Shop smart and save your sanity!
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Make your shopping list work harder.

Spend five minutes sorting it by department for shopping ease -- you'll slice at least 15 minutes off your trip, says consumer expert Phil Lempert. Got an iPhone or iPod Touch? Applications like Grocery Gadget will organize your list, sync with other members and let you check off items without a pen.

Commit to one supermarket...

Being familiar with the store layout eliminates time wasted searching for items. Plus, chasing deals at different grocery stores isn't worth it. "You'll end up spending more on gas than you'd save," says savings expert Teri Gault, founder of

...but make sure it's a store that honors competitors' prices.

Price matching usually isn't advertised, but check with customer service -- Gault says it's sometimes company policy. Bring circulars from competing stores and request the lower price at checkout. It might take a few minutes to get approval, but think of the time you would have lost going to another store.


Check yourself out.

You'll be more conscious of what you're buying when you're doing the scanning. In fact, in a recent study, women were 32 percent less likely to make impulse purchases at the self-checkout. "Those savings add up to about 25 percent," says Lempert.

Size up that package.

Manufacturers are downsizing everything from toilet paper (shorter and fewer sheets) to peanut butter (doming the jar bottom) on the sly -- without lowering prices. Redesigned packaging can tip you off, says consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky. Always check the unit price label to compare products on a per-ounce basis.

Compare, compare, compare.

Stores stock similar products in several areas at different prices. For example, you'll save up to 30 percent if you buy cheese in the dairy aisle rather than the artisanal case, says Lempert. Same goes for bread. Buy it in the bread aisle, not the bakery section, since "stores often buy premade dough from the same companies found in the bread aisle," he says.


Don't clip every coupon you see.

Don't clip every coupon you see. Coupons can persuade you to buy things you didn't even want. Instead, have online sites cater to your needs. " rivals the Sunday paper in its variety of current deals," says Dworsky. Or try, which matches sales in your area to current coupons for maximum savings. This site also offers the option to sign up for e-mail alerts on new coupons for your favorite brands.

Shop midweek to avoid crowds

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are your best bet, advises Gault. "Go after dinner, when the post-work crowds have cleared," she says. If you must shop on weekends, go before noon.

Give your kids something to do.

To avoid in-store meltdowns, distract them, says parenting expert Susan Linn, of Judge Baker Children's Center in Boston. Have toddlers find all the green items in an aisle. Older kids can match brands to coupons and help tackle the shopping list by rounding up items from other aisles.


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