9 Ways You Could Save Money Every Time You Grocery Shop, According to Supermarket Cashiers

published Mar 29, 2022
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Staying within a set grocery budget can be a difficult balancing act. Between the urge to try new and seasonal items and the steady price increase of certain staples, it’s easy to go into the store hoping to spend $100 and walk out having spent much more. And so finding everyday ways to save is important. Which is where grocery store cashiers come in.

We spoke with several cashiers to learn about the common, costly grocery shopping mistakes they see customers make — and their best advice on how to avoid them. We figured they’d be good sources, considering they are the ones scanning the items in our cart day after day. Here are some of their top tips, including one we can all do right now!

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1. Buy whole fruits and vegetables.

We know how tempting it can be to buy the sliced peppers and diced onions, especially if we’re shopping after a full day of work. That “added value,” as retailers call it, is convenient, but it comes at a cost. “Diced onions go for $1 and change as opposed to a whole onion for $0.79,” says a cashier from a Trader Joe’s in Santa Monica, California. “If you buy veggies whole, you save yourself that dollar by spending a few extra minutes chopping them at home instead.”

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2. Pay close attention to the sections within the produce department.

“Sometimes people don’t read the signs and accidentally purchase organic, which is more expensive, instead of nonorganic because the items look exactly the same,” says Henry, a cashier from a Trader Joe’s in California. “The only way to really tell is to check the sticker.” He also shared this little-known tip: If the number on the fruit or vegetable starts with a nine, that probably means it’s organic. Who knew? 

3. Skip the pre-marinated meat.

“Steaks or meats that are already marinated can be several dollars more,” says Danielle, a cashier at Food City in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Similar to buying pre-cut produce, buying prepared foods, including marinated meats, can cost more than doing it yourself. Plus, making your own marinade guarantees you know every single ingredient that went into it, which is key if you have allergies or are sticking to a special diet.

4. Review the food date labels on bread, meat, and dairy items.

Expiration dates can be confusing, but that’s how retailers and manufacturers indicate a product’s level of freshness to us shoppers. Typically, items are stocked via the First In, First Out (FIFO) method, which means the items with the closest expiration date appear at the front of the shelves. According to the Santa Monica Trader Joe’s cashier, the grocer allows customers to grab items in the way back that have later dates and will, inevitably, last longer. TikTok fans might remember seeing this tip last year, and we’d be remiss not to remind everyone to not abuse the feature and only use it when absolutely necessary.

5. While you’re at it, check the price tag’s finer print.

“Sometimes people will pick up a bunch of something thinking it’s [priced] per pound and then be shocked when the price is not what they expected,” says Katie, a cashier from Trader Joe’s on Staten Island, New York. (Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you? Same.) Katie recommends we double check the finer print on those price tags where, say, a bunch of grapes or prepackaged proteins can be priced per pound or per unit.

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6. Check your cartons for cracks.

Eggs were made to be cracked … at home. It sounds obvious and is an easy fix to an all-too-common problem. In fact, it was the number-one tip from Alison, a cashier from a Trader Joe’s in Albany, New York, who notes doing this quick check can save money and prevent us from tossing unused eggs in the trash. Even if we’re in a rush, it’s important to take the extra minute or so to open the carton and gently move the eggs around to make sure there are no hidden cracks in any shells.

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7. Download your grocery store’s app.

“Circle discounts include a ton for groceries,” says Emma, a cashier at a Target in Alabama. “Right now, there’s an offer this week for 15% off organic Good & Gather salads. You just have to get a free account and clip the coupon.” Oftentimes customers think they have to get a Target credit card to take advantage of these offers, she explains, but it’s completely free and will save us all a lot of money in the process. And this doesn’t just apply to Target: Most grocery stores now offer downloadable apps with hundreds of coupons.

8. Make sure the quantity matches the deal.

“In our weekly ad we have deals if you buy five of a certain item you save an extra $5.00. In general customers take advantage of the deal, but some people will only buy four,” says a cashier at Ralph’s in Los Angeles. “So I’ll show them what the extra items would cost. Most of the time the customer will go back in the store and get the item.”

9. Take advantage of the gas savings.

Our grocery savings can actually extend beyond the store, as long as we sign up for the rewards card. “Take advantage of the gas points earned by using your club card, even if it’s $0.10 a gallon,” says the cashier at Ralph’s. The grocer offers one Fuel Point for every $1 spent and, according to the site, we can redeem up to 1,000 Fuel Points for $1 off per gallon. Not all grocery stores have fuel rewards programs, but check to see if yours does. And then use it. Saving up to $1.00 per gallon can really add up!

Do you have more tips to add? Tell us in the comments below.