Tuesday, January 26, 2010

10 Supermarketing Tips from an Expert

Ahem...I go to the supermarket every Tuesday. For the last decade (or so...I think longer), I've reserved Tuesday as my official day off. A friend of my commented that it's Tuesdays with Inang. Tuesday happens to be my official supermarket day as well.

And I've become THE expert when it comes to supermarket deals and I'm sharing some tips to my readers on how to shop and save in the supermarkets:

1. NEVER SHOP WITH CHILDREN. You know how these little kids are when you pass through the candies and junk corner. And the moms. Darn...they just accede to whatever the little runt picks up in the grocery. Junk, junk, and more junk.

The other day, I saw a mom buying Oreo cookies, a pack of M & Ms, and chocolate chips with a bottle of water for the lunch of her 2 1/2 year old boy. And he's so reed thin that if I had accidentally hit him with my cart, he would have flown 100 meters and died right there. Parents, a word of advice - feeding is a habit that is learned! Notice how kids are in the grocery. Bilmoko nun, bilmoko nyan ha! (Buy me this, buy me that mode!) I have parents that literally beg me to prescribe a good vitamin for their children who have such bad eating habits. When you ask them what's literally in their lunch box, it's practically junk.

Lesson number 1 - DO NOT BRING YOUR KIDS WITH YOU TO THE SUPERMARKET! You will save on the junk that you don't need to buy. (And you people have the temerity to complain that you don't have enough money for food but look at what's in your cart! Dang these people.)

2. EAT BEFORE YOU SHOP - I've noticed that whenever I am hungry and go to the supermarket, I am always buying more what I don't need. Hotdogs, bacon, salami, Spam, tofu, yogurt, fresh orange juice, fruits, etc. Normally I buy enough for a couple of days. But when I'm hungry, I buy not only more (in terms of amount) but even those I don't need - candies, ice cream, chips, popcorn (they're junk!!!). And I normally hesitate buying junk. It has a certain way of beckoning the buyer when the buyer has a growling tummy. I'm sure you believe me by now. Best way to avoid over spending on food? Shop after lunch or after dinner. The crowd is usually thinner as well.

3. COMPARE PRICES IN SUPERMARKETS - Take mental notes. Sometimes some supermarkets have better deals than others. Just because it's S & R does not mean that the imported items are cheaper. Actually, what you seem to be shopping by the bulk may actually mean more expenditure which you don't need. And try to budget yourself on a weekly basis especially when it comes to food. You don't want to overwork that refrigerator of yours and wonder why the meat you bought a year ago is still sitting in your freezer or the yogurt you have expired 3 months ago and your son just ate it! Both Makati Supermarket and South Supermarket (of course, near where I reside) have almost the same price for food, but South Supermarket seems to have a bigger array of choices when it comes to household items and other knick knacks in the house. S&R is okay when it comes to fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood. But S&R prices are steeper than the ordinary supermarkets. When shopping, remember - every centavo counts! What you save with one product when compounded can add up to your next lunch meal!

4. NEVER BUY APPLIANCES AND OTHER NON-SUPERMARKET ITEMS IN THE SUPERMARKET - Amazing how some supermarkets carry all these. TV, iron, iron board, maids uniform, underwear, supporter, socks, water heater, car wax, tires, jogging pants, light bulbs...get the drift? They're actually cheaper at Ace Hardware or in designated appliance stores. The tag price difference may be a few pesos (water heater at SM supermarket is P380 for the 3D brand, while the same water heater at Anson Appliance is P375) but you can talk to the store manager of the appliance store who'd gladly offer discounts if you're paying in cash or straight charge (P340 in the end).

In short, sort out the essentials when you go to the supermarket. If you need to buy the flat screen TV, go buy it in the appliance store. You can even get it at 6 months 0% interest, which the supermarket will not do.

5. READ THE LABEL - Okay, so you're always in a rush. And you don't have time to read the label. Tough luck. Read it when you get home. If you're still harassed at home, tough luck. Read it while you're sitting in the toilet bowl taking a crap. That leaves you no excuse not to be stupid.

I had this patient that complained so much about his kid gaining so much weight lately. And all his teenage son was into was Vit Water. He would not drink anything but Vit Water and that Fit and Right thingy that's being sold left and right as slimming aids. Nutritional content? Anywhere from 50-120 cal per serving. Water is 0 calories. Why in God's name do you want to buy water laced with vitamins or a drug? There is no way, no way at all that they can make it taste that good without adding sugar! And stupid you, you go ahead and believe it without reading the label.

I gave the dad a pop quiz - how many calories in 1 bottle of Vit Water (for energy) he didn't have a clue! 49 calories. How many calories in 1 bottle of Viva water? 0. That's what it's supposed to be - 0. Nada. Zip. None. Wala.

Look for carcinogens. Look for aspartame. Look for added coloring. Look and read. Ignorance is bliss. You have time to go into Facebook or play Bejeweled or that DS Lite, but you don't have time to read the nutritional content of the label. That's why there is a label.

And reminder - If there is no nutritional content or the label has no ingredients written down, DON'T BUY IT! It's not worth it if the company is not willing to reveal what it manufactures. Don't risk your life.

6. CHECK THE DATES WHEN THE FRUITS WERE PACKED - Notice at how some of the fruits are already prepacked? And there's a price tag right there. Well on the price tag you should be able to read when the fruits were actually packed. For freshness, make sure that they're packed on the day you're buying them. Otherwise, just get the loose ones and have the sales lady weigh how much you'd like to buy. I always prefer that you get the loose ones rather than the prepacked because they usually stuff the rotten fruits at the bottom of the prepacked ones.

7. ALWAYS CHECK THE EXPIRATION DATE - You notice how some goods are buy 5 take 1 or buy one take one or the Hershey bar is 50% off? Well that's because it's near expiry! It's always tempting to go for a sale, but you're going to throw it away if you plan to eat or drink it 1 month from today!

8. AVOID SUPERMARKETS THAT MAKE YOU PAY FOR YOUR PARKING FEE - You're already buying from their store. The least they can do is not to charge you for the short time that you shopped in their store. (It's the same take I have with malls. I think they're all thieves. They should make it an incentive that if the shopper buys at least a minimum amount, their concierge should validate your parking pass and not charge you for the parking. Ano sila sinusuwerte? Sila lang ang may karapatan yumaman?) They should be honored that you're shopping there. The customer has rights too (but the Supreme Court is ignorant of that and the Department of Trade and Industry will always side with the thieves.)

9. PREPARE A CHECKLIST BEFORE SHOPPING - You don't need to zip from one lane to the next like a ditsy drug-crazed maniac trying haplessly to recall what you needed to buy and what you did not. Maybe this, oh yeah and I need this too and oh, do I still have this? Like a psycho who's trying to make heads or tails out of what you need or not need to buy, it's always best to make that checklist before you go to the supermarket. And use recycled paper! Try to be kind to the environment.

10. GO GREEN - Most supermarkets offer shopping bags for a minimum price (or even free at S&R). Bring it with you when you go to the supermarket so you don't have to ask for more plastics and more plastics (of course you need it to put your trash, cheapskate). If you're such an advocate of environmental concerns, start with yourself. In Hong Kong, the supermarket asks if you need a bag. If you want a plastic bag, they charge you $1.00 (HKD) for the bag. They ought to do that here. In the US and other countries, they use paper bags. Oh well, we're third world, what did you expect? It's on our own initiative that we practice going green.

Can't resist a good buy? It's always best to be an intelligent buyer than having to shell out that hard earned money needlessly.

Incidentally, that product you may have been buying is not currently available. No, the manufacturer did not close. Some supermarkets have not been paying their merchandisers on time, so their accounts have been blocked by the merchandisers. Check with the companies on line. If you see that product in other supermarkets, then the one you're going to is probably over their head in debts. It won't be around the block much longer.

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