Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tips for Shopping at Walmart

Kid Sis works at Walmart, and has some tips for you re: grocery shopping and saving money. She’s passed them on to me, and asked me to spread the word, because she really wants those of us who could stand to save some money to get the best-possible deals. There’s nothing too shocking or secret about her tips, but I didn’t know all of these things until she told me about them. Maybe you’ll find them useful as well.

Walmart honors advertised prices, including online circulars. Go to and browse the ads. Be sure to hit up only stores that are somewhat close to your local Walmart. “My” Wally World won’t honor ads from Winn-Dixie, for example, because that chain does not have stores anywhere in my entire state (not anymore, anyway). It’s important to take the printed ads with you, because some Walmart managers insist on having them. Others don’t care, but being prepared is what this is all about.

Speaking of printing: Some store Web sites will let you print PDF versions of their circulars’ pages. The small print on these tends to be clearer than the Web-page version, which makes the cashier’s life a lot easier. You can also use the “shopping list” feature at each store’s site. When you see an advertised item that you might want to buy, add it to the list. Print this, along with the actual circular pages, and the cashier will probably love you.

I didn’t know this until recently, but Walmart substitutes another store’s in-house brand for their own (Great Value or Sam’s Choice). The catch is that the quantity/amount must match. So, don’t hesitate to take in circulars that offer another store’s own brand instead of a name brand. You can still get the deal – you’ll just get Walmart’s version, which usually isn’t too bad. (Some of their stuff is actually good, in fact.)

There are a few exceptions to Walmart’s price-matching policy. I can’t tell you if this is a company-wide deal, or if it’s local management’s decision. Whatever the case, when I shop at Walmart, these things are true:

One: Walmart will not honor store-issued coupons – just ones from manufacturers. Also: don’t expect double or triple coupons, because Walmart just does not do that sort of thing.

Two: “Mexican stores” (Fiesta, for example) often advertise insanely-cheap prices on various meat. Don’t expect Walmart to honor these prices. Ask anyway, because this could be true only at my local store.

Three: Walmart will not honor specials like “Buy one, get one ____” or “X percent off.”

You should also know that, in some situations, a sale will be quietly extended. Politely ask the cashier if the sale price on whatever you’re trying to buy is still in effect – even if the sale ended yesterday, or the day before. One example: holiday-themed items. After the post-Christmas sales on Sterilite storage containers ended (the Christmas-colored ones, that is), we still got several for the sale price. The manager wanted the things out of his store because, for some reason, customers want to buy red storage containers only around Christmastime. Personally, I don’t care. My books and preps store well in the box no matter what color it happens to be, so I’m happy to grab the container when it’s on sale.

Big tip: be polite to the employees. The nicer you are, the more helpful most of them will be. One very-nice cashier who’s been at the local Walmart longer than my family and I have lived in this community is happy to chat with us while she’s checking us out. She’ll also go ahead and automatically override the store’s price on things that are on sale elsewhere, whether we bring in the circulars or not. She does not, however, do this for all of the customers who come through her line. She has to kinda-sorta like you, or at least not dislike you, before she’ll bother.

When you buy refrigerated or frozen foods, dig down into the pile and bring up a package that’s closer to the bottom. Officially, employees are supposed to restock unshelved items – the groceries that shoppers discard wherever they want – only if those packages have maintained a “safe” temperature. Unofficially, some Walmart employees just don’t care, and will restock pretty much anything. In some cases, they don’t even check before they toss the stuff back on the shelves. Dig down into the stockpile: you’re more likely to dodge the potentially-unsafe foods that way.

Another interesting thing about frozen foods is the fact that ice crystals form on the outside of the packages. This is usually a good sign that the product, at some point, reached a warmer temperature than it should have. I actually received this advice from Dad, who used to drive an eighteen wheeler for a frozen-food hauler. Still, it applies to grocery shopping, so it seemed like it belonged here.

Don’t even bother buying things like bread at Walmart. If a certain product needs to be really fresh, Walmart’s not going to come through for you. The bread at my local store is never, ever fresh, even on delivery days. We go to the Mrs. Baird’s Outlet store up the street from Walmart instead, because even their few-days-old bread is fresher than Walmart’s crap. Sometimes, the money that you might save at the really-big store just isn’t worth it, because what you buy will suck.

You can save a good bit of money every shopping trip by doing these things. If nothing else, doing one-stop shopping at Walmart – instead of going to several stores to grab their advertised sales – will save you some time, which is even better than saving money as far as I’m concerned.

And, finally, I know that some of you are wondering why we would support Walmart of all stores. The answer: they are, quite literally, the only game in town for some items. There is no other place here to buy athletic socks, unless I want to go to the shoe store and pay five dollars for a three pack. No, thank you. The local Wally World has better prices than the competitors, too, which is good because our budget isn’t very large.

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“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
-George OrwellAnimal Farm