Make most of bargains, avoid pitfalls at grocery

QUEEN OF FREE: CHERIE LOWE

By Cherie Lowe

Sitting on the couch in a quiet moment alone, I made a choice. I indulged a little by watching some YouTube. When a clip of Oprah shopping at the grocery store popped up in my feed, I knew I had to click. She mentioned the last time she had gone grocery shopping for herself was last Thanksgiving, a fact that I found a little fascinating.

Even the queen of daytime can’t keep herself out of the aisles during the holiday season.

Turkey time means steep discounts at your favorite big box retailer or hometown grocer. Many stores feature such great deals that they actually lose money on the sale products. These “loss leaders” are designed to entice you and me (and maybe even Oprah) through the doors. They’re often placed near the back of the store so you have to hike through almost every aisle to snag the deals. Retailers count on the fact that you’ll buy more than you planned on purchasing so they can recoup the losses and maybe even clear a nice profit.

For these reasons, it’s both an amazing time of the year to do your grocery shopping and probable perilous trap, too. These Thanksgiving grocery shopping tips will help you make the most of the bountiful bargains and avoid potential pitfalls.

Make a meal plan

It’s never a good idea to shop blindly but, during the holiday season, heading into the store without a plan or a list could really trip up your budget. If you’re hosting the Thanksgiving meal for your friends and family, begin making a plan early in November. Start by choosing a meat to feature in your holiday meal. If you plan on cooking a turkey, consider how you’ll prepare the bird. Whether you roast, grill, slow cook, or fry, your grocery store needs will vary based on your culinary method. Add two to three vegetables to your meal plan. Most Thanksgiving meals include sweet potatoes, green beans and mashed potatoes, but the vegetative field is wide open. Then choose one or two side dishes like stuffing or noodles. Plan to prepare a bread and at least one dessert, too.

If your feast will be a shared responsibility, ask guests to pitch in and bring appetizers, drinks, more desserts or other sides. It’s better to limit yourself to a set number of dishes, though. The “just one more” side dish trap is an easy one to fall into. Have a clear meal plan and then use that to build an effective grocery list.

Decide where to shop

More than likely, just like Oprah, you’ll head to the grocery store you frequent the most. Unlike Oprah, you probably go there more than two times a year. If you’re like me and shop more than one grocery store on a regular basis, use the ads to determine which stores are running the best deals on the majority of your list items.

Use the grocery store and big box retailer circular ads to track the potential deals and savings. Use your coupons.

Stay focused

Whether on your phone or your trusty notebook, a list guides your entire shopping experience. When you can, order your list approximately by the store’s floorplan so you can pick up items as you encounter each one and cross them off from top to bottom.

Set yourself a time limit for how long you’ll be in the store. Studies show the longer you shop, the more you will buy. So if you can limit the amount of minutes you spend in the store, you’ll limit the amount of money you’ll spend, too.

Know your weak areas and avoid those aisles like the plague. Love a good clearance bargain but don’t really need anything? Always find new clothes you “must have” when you go to buy groceries? End up in the sporting goods or home goods section of the store and have no clue how you even got there? You need to be aware of your shopping achilles’ heel. In particular, it’s easy to purchase a lot of seasonal extras during this time of the year. Turkey themed items will all be packed away less than a week after Thanksgiving (maybe even the day after). Don’t get carried away on temporary festive knick knacks.

There really are no better grocery deals than those available the week or two before Thanksgiving.

Make the most of the bargain prices on food to prepare a feast your wallet and family will both love.

Every penny you save during Thanksgiving can be one you put toward your Christmas budget. As a friend of mine often quips, “Save where you can so you can splurge where you want!”

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.net