Your store uses loss leaders to boost traffics, and you can use them to shrink your grocery bill!
The front page of grocery store flyers is stocked with super deals—shredded cheese that’s 3/$5, a whole watermelon for $1.99, pasta that’s 10/$10. It’s not too good to be true! They’re teaser products—officially named loss leaders—sold at a loss to the store to get shoppers in the door. It’s a marketing strategy for grocery stores, but can also be part of a money-saving strategy for savvy shoppers.
Here’s how to use loss leaders to save money at the supermarket!
Identify the true bargains
Look for the best loss leaders on the front and back pages of a store flyer. Milk and eggs are popular loss leaders because they’re perishable and people buy them regularly. (Here’s why milk is usually at the back of the store.) There are also seasonal loss leaders—like hot dog buns near the Fourth of July or turkeys around Thanksgiving.
Sometimes it’s hard to know if an item is a genuine “loss leader.” But with some planning and research, you can have a good idea how deeply discounted the item is compared to the regular price.
One good strategy is to keep notes on your most frequently purchased items. You can’t keep a running history of the entire grocery store, but if you keep a notebook (or, even better, a notes app on your phone) and track the usual prices of a dozen or so of your family’s essentials, you’ll know when there’s an exceptional bargain. Look for coupons for those items so you can maximize a great sale when it does come along!
Speaking of thinking ahead, get in the habit of planning your week’s meals around what’s on the front page of the flyer. Make a list based on your meal plan and stick to it. If that’s just too tough, allow yourself one impulse buy. I even like to put “impulse buy” on my shopping list, so I can check it off later.
Know when to say no
Beware of flashy “sale” areas once you’re in the store. Stores will sometimes mix in small discounts with the big ones, hoping the shopper will assume if one bargain is huge, they all are!
When there IS an exceptional sale on a nonperishable item you consistently use, stock up. If there’s a limit on how many you can buy, make your shopping trip a family outingand go through the checkout separately. But when you see a major sale on a loss leader you don’t need? Three words: Pass. It. Up.
To get that homemade feel you don’t always have to make everything 100% from scratch. In Magnolia Table, Joanna relies on refrigerated crescent roll dough for a few tasty recipes, like her quick orange-walnut sweet rolls and her classic chicken potpie. This cuts the prep time down significantly, and the results can taste just as good as something made all by hand.
Save time with rotisserie chicken
While everyone loves a perfectly roasted chicken for dinner—and then the leftovers used in tasty dinners all week—it can be hard to find the time to roast one on a busy evening. That’s why Joanna grabs a grocery store rotisserie chicken to use in a handful of recipes, like her cozy chicken potpie.
Turn tricky dishes into casseroles
Have a favorite dish that you always order at a restaurant but is just too tricky to make at home? Joanna says turn those into a casserole! She explains in her book that Chip loves eggs Benedict, but making individual servings at home can be a real hassle. So to get that same flavor with less work, Joanna turned it into an easy-to-make, easy-to-serve casserole. Genius!
Use store-bought crust
Pie crust serves as the foundation for so many of our favorite dishes—pie (obviously!), quiches and tarts—but making your own crust from scratch is sometimes too time-consuming. According to Joanna, don’t worry about it! She writes in Magnolia table that she subs store-bought crust for homemade all the time, especially when she’s whipping up a tasty quiche.
Refrigerated biscuits are your friend
We all know that Joanna is a true Southern gal with an authentic recipe for buttermilk biscuits (you can check out how to make them right here), but we also know she’s a busy woman! That’s why when it comes to chicken and dumplings, Joanna says that you can easily substitute packaged biscuits for her biscuit and dumpling recipe.
Focus on the main dish and take shortcuts on the sides
In Magnolia Table, Joanna explains how enchiladas are a family favorite in her house. The cheese-filled chicken enchiladas are the star of the show and the side dishes—beans and rice—are just supporting players. So when time is tight, focus on the main, and used packaged rice as a quick substitute. Joanna prefers Knorr brand Mexican rice mix.
Transform your condiments
We love our sandwiches layered with flavored aiolis, but we never think to make those fancy types of mayonnaise at home. After all, mayonnaise from scratch can be a real chore. But to get that same effect, Joanna takes her favorite mayonnaise (she says she prefers Hellman’s) and stirs in a handful of herbs and spices. For her version, add chopped chives, garlic, dill, parsley, paprika and a bit of lemon juice. Feel free to add your favorite flavors to dress up your sandwiches.
No matter how carefully you plan or how carefully you read a recipe, sometimes dishes can just go wrong. If something goes wrong and your dinner flops, take this advice from Chip and Joanna from Magnolia Table, “there’s always pizza.”