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8 unexpected ways to cut your grocery bill

You know the deal with it comes to saving money on food: clip coupons, follow flyers, and buy items like rice and beans in bulk. But there are lots of other ways to cut your grocery costs.

Watch the price scanner
Mistakes happen. And you stand to gain if the price scanned on an item at checkout is higher than the price displayed in the store or advertised by the store. The lower price is to be honoured, plus, the product is yours for free if its value is less than $10. If the price is higher than $10, the retailer is to give you a discount of $10 off the corrected amount.

This is because of the Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code, an initiative of the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Association of Chain Drug Stores, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers. Note that it’s a voluntary measure, so not every single shop out there follows the code. But the biggies that do include Wal-Mart, Home Depot, London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart, Costco Wholesale, and Canadian Tire.

Cashiers and other staff members might not be aware of the code themselves. If they won’t uphold the code, ask to speak to a manager.

Ask for rain checks
If there’s a terrific price on a must-have item but it’s sold out, ask if you can still score the deal when the next shipment arrives.

Choose organics frugally
If you prefer your produce pesticide-free but don’t like the price tag of organic, check out the Environmental Working Group’s invaluable shopping guides: the “Dirty Dozen” (fruits and vegetables that are the most contaminated with chemicals — take apples, celery and red bell peppers) and the “Clean 15” (the produce that’s least laden with toxic substances, such as onions, sweet corn and pineapple). Go organic on the former group but conventional for the latter. That way you can still limit your exposure to contaminants while protecting your pocketbook.

Stick to the store’s perimeter
In other words, load up your cart with items that are found along the store’s outer ring — sections dedicated to produce, bread, and dairy as well as fish, meat and poultry. The shelves lining a grocery store’s centre aisles, meanwhile, always contain the pricier processed, snack-type stuff: think chips, cereal, crackers, canned foods, and the like. You’ll save money and you’ll probably feel healthier, too.

Take a cue from vegetarians
You don’t have to cut out steak or prawns if you don’t want to, but beef, poultry and seafood are more expensive than meals made of beans, legumes and veggies.

Click on your calculator
The most accurate way to compare prices is to check unit prices, which are usually listed in teeny, tiny print on the price tag.

Beware of grocery-store tricks
Bargain items are never at eye-level; pricey ones are. Look high and low, literally, for good buys and generic brands. Pleasant smells from the bakery and floral departments are near the entrances to set a pleasant atmosphere — one in which you’ll be tempted to spend more time than necessary and make impulse purchases. Music has the same effect too, so be sure to pop in your own ear buds.

Remember the basics of smart shopping
Plan meals in advance if possible. Have a list and stick to it. Never shop when you’re hungry.