Dear Martin: My Albertson's had a display of Campbell's Baked Beans. They were advertised at four cans for a dollar. Attached to the shelf, I found a pad of coupons, each good for $1 off on four cans. You guessed it! I walked out with 12 cans, and I paid zero! I couldn't believe the deal. Even the cashier was scratching her head on this one. Can you explain how this could happen? Robert Bois, Houston, Texas
The answer to Robert's question is simple. There was a lack of coordination between the promotion and the sales department. Campbell's did not intend to give the baked beans away free. The coupons were not supposed to be on the shelf during that sale week. Somehow it happened, and Robert took home the prize!
Stocking up on a bargain is one of the great pleasures of playing The Great Grocery Game. When you find a bargain, don't just buy one or two, buy as much as makes sense.
How many to buy
Deciding on how many to buy may depend on several things. If the deal is a Home Run Savings, like Robert's free baked beans, you may only be limited by the store's sales policy. Some supermarkets have purchase limits for sale items. They do not want a shopper to take every item off the shelf and leave a big empty space above the sale sign. If there is no limit, I urge my readers to be considerate and leave something on the shelf for the next shopper.
Your decision on how many items to purchase will also depend on how often you find the item on sale. If the bargain is a "buy one, get one free" on a popular breakfast cereal, you probably do not want to buy too many packages, because you will see it on sale again before your supply runs out.
I have just one package of Cheerios left in my grocery "Gold Mine." It works for me, because this week one of my supermarkets is offering Cheerios at "buy one, get one free." I expect to buy four large boxes, which is all I need until the next sale.
How long will packaged goods last before the taste and quality begins to go downhill? Check the "Better if used by" dates. My last box of Cheerios has a date of Sept. 27, 2002. I would feel confident in using it until the end of the year. Canned goods will usually retain their quality for a year or more. If the product does not have an easy-to-understand product date, I recommend writing the date of purchase on the label using a marking pen.
One of the stocking up problems faced by smart shoppers is running out of space. Storing 12 cans of baked beans may not be a problem if you live in a house with a big pantry, a garage or basement. However, it may test your ingenuity if you live in a small apartment. Smart shoppers look for free space under beds, behind couches and under table skirts. Garages and basements can work well for canned goods. Food in cardboard boxes require special precautions to keep them bug-free such using as heavyweight plastic storage boxes or containers.
Smart shoppers who have the space should consider purchasing a freezer so they can stock up on perishable and frozen food bargains. Consider the weekly sales on meat that offer savings of as much as several dollars a pound. These bargains can quickly pay you back for a second-hand freezer.
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