sign up for a membership, use it the entire year, then ask for a full refund a week or so before it’s set to expire. I have no idea why the warehouses hand you all your money back rather than a prorated amount, but I am not one to question its mystical wonders. Sure, you feel like a sleazebag for doing it, but you also feel kind of awesome. Such is life as an adventurer. Now grab your whip and fedora and be on your way.

Published or updated on February 27, 2013

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About Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal writes Funny Money weekly for Money Under 30. He lives in Tucson and works for the Arizona Daily Star. He's also an author, blogger and Twitterer.


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  1. Bill Guerra says:

    Hi Phil,
    I loved your article and here’s why. Too often grocery shopping IS incorrectly seen as a bore, or a laborious task. I proclaim it is just that adventure of which you so eloquently spoke. If we grasp the right mindset!

    My grocery adventure treks like this: my mind filled with enthusiasm is used to outwit the stores keen ads like “two for one. or buy 5 cheaper” among other hype and hawking. Hey how about those beacons beaming in aisles of fluorescent yellow, orange or green star shaped price signs. I actually believe they have hypnotic powers because sometimes I just stare at them for several moments.

    With my compass in hand.

    Uh, wait er, no that’s my iPhone’s calculator, and pen, and grocery comparison guide I am ready to search and destroy nay search and gather by outwitting more expensive grocers like Albertsons here in Las Vegas, NV.

    When Albertsons has a great sale on items (which is rarely) my grab-n-toss restraint deploys forbidding me to pick up the other needed items, from THERE.

    Why? Because a place with prices like that is no place for this savvy rations gatherer.
    {In Albertsons defense their produce is tops, selection and quality is admirable. Price-high.}

    Grocery shopping is an adventure in more ways than I can count.

    Ask yourself next time your in any grocer:
    “Did I look for Manager Specials”
    “Did I check for my top three favorite or most expensive treats to see if there’s and unadvertised sale on them right now?
    My favorites are: Rib eye steak choice grade, Hagen-Daz ice cream and Cheetos Jalapeno flavored.
    “Did I take a few extra moments to carefully study every nook and cranny of the treasure map they call an ad.

    Groceries are the second highest expense we have that’s a lot of dough. Dough which I try to spend wisely.

    Its your turn to take the tips herein and see it as the adventure that it is and you too will save, eat and enjoy.

    Here I go back out to the adventure!

    Bill Guerra
    Founder; Grocery411.com, The Art of Grocery

  2. David Cole says:

    I think that is stealing and being dishonest by cancelling the membership at almost the end of it’s term. Now if you shoped there once and did not like what you saw, than yes cancel it. But to use the system becuase you can will never let you get ahead. I am cheap and save money, by no means do I do it by cheating anyone.

  3. I’m not feeling the canceling the membership policy, regardless of lax policy. If membership is overpriced, I won’t buy in. Taking advantage of people is not something I’d like to make a personal policy.

  4. Gina, it’s fair to question the morality of canceling a membership for a refund after using it for almost the whole time, but it’s not ‘stealing’ to take advantage of a lax company policy. There’s no deception involved.

    • Cindy says:

      I agree with Gina…Policy aside, if I used their service for almost a year, I wouldn’t feel right canceling the membership to get a little bit of money back. That’s very stingy and doesn’t show integrity.

  5. Gina W. says:

    There’s frugal and then there’s stealing and cheapskate! If you like stealing your costco/sam’s membership, go ahead…. steal away. And yes, you feel like a sleazebag because you are acting like one.

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