13 Things Grocery Stores Will Do for You for Free

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Your grocery store has a lot more to offer than just groceries and household necessities, and if you aren’t taking advantage of these offerings, you could be spending more money than you need to.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you find those cost savings so you can put that money to better use by adding it to your retirement fund, taking that vacation you so desperately need, paying off your credit card debts, or any one of dozens of other things you could better spend it on. (You can see how much your current debts will cost you over your lifetime with this calculator and how they may be affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.)

Here are 13 things you might not know most grocery stores will give to you for free.

1. Sharpen Your Knives

Did you know the butcher at your local grocery store will very likely sharpen your knife for you? For free? It’s true. All you have to do is ask. It’s best to do this early in the morning right after the store opens and the meat counter isn’t terribly busy. You can just drop off your knives, do your shopping and pick the knives up on your way out.

Pro tip: Buy some inexpensive plastic knife sheaths to protect your blade edges and yourself during transport.

2. Provide Wi-Fi

A lot of grocery stores these days have free Wi-Fi available, particularly those with cafés, coffee bars or beer and wine service. So, if you’re going to be checking online recipes or comparing prices on your phone while shopping, reduce your data usage by asking for a password (if needed) and connecting to the Wi-Fi.

3. Trim Your Meat

Back to the meat counter we go. If you want that beautiful chuck roast cut into pieces for a stew, you’d like that rack of lamb Frenched, or you want that whole chicken quartered, the butchers are happy to do it for you, though it might take a bit of time (and be sure to check out these butcher secrets for saving money on meat).

4. Chill Your Wine

A lot of higher-end grocery store wine sections now have rapid chillers that can get your bottle of bubbly or rosé chilled to perfection in about 10 minutes. Just make your selection, drop it in the chiller, pick up any other items you’re in need of and bam. Your wine is cold and ready to take to your party, on a picnic or wherever your day takes you.

5. Provide Boxes

If you’re moving and you’ve priced boxes at your nearest packing and moving store, you know those cardboard cubes add up quickly. Check with your store for when they receive shipments of products like toilet paper, paper towels, baby diapers, cereal and other dry goods and ask them to hold some of the boxes for you.

6. Clean Your Fish

If you like buying whole fish but hate scales flying around your kitchen during the cleaning process, ask the grocery store fish monger to hook you up (Get it? Hook? OK, I’ll stop). They’ll even filet the fish for you if that’s your preference, and freshly cut filets are always better than those sitting in the cold case.

7. Provide Doggy Poop Bags

So, this isn’t really a free item or service provided by the store, but if you keep your produce bags after you’ve unloaded your fresh vegetables, you can use those to pick up your dog’s daily business instead of paying for fancy dog-branded bags. Of course, the produce bags don’t decompose the way most of the fancy poop bags do, but at least you’re giving them a second life before tossing them.

8. Arrange Flowers

If your favorite grocer has a flower counter, they also likely have a florist on staff who can prepare arrangements for you. So instead of just grabbing a bunch of flowers, next time you can have the florist arrange a lovely bouquet for you.

9. Provide Free Samples

Ah, weekends at the grocery store. In some places, it’s a veritable buffet as you comb the aisles for provisions. It’s a great opportunity to try new products and also save money, because there’s no way you’re needing lunch after this.

10. Ice Your Cold Items

If you’re buying a lot of cold and refrigerated items, your store might provide ice to keep your purchases from getting too warm, particularly in the summer months. More stores are making this service available, so it could be worth your while to check.

11. Provide Entertainment

In their ongoing effort to improve profit margins, grocery stores, especially higher-end chains, are doing everything everything they can to keep customers in stores longer so they can spend more money. Whole Foods, for example, serves beer, wine and even food in some select stores (not for free) and even offer free live music performances in some locations.

12. Deliver Groceries

Competition has grown fierce in the grocery sector, with more and more people ordering grocery items online or having them delivered through companies like Burpee and Fresh Direct. It’s no wonder more grocery stores are offering delivery, sometimes even for free. Check with your local grocer to see what options they might offer.

13. Special Order Products

Not seeing the item you want? A lot of grocery stores will special order a product for you if their vendors carry it. And if it’s something you plan to buy on a regular basis, they might even consider stocking it as a standard item. It never hurts to ask.

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10 Healthy Grocery Store Hacks

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If you’re like most Americans, one of the biggest line items on your monthly budget is food. We all need to eat, right? One of the biggest and most common misconceptions is that eating healthy means spending a fortune at the grocery store. With the right strategy, you can save money and improve your diet. These healthy grocery store hacks will help.

1. Stick to the Perimeter of the Store

Have you ever realized that healthy items are kept on the outer perimeter of the store and that junk food is in the aisles? A really easy hack for spending less on food is to stick to the perimeter and avoid getting sucked into the aisle abyss where prepared foods live. By doing this, you’ll only buy whole foods that are fresh and healthy. There is one exception: the frozen section. It can be good to have some frozen vegetables or seafood on hand.

2. Shop at Ethnic and Discount Stores

Many times, shopping at ethnic stores is much less expensive than big name grocers or specialty stores. As a bonus, they have a wide variety of items that are likely healthier than what you’d encounter at a typical American supermarket. If you don’t have one nearby, search for a discount supermarket like Aldi. You won’t find name brand items there, but think of it as an experiment in saving money.

3. Prepare a Meal Plan

Meal planning can be used for healthy shopping, too! It can be even more beneficial, as you want to make sure you’re filling up on the right kinds of food. You’ll want a decent amount of protein, vegetable, meat or both, depending on your dietary preferences, in your cart so you don’t get hungry in between meals. Some people have more success eating six small meals per day — shop accordingly.

4. Use Coupons

Typically, there aren’t many coupons for healthy food in the paper, but there are other places you can look. Whole Foods has an entire online sales flyer, complete with coupons. They may be stuck on a board at the front of the store as well. Other stores have point-of-purchase coupons you should watch for, and it doesn’t hurt to look for coupons or discounts on packages, either. If food is close to expiring, the store may have a discount coupon sticker on it. If you can gobble it up quickly or create a meal later that day with it, take advantage of your good fortune.

5. Compare Prices

It always pays to compare items and prices between stores. I used to shop at Whole Foods, but there was a Trader Joe’s in the shopping center right across the street. It afforded me the perfect opportunity to compare prices between the two if they carried the same type of item. The “healthy” aisle in your local grocery store may be a great option, too.

6. Buy Store Brand

Many stores have been quick to create their own “healthy” brand when it comes to organic foods, and like any store brand item, they’re usually cheaper than the competition. You can give these a try before you buy the high-end brands. You might be surprised at the quality.

7. Buy Whole, Not Pre-Packaged

It’s easy to fall for the “convenience” trap, but it’s always going to be the most expensive option. You’re better off buying kale, romaine or iceberg lettuce than the salad bag kit. You should try to stay away from the ready-to-go salad that costs almost as much as a salad in a restaurant.

Another good example is buying pre-cut fruit and vegetables. It might save you a little time, but how hard is it to chop everything up? Do it all at once and then put it in a container so it’s ready to go for your next meal or snack.

8. Buy in Bulk

Warehouse clubs can save you a lot of money if you know your prices. Buying items like beans, oats, nuts or meat in bulk can be worth it if you have the storage.

9. Buy in Season

You might love strawberries, but the price isn’t as loveable when they’re not in season. It goes without saying, but it’s often not worth buying produce when it isn’t in season. Besides the cost, it won’t be as fresh, as it likely traveled very far to get to your store. You can try a local farmer’s markets for alternatives.

10. Don’t Always Buy Organic

It’s tempting to think you should always buy organic because our minds automatically equate that word to “healthy,” but there are times when it can be unnecessary. For fruits and vegetables with thick skin, such as mangoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes and avocados, you can often get away with non-organic. Fruits and vegetables contaminated with pesticides include apples, spinach, celery, cucumbers and grapes. For a full list, you can check with the Environmental Working Group.

It’s not hard to shop for healthy food and spend less as long as you’re strategic about it. Hopefully these 10 hacks will help you save more and eat better.

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