As grocery prices increase, all of us are looking for ways to cut down on the amount of money we spend to feed our families. But are you spending more money and getting less at the checkout stand? Call it sneaky, but here are 5 ways that grocery stores are taking your money and giving you less. What may surprise you is that it isn’t higher prices that you need to watch out for.

1. One way is to advertise a product for one weight, but selling you a package that actually weighs less.

Ralphs grocery chain in Los Angeles was sued by the city for deliberately selling pre-packaged meats that weighed less than advertised. The Department of Weights and Measures found the practice was widespread in dozens of stores. How do they do it? A combination of many different methods: including the package in the weight calculation, adding an ice glazing to the weight, and just plain selling meat that was less than the stated weight. In some stores the average was 3.5% lower than the specified weight. On a two pound package of $5 per pound meat, that works out to 35 cents. Doesn’t seem like much until you think about buying 100 of those packages in a year or the chain selling tens of thousands of them every day.

2. Adding solutions to chicken that claims to be adding flavor to your favorite meat.

The next time you grab a package of chicken look at it very carefully. You might just find the words “Up to 15% solution.” The store will tell you it’s to improve the flavor, but it’s almost certainly done to boost their bottom line. So while you may be paying $1.99 a pound for that inexpensive chicken, its really more like $2.29. Virtually free water is what helps them boost their profits.

True. My wife pulled out a pack of Tyson chicken meat and, sure enough, 15% chicken broth was added to the weight.

3. Hiding the fatty meat in the middle of a package of bulk meats.

How often do you buy that big package of meat only to find that the cuts in the middle have a lot more fat or don’t look nearly as nice as those that are visible from the top. Butchers have good cuts and not so good cuts and those that don’t make the grade are often put into the middle or bottom of the package. Once you get it home, you may be trimming off that hidden fat and throwing it away

4. Hiding the essentials in the store makes you search all over the place.

Most people heading to the store will get some bread, milk, juice, meat, and some fruits and vegetables. Now stop for a minute and do a mental map of where all of these things exist in your supermarket. Chances are getting these essentials will take you across the full length of the store.

One solution is to shop at a smaller market.

5. Price per unit, per ounce, per pint, oh my!

Head to the ice cream aisle and try to compare the per unit costs of different brands of ice cream. Should be easy right? One tag will have a price per ounce. The next one a price per pint and a third a price per quart. Take a direct comparison between Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s. Not only is Haagen Dazs shrunk, but it sports a price per ounce while Ben & Jerry’s has a price per pint. Grocers may need to have per unit pricing, but they can change the units on competing items to make it more difficult for you.

So what sneaky things is your local grocery store doing that you have noticed? Share your experience with us.

Comments welcome.


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