Biggest grocery store rip-offs and how to avoid them

Be smarter than the average grocery shopper and happily skip past the enticing grocery store gimmicks. You'll leave with more cash in your pocketbook. I hadn't given these gimmick items much until I made the mistake of taking my husband along to the store with me. In one trip, he managed to undo my hours of coupon cutting, deal matching and food pricing. Not only did he fall for a few good tricks, he also managed to turn a quick trip for apples, strawberries and milk into a junk food run.

Sales in Multiples

I know I tried to explain this to him before, but stubborn is as stubborn does. Unless there is some fine print stating, "you must by x number of y item," you don't need to buy the full amount to receive the sale price. The item he picked up was three bags of Doritos for $10. That's a lot of chips to bring into the house. We don't normally have these types of chips, I prefer to buy Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Chips.

He could have bought one bag for $3.33 but to him that did not seem like such a good deal. He was right, because when they're on sale and I have a coupon I can snag a bag of FSTG chips for $1.50. Those last longer, are healthier and are more filling.

When to buy: Sometimes it does make sense to buy grocery products on sale in multiples because you will pay a few cents more for only one or two items. If an item you regularly buy is on sale in multiples and the store is out of stock, always ask for the rain check in the maximum amount. Even if you don't use it, at least you know you could.

Buy Two, Get One Free

One of our local supermarkets loves this sales gimmick. My favorite is when they sell two of an item and you get the third one for "free." This is a common deal on soda and pasta. If you add up the cost of actually buying three of another brand it is sometimes cheaper than the sale price.

When to buy: When you have the storage space for five of the item, which can be difficult when it's something like waffles or frozen pretzels. Only buy when you're sure it's a good deal when you compare the price of three items of a comparable product.

Convenience Packaging

I know, they're so cute, they're good for dieting, they're...expensive! They also come with a lot of extra packaging, which is what you're really paying for when you buy "100 calorie" or snack size packages of snack foods. They're also selling sliced apples and carrots this way, too, at a substantial mark-up. A bag of carrots costs 99 cents on a bad day. It's not that difficult to peel one and slice it for a kid's snack or lunch. Deli meat, bottled water and individual serving bags of chips also fall into this gimmick category.