Sunday, December 5, 2010

Riding the 12-Week Grocery Sale Cycle to Bigger Savings

From is from the self-titled Coupon Queen Jill Cataldo (one of many), and says it can be used WITHOUT coupons.

"The 12-week pricing cycle is a key component in cutting your grocery bill, with or without coupons. Remember, everything you buy at your local grocery store fluctuates in price.

Approximately every 12 weeks, each item in the store, everything from a box of cereal to a bottle of juice will hit both a high point and a low point within that time period.

When you shop the cycles, you're buying when products' prices are at their lowest points in the cycle. Then you can move in with your coupons to cut those lowest prices even more. This is how attentive coupon shoppers are able to realize big, significant savings."

Remember what I've said in the past about retailers learning from their discounting mistakes. This cycle surely won't last when enough people get on board.

"Let me give you an example. A name-brand 8-ounce bag of shredded mozzarella cheese might range in price from a high of $3.29 to a low of $1.99. Even without any coupons, if I buy the cheese when it's cycling low in price at $1.99, I'll save $1.30 per bag of cheese.

Any coupons I have for the cheese will further reduce its price. In order to save the most money, I must time my coupon usage to the sales. During this cheese sale, I had a $5 coupon for the purchase of 5 bagged cheeses of this brand.

By using that great coupon during this sale, I took home five bags of cheese for $4.95, or 99 cents each."

Ah--now we know: it relies on BRAND NAME items! The trick here is that manufacturers are trying to move brand-name items faster than their generic counterparts, which we all know save us money without even trying. Meanwhile, the brand-name stuff sits and rots on the shelves.

"What if I chose to use that coupon during a different week, when the cheese was not on sale? I still could have used my $5-off-five coupon to buy five bags of cheese, but at $3.29 a bag, I'd still have paid $11.45 -- even after the coupon.

By aligning the coupon with a better sale, I paid less than half the non-sale price. Shredded cheese freezes well, so if a good sale comes around I'm never afraid to buy more than I might need at the moment."

But if she chose to buy generic cheese, she still could've saved money. Cheese is cheese, right?

"Now, consider the big picture. If you watch sales and only purchase the items you need when the prices are all cycling low, using coupons to reduce already-good prices even more, you dramatically slash prices on everything you purchase.

But there are no coupons for buying 50-lb. bangs of something, or whole cases of something--for that, I get a per-pound or case lot discount that adds up to the same or more than the value of that coupon. Best of all, I get my discount wherever the item is in the discount cycle (top or bottom). Sure, she only got 5 bags of cheese for her discount price, but I buy 10-lb. blocks, cut it up and freeze it myself, for about the same price per pound as she got her "discounted" cheese bags. She has only 5 little bags in her freezer--I have 10 lbs., or many little bags!

Sure, she may end up getting a 2-lb. bag of rice for free after many coupon/store sale shenangians, but for that same couple of bucks off, I got 50 lbs. worth--that's 25X more rice for the same discount (presumably $2 or more per pound--whatever the original bag of rice was worth). I can get this discount any time without having to line up coupons with sales schedules.

If I ate white rice, I could get an even bigger discount just by shopping in an Asian or Indian market. They sell 25- and 50-lb. bags of white rice for pennies per pound!

If I went directly to the dairy or an Ag college for my cheese instead of buying those cute little bags in the store, god knows what I could save per pound--probably tons.

Buying the products we need when prices take a big dip and also buying enough to last until the next time the price cycles low again, we can save a great deal of money.

It's not always easy to do this on your own. Every product and category in the store operates on its own cycle, independent of the others'. This week, frozen vegetables might be cycling low, while cereal is priced at the highest point in the cycle. Next week, pasta sauce may be low.

Years ago, dedicated coupon shoppers would track these price cycles manually. They'd take a little notebook to the store each week to record the prices of products."

This suggests several things: that she's a marketing slave; that the "low cycle" would be more or less announced by the LOSS LEADER page of every grocery store flyer (so no real need to keep track of the in a book--she's making this more complicated than it needs to be); that she does most of her shopping in regular grocery stores (when better deals can be found from other sources); she only buys brand-name items (when the brands are the very people who make the generics); and she has never read the Tightwad Gazette, where the author suggests making a price book, but then getting to memorize your spending limits per ounce or per pound on certain categories, thus not tying you down to brands or types.

Hubby asked a real good question: "What happens when these "coupon queens" run out of coupons?" I don't know--maybe then they'll resort to buying like REAL frugalites buy. Coupon queens, Tightwad Kings, or other self-titled "masters of savings" are only scratching the surface with their tactics, and they get all the press for it. As I discover better, more meaningful ways to stretch dollars (as well as time, energy, and space--does this make me some sort of physicist?), I put them here. This is all the press I need. I don't need to broadcast in the mainstream media for attention--if you like my marketing-free ideas, you'll keep coming back.

My question: What happens when the Europeanization of America is finally here, and food is sold in street markets by the kilo (loose measure--you bring your own containers)--where will the coupon queens and tightwad kings be THEN? Will they still be plying their trade in regular (expensive) supermarkets, or will they finally succumb to the fact that simple price-per-unit comparison is the best way to go, day in and day out?

Will they even know how to buy food in kilos, and how much a kilo is? I warned my readers about this years ago. Too bad many of these self-titled savings warriors have probably never even set foot outside this country (except maybe on a heavily-discounted cruise ship)--they haven't seen post-war/post-economic bubble life close up like I have. Just wait until they get a taste of life without brand names, coupons, flyers, rebates, or rainchecks, and no other real ways to open themselves up to the ravages of marketing!

Here's a sample of what we're likely to be in for in the future.

Going back through old posts, I came across this in my No-label Diet Diary:

"I have come to believe that the label on the front of foods is just as dangerous as the one on the back, because it serves as a lure for shoppers. The best and healthiest foods come without a label—especially on the back. Some are lucky enough not to have one on the front, either. Shopping for and living with these foods, as well as their effects, has revealed a way to health, happiness (spatial, temporal, and financial), and the way back to nature—where it all began. I found a way out from under the commercialism and marketing deluge, and an excellent way to stretch my (mostly organic) food dollar with ease. No more price books, coupons, rebates, or other trickery to deceive me (and hopefully you too) into buying low-quality, high-label food again—now I see too clearly to ever go back."

You can bet the Coupon Queens and Tightwad Kings all buy food that looks like an ad-festooned race car compared to mine. Less marketing, less packaging, less shipping, and less manufacturing to begin with are what keep my prices down--instead of paying attention to discount cycles, I pay attention to the seasons.


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