Friday, February 18, 2011

Tips: How to Capitalize on Clearance/Food Reaching Exp Date

When living on a budget, clearance shopping can be very smart, but if you are not careful it can also cost you money.  Many times clearance comes when a product is either overstocked or getting close to its expiration date.  This can lead to the store putting clearance stickers, specials sales, or other promotions on it leading to great deals.  Getting some things on clearance can be luck, but it can also come from a keen eye.

Buy it on Markdown/Clearance:

As you look at this you are probably thinking ewww, but you shouldn't be.  The "expiration date" on meat is really a freeze-by date.  If the meat looks to be in good condition, i.e. ground meats pink with no grey and no strange spots or dull color on whole meats, then you are good to go.  Working in the grocery section of a retail store I no longer spend more than $3 on packs of meat.  This is the good stuff too: Chicken Breasts, Chicken Thighs, London Broils, Ground Beefs, and so on.

Don't Be Afraid To Ask
Let's say you are in the store and you see a pack of Chicken Breasts expiring that day.  They look really good but they are at full price.  Don't be afraid to find someone working in the meat or grocery department and ask if you can get a price cut.  Many places already have a system in place for it but it is possible that they missed it during their daily routines.  Spotting it and asking, at least where I work, could net you up to $3 off the product.

Things You Usually Buy
If there is a food product you usually buy and you see it on markdown and clearance, stock up.  This is especially true if it can be frozen.  Always look at the dates on the items you are buying, sometimes it can be from overstock and not expiration that leads to clearance so you can know how long you have to enjoy it.

What Not to Buy

This is more of a general tip, but occasionally milk does get a clearance sticker.  This is when date is key.    If the date is a couple of days away and you have a gallon you need to realistically assess whether you can drink it all before it goes bad.  If not, it is money down the drain no matter what you saved on clearance.

Another set of items very similar to milk.  Just because you see the bread on the $1 cart doesn't mean it is a good deal.  Look to see when it expires.  If you aren't going to use it that night, I would say pass...or you might wake up to a science project (mold) happening in your kitchen.  Leading to more money down the drain.

Things you Don't Like/Don't Need/Not Sure You'd Like
This is a tricky one because clearance can be a great time to try something out.  However, if it is something outside of the realm of things you think you would like, or a brand you usually don't prefer, skip it.  If you don't wind up eating the food you buy it is money down the drain.  So if you don't like soy milk, but see it on sale....don't buy it.  Same goes with something you don't need (obviously excluding to some extent things that you can freeze).  This is a judgement call on your part about how low the price is versus how much you want it/can use it.

So there you go, a couple of thoughts on clearance items.  They can be a great way to save money as long as you don't simply buy because you see a sale.

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