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A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

groceries - All posts tagged groceries

  • Aug 1, 2011
    12:02 PM ET

    Why You Shouldn’t Trust Grocery Store Prices


    Credit card statements and cellphone bills aren’t the only documents you need to review line by line for inflated charges these days. More errors are popping up on your grocery receipt, too.

    Recent Department of Consumer Affairs inspections of New York City supermarkets found that just 33% are properly pricing items, leading the city to “deputize” consumers last week to act as secret shoppers on its behalf and report problems like nonworking scales or items without price tags. In February, Ralphs Grocery Co. pled no contest to allegations that it overcharged shoppers in Los Angeles stores for pre-weighed products by including ice and the packaging in the price. (The chain was fined $16,900 in 2008 and 2009 for similar problems.) Michigan also revised its so-called scanner law this spring. Effective Sept. 1, stores must display prices at the items’ shelf locations.

  • Jul 11, 2011
    3:22 PM ET

    Why You’re Overpaying at the Dollar Store


    With frozen dinners, party balloons, shampoo and more priced at $1, the dollar store can seem like a great place for bargains. But that’s not quite true — and savvy shoppers are catching on.

    Cash-strapped consumers have flocked to dollar stores — many of which defy their names by selling higher-priced items — since the recession hit, but now those stores are starting to see a slowdown, reports The Wall Street Journal. Several of the big chains said in quarterly earnings reports that they failed to meet expectations because customers are buying more low-profit items like food and cleaning supplies, and fewer high-profit ones such as clothes and home goods.

    But coupon experts suspect at least part of the shift can be explained by the so-called “extreme couponing” trend that teaches shoppers to stack stores sales, coupons and other discounts to pay just pennies on the dollar for their purchases. “People are getting smarter,” says Teri Gault, founder of The Grocery Game. “Sales with coupons will almost always beat prices at dollar stores.” A shopper could get a 12-count box of Nature’s Valley granola bars for $0.79 at the grocery store with a sale and coupon, for example. On a per-bar cost, that’s 80% less than the dollar store price of $1 for a pack of four.

  • Jun 13, 2011
    12:15 PM ET

    5 Ways to Buy Organic Groceries for Less


    Apples just became public enemy No. 1 to shoppers looking for pesticide-free foods.

    A recent screening from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found pesticide residue in 98% of the popular fruit, the highest rate of all the produce it examined. That was enough to push apples to the top of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” shopping guide of items to buy organic. The free list, released today, aims to help shoppers on a budget figure out which items are best purchased organic. Last year, apples ranked fourth.

    “Consumers should shop with an abundance of caution,” says Mark Kastel, the co-founder of The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group. Although all of the foods screened meet government guidelines for acceptable pesticide levels, he says, studies have pointed to problems stemming from even minute levels of exposure.

    Although buying organic may be desirable, it’s not always in the budget. At online grocer, regular strawberries — which placed third on the Dirty Dozen — are half the price of organic ones, while a half-gallon of organic milk at Safeway sells for a 27% premium.

    But there are ways to make going organic more affordable. Try these five:

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.