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Saving at the supermarket

It seems every time Team Fixer goes grocery shopping, we just can't win. Either the prices are going up, or the package sizes are shrinking.

But there are some ways to be smart at the supermarket:

Never shop on an empty stomach. There's a reason why supermarkets bake breads and cookies while you shop -- studies have shown that shoppers who smell baking bread spend more. Also, supermarkets purposely place all the staple items (such as fruit, veggies, eggs, dairy, etc.) in a long loop around the store to make you travel all around to get your basic items. The solution: bring a list and stick to it.

Don't pay the "kid tax." Manufacturers pay the stores to place expensive kids' items at a child's eye level in the hope that they'll beg you to put it in the cart. On one trip to the supermarket, The Fixer found an expensive box of Fruit Loops Smoothie cereal which cost a whopping $4.29, or 34.9 cents an ounce at a child's eye level … plus a coupon at a child's eye level for Betty Crocker fruit roll-ups. The coupon was for 50 cents off, but you had to buy two boxes, which would set you back $6.

Be careful of "sales" on the end aisles. Again, manufacturers pay for these coveted spots -- but the items on "sale" may or may not be a good deal. Compare the sale items with those in the normal position on the shelf, especially those items not at eye level. Make sure you check the unit prices to compare.

That said, if you find a "loss leader" -- an unbelievably great price on an item you really do need -- go ahead and stock up!

Bulk is not always better. We have been trained as consumers to think that the bigger or "family-size" package will be cheaper. But that's not always the case. Again, you have to check the unit price to compare.

Beware of holiday creep. You know the routine – Halloween candy in September, Easter candy in February. They're hoping you'll buy it now, eat it all right away and come back to buy more before the actual holiday arrives.

Reject stupid advertising gimmicks. Look very closely at apparent claims of savings on labels -- if you think about it, they may be meaningless. We found a 200-ounce laundry detergent container with a label that read "33 percent more." We thought we were getting a great deal -- 33 percent more than we would normally get at that price. Wrong! In the fine print, it says "33 percent more than the 150-ounce bottle." So it is saying that 200 ounces is 33 percent more than 150 ounces -- which is basically saying nothing!

"Clearance" isn't always cheaper. Again, we found two bottles of detergent. The smaller bottle was next to a red "clearance" sign, so we thought it would be a great deal. But the unit price was actually higher on that one than on the other bottle of detergent, which was not on clearance.

Pay attention at check-out time. On our little trip to the supermarket, The Fixer was overcharged by 20 cents on one item – proof that scanners can make errors.

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