How to Save Big While You Shop

Follow these simple steps and you'll breeze past the checkout line with cash in your wallet and time on your hands.
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Follow these simple steps and you'll breeze past the checkout line with cash in your wallet and time on your hands.

1. Score no-brainer freebies

Supermarkets like Publix and Bi-Lo will give you certain store-brand items for free when you buy the national-brand equivalent. "This is a risk-free way to sample store brands, which are often as good as the national brands -- and almost always cheaper," says marketing expert Janet Eden-Harris. In fact, most are so confident in their private-label goods, they offer money-back guarantees, says savings expert Kimberly Danger, author of Instant Bargains.

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2. Stay on budget as you go

Use the new handheld devices from Stop & Shop and Giant Food that let you scan and bag items as you go. You'll shave 10 to 15 minutes off your shopping trip. And since the device displays your running total, you'll be more likely to stick to your budget, says consumer research psychologist and professor Kit Yarrow. "When you immediately see the damage that impulse buys like chips and gourmet goodies do to your bottom line, you'll think twice about putting them in your cart," she says.

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3. Nab insider deals via Facebook

"Friend" or "follow" supermarkets and brands on Facebook or Twitter to stay on top of exclusive sales. Many retailers use social media to announce specials. Jeanette Pavini, savings expert at coupons.com, also advises that you check product manufacturers' pages for the best deals. To keep your news feed under control, focus on brands you buy often (regular purchases like diapers or cereal) or items that tend to be expensive (like extra-virgin olive oil).

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4. Mix & match deals online

Put down the scissors! Supermarkets like Wegmans and ShopRite now let you access store circulars online, plus create and print shopping lists. When you make an online shopping list, you can search for coupons and swap in comparable items that are on sale. Letting the bargains come to you cuts down prep time and can save you up to $200 per month, Pavini says. Plus, finding out about deals ahead of time helps you avoid sale-induced impulse buying in the store, Yarrow says.

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5. Take a guided tour from a pro

At Whole Foods Markets, you can sign up for a guided trip around the store to get the inside scoop on the best ways to save. You'll get the most out of it if you come prepared with a list of questions, Pavini says. Her top five: When do advertised specials start and end? Do you discount nextday bakery items? Do you accept expired or competitors' coupons? What are some less expensive substitutes for costlier ingredients my family uses? Do you offer discounts for buying in bulk?

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