Clark Howard: Use smarter strategies to save on groceries

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardIncreases in the price you pay for food at the supermarket are expected to keep coming, but I’ve got some strategies to help you stretch your grocery dollar.

Many of you probably know that corn is the epicenter of so much to do with the food that winds up in supermarket aisles. Unfortunately, the corn harvest has been smaller than expected and wholesale prices are up by nearly 70 percent over the past year.

That means continued higher prices into next year for many things you buy. So it’s more important than ever for you to be smarter when you’re shopping for food. Here are a few suggestions:

● Use non-traditional channels like warehouse clubs for buying food. Just know that sometimes a deal is not a deal if the package you’re buying is too big for you or your family and it goes stale or spoils before its time.

● Become more adept at using coupons by checking and similar sites that offer coupon strategies, weekly lists of sales by store and more.

● Shop the hard discounters like Aldi and Save-A-Lot. These grocery chains can reduce your food costs by 40 percent over traditional supermarket prices without you having to do any couponing. Just buy their store brands.

A lot of people ask me about extreme couponing. When there’s a TV show on TLC about this topic, you know that’s a sign of the times. I think extreme couponing is neat, but a lot of major grocery store chains don’t. They see it as a market disruptor and are tightening their coupon redemption policies as a result.

That’s why sometimes where you shop is the most important factor in your control. I want you to pack a punch in your wallet by really stretching that dollar.

-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs

Find more answers to your consumer questions, plus Clark’s new book “Living Large in Lean Times,” at Listen to his radio show live 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.

41 comments Add your comment

too big to fail

September 29th, 2011
6:44 am

Thanks Clark.

susie q

September 29th, 2011
7:43 am

i find it distasteful when people like clark tell others to shop at cheap grocery stores knowing darn well he would not be caught dead in one…

bob from account temps

September 29th, 2011
7:45 am

maybe the price of corn wouldn’t be so high if the government didn’t insist that 10% of every gallon of gas be diluted with corn.


September 29th, 2011
7:47 am

most people know this, if they dont they need a permit just to walk around.

susie q is wet behind the ears

September 29th, 2011
7:48 am

susie, it’s obvious you don’t know Clark very well. He wears a sports jacket from Goodwill!

larry english

September 29th, 2011
7:50 am

also, susie, who cares what CH does?
does that make the advice bad?
why does ’shop in cheap stores’ offend you?
it seems like obvious advice



September 29th, 2011
7:56 am

I “troll” Krogers for “manager’s specials” and use coupons against Publix’s BOGO deals. I also route through the mark down baskets but don’t buy dented cans!!


September 29th, 2011
8:07 am

did he get this from an website? seriously.. he rehashes useless information that people already know. I guess the normal columnist is running out of ideas. Thanks, AJC!


September 29th, 2011
8:34 am

susie q, I once saw Clark Howard at a Costco in Kennesaw wearing what was presumably a free WSB sweatsuit. The man practices what he preaches.


September 29th, 2011
8:48 am

Susie Q, I find it distastefull when idiots like you make statements about a person you know nothing about. You must not follow Clark much and know nothing about the guy. Go back in the closet and try to keep your uneducated opinions to yourself.

Roux Badley

September 29th, 2011
8:56 am

I use about $5 worth of coupons a week on an average $30-$40 grocery bill. Not extreme, but it pays for another beer at Friday happy hour! Last week I wanted to make chicken parmigian – the chicken cutlets were $6 a pound but there were 2 split breasts in a package for 99 cents a pound. I cut the meat from the bone, divided each in two, flattened them out and got 4 cutlets for $2. Threw the bones and skin in the crock pot for the day and now I have homemade chicken broth, too. Don’t you dare call me Martha Stewart!

clark's not so smart

September 29th, 2011
8:59 am

You usually get what you pay for – the pricing at the hard discounters like Aldi may seem really attractive, but be sure and check out the nutritional data before getting to excited. A lot of it’s really high in calories, fat and/or sodium – you can buy it to save money now, but you’ll likely just give the money back later on for meds to treat things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. As always, consider advice from many sources, but do your own due diligence.

mike thompson

September 29th, 2011
9:17 am

And just what exactly is wrong with wearing a jacket from goodwill.
Not all of us are rich Republican money grubs that believe in tax cuts for the rich and the shaft for the rest.


September 29th, 2011
9:19 am

susie q – I find it distasteful when people like you have something derogatory to say about someone you don’t know anything about. Clark made his fortune by being frugal and practicing what he talks about. You don’t know anything about where he shops.

Roux Badley

September 29th, 2011
9:20 am

Leave it to simpleton Mike to turn it political.


September 29th, 2011
9:23 am

Also, check product sizing at Aldi. A can of soup may be cheaper than Campbells, but the can may be an ounce or more smaller.

Roux Badley

September 29th, 2011
9:27 am

Speaking of that – what happened to 6 ounce cans of tuna? They’re all 5 ounces now. It didn’t happen all at once with every brand but now that’s all you can buy. I want my ounce back!


September 29th, 2011
9:28 am

Mike = gullible demo… drinks the class warfare qookaid…. most ” Rich ” repubs got there being entrepenuers… business men… often frugal spenders too.. Mike take personal responsibility !!.. many rich democrats are in Hollywood.. La La land etc…


September 29th, 2011
9:37 am

someone gives advice on SAVING MONEY yet some find a way to find it “distasteful.”

you’re probably not only dumb, credit-challenged, and frivolous, but FAT as well!


September 29th, 2011
9:37 am


September 29th, 2011
10:16 am

Thanks Clark! I will take your advice. :)


September 29th, 2011
10:21 am

beebee is RIGHT … Clark is helping folks save, what he wears is his business!!!


September 29th, 2011
10:28 am

Kroger has the best prices in town. Buy healthy foods – not cheap, processed crap. It will pay off later with a longer, happier, healthier life. Buy a whole chicken and roast it – $4 for many meals. Make a big pan of lasagna and bring slices to work for lunch. Pack your lunches. It’s not hard to eat cheaply if you just take some time to cook at home. Cooking is not difficult. Shop the outer edges of the store and avoid the aisles as much as possible (that’s where all the processed, salty, fatty no nutrition crap is).

Mike is a moron

September 29th, 2011
10:38 am

Mike is the typcial Liberal whiner. To him, it’s not about making good choices in life, working hard, or being responsible for ones self. It’s about “the man” taking from the little guy. Dude, you need to drop the MSNBC talking points about tax breaks for the rich and start thinking for yourself. You might also try self-sufficiency instead of blaming others for your shortcomings. It is a liberating experience.


September 29th, 2011
10:43 am

Susie q, I’m with you. Some of Clark’s advice is very good, but I don’t think he’d be caught dead at Aldi’s either–maybe Costco. I don’t find it distasteful, but it’s kind of like Oprah telling us how to live our best life,which is very easy to do, when your best life is backed by millions.


September 29th, 2011
10:55 am

If you don’t follow Clark, you wouldn’t know, but he DOES shop at Aldi.

But really, who cares where he shops? How is that even relevant? This article could have a made up name on it, and it doesn’t make this kind of information any more or less valid. If you don’t find it helpful, just click away and read something else.


September 29th, 2011
11:10 am

who cares where clark shops. i just admire him for putting himself in position to get a great deal on his lake home via foreclosure. he paid about half of what my sister and brother in law paid for a similar home in 2007.

Donna P.

September 29th, 2011
11:12 am

I shop for groceries, household products, and beauty products (like shampoo) at Wal-mart. I don’t buy meat at Wal-mart; I buy that at either Costco or Kroger. Even the Dollar Store is selling food these days. If you want to survive this depression/recession, you have to be willing to shop anywhere for a good bargain. I know people you won’t be caught dead in Wal-mart or Target; they need to get over it!


September 29th, 2011
11:16 am

Information is helpful, only when it’s something you haven’t already heard,or don’t already know. There was NOTHING stated in the article that I didn’t already know, or hadn’t heard about already, but I’m always game for something new.


September 29th, 2011
12:46 pm

Wow people, I believe this forum is to comment on the article, not post nasty statements about eachother! Not everyone knows these tips so maybe Clark is helping someone. I don’t always agree with his suggestions but they are just suggestions – take them or leave them. Also, I know that Clark does DO the the things he recommends. I once knew a family member of his who said that Clark is just as nice as he is on the radio and will, much to his family’s impatience, stop and talk to anyone in sams or costco while getting his bargains.

Jenni H.

September 29th, 2011
1:46 pm

Another helpful website that I follow is She tells you when there are store specials and unadvertised deals. They are also on Twitter and Facebook. You can print out a shopping list and she links to coupons if you don’t have the ones she references. The goal – not to spend full price on anything. Use coupons on buy-one get-one deals for the best markdowns.


September 29th, 2011
2:09 pm

i have to agree, you’re a smart guy clark but this article is absolutely useless, i am a young professional on a budget and i clicked on it hoping to get some real insight, not this poor excuse for an informaive article

Ole Guy

September 29th, 2011
4:28 pm

Let’s not overlook your favorite neighborhood Big Lots where THE EXACT SAME products….brand names and all…can be found for a helluva lot less than that found at your neighborhood grocer (names witheld to avoid embarrasment)


September 29th, 2011
4:44 pm

You’re wrong Susi Q. I’ve actually bumped into Clark a few times at a local ATL Dollar Store. No joke.

Scott Anderson

October 2nd, 2011
3:53 pm

Susie Q

Your wrong about Clark not shopping where he can save dollars.

The guy bought a 10 dollar parka on the cheap and wears it proudly. He makes his kids wear shoes two sized too big so they can grow into them

Come on Susie , if you know Clark he is one cheap ass millionaire.


October 2nd, 2011
8:16 pm

I shop at Aldi’s and save 30-40%. I have found the items that I like and buy them there. There are some things they have I don’t like (Frozen Pizza), and those I get on sale at the store.


October 2nd, 2011
8:51 pm

Well, I saw clark at my pediatrician (his youngest is the same age as my youngest) and he was wearing his free wsb tshirt. Boortz talks all the time about how cheap the guy is. but wow…who cares. either his advice is good or not. What does it matter if *he* follows it or not?
I love costco though…the costco brand tuna is 6 oz, still, I believe.


October 2nd, 2011
9:14 pm

I saw Clark at Costco two weeks ago. He definitely shops there.

Den Mother

October 2nd, 2011
9:50 pm

Yes, sometimes you get what you pay for. Many cheap foods, bought at ANY grocery store, are filled with no nutritional value. However, I shop at Aldi and find many healthy items. The produce and frozen vegetables alone are worth the trip. Last week they had Del Monte pineapples on sale for $0.99. Yes, you must use the produce very quickly but Aldi allows me to keep fresh fruits and veggies available to my kids at all times. And really, is frozen broccoli at Aldi and different than frozen broccoli at Publix or Kroger?

My Two Cents

October 2nd, 2011
10:00 pm

Everyone in this day and time needs to save as much as they can on everything. I appreciate articles such as this one to give me new ideas how to cut costs.


October 2nd, 2011
10:21 pm

We cut our grocery bill in half by grocery shopping at Wal Mart and buying our meats at Piggly Wiggly. We use to only shop at Publix but they are the highest priced store in town now.