Math Skills at the Grocery Store.

I went to the grocery store yesterday to take advantage of some sales, though not stellar- there were a few things for a pretty good deal. The above picture reflects some of what I purchased:

  • 2 Bags of Salad Mix
  • 3 Jars of Pasta Sauce
  • 1 Box of Dishwasher Detergent
  • 2 Loaves of Garlic Bread

The total cost $10.33 after sale and coupons- but the $9.12 you see on the table is not what I saved. The $9.12 on the table shows you what I would have left the store without, if I hadn't checked my receipt for errors. Math skills at the grocery store- you need to bring them!

Not only do you need math skills at the grocery store to check your receipts for discrepancies- you also need them to realize when a great deal isn't actually a deal at all.

My local grocery store is currently running a deal on fresh meat: 4 packages of meat for $20.00.  A good deal in most cases, the 4 for $20 usually gains a lot of attention.  The problem is this:

People buy the meat but don't look at the sticker price!

People automatically assume they are getting a great deal, 4 for $20- whoa! They grab 4 packages of meat, throw them in their cart and off they go-failing to look at the sticker price.

You see, the only way for this type of deal to be a good deal is to pay attention to the price tag on the package. $20 divided by 4= $5.  If the packages of meat you are buying aren't priced at over $5.00  then you aren't getting the best deal. Actually, you wouldn't be getting a deal at all.

I posted this issue on my personal Facebook page, and a friend commented that her local grocery store (who is running the same deal) only had packages of meat out, priced at under $5.00.  Lucky for her, she paid attention to the pricing-but other people weren't so lucky. You can find another example I wrote about, involving a deal gone south here.

Yet another reason as to why you should bring your math skills with you to the grocery store is because technology is not always 100% accurate.  Just because a jar of pasta sauce is on sale for $2.00 doesn't mean the register is going to ring it up properly at the $2.00 sale price.  If you write out your grocery list (which I strongly advise) you should be able to estimate how much your shopping trip will cost.  Keeping that estimated number in your head, then comparing it to the total price of your transaction will aid you in determining whether or not your purchase was tallied and totaled correctly.

The main problem with my meat purchase yesterday, and the reason that I almost left $9.12 poorer, was caused by technology. The cash register simply didn't acknowledge that I purchased the 4 for $20 meats (as noted below)

My 4 for $20 Meat Purchase:

  • 1 Pkg. 80/20 Ground Beef- $6.49
  • 1 Pkg. 80/20 Ground Beef- $6.49
  • 1 Pkg. Split Chicken Breast- 9.15
  • 1 Pkg. 100 Count Frozen Shrimp- $6.99

Had I not done my math and kept the estimated total of my groceries in my head, I would have never picked up on this blatant error. My local stores cash register errors are unfortunately becoming quite the trend, and though I don't feel that the store is purposefully trying to rip me off, the issue is disheartening and discouraging nonetheless.

I receive a ton of reader emails asking me how to save money on groceries, and my one standard piece of advice (other than to use coupons) is this:

  • Write your grocery list and stick to it.
  • Know your estimated total.
  • Pay attention to pricing.
  • Compare your estimated total to your actual total to determine register accuracy.
  • Always (ALWAYS) look over your receipt.

Your wallet might just thank you one day.

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