Everything You Need to Know About Grocery Store Loss Leaders

Your grocery store uses loss leaders to bring people in the door. Here's how to take advantage of the deals!

The front page of your grocery store flyer is stocked with super deals: shredded cheese that’s 3/$5, a whole watermelon for $1.99, pasta that’s 10/$10. It’s not too good to be true! Those deals are “loss leaders,” and you can use them to stretch your budget. Here are the best budget grocery list ideas to make your next shopping trip a little easier.

What Are Loss Leaders?

Loss leaders are teaser products that are sold at a loss to the store to get shoppers in the door. They’re one of the many grocery store tricks that companies use, but if you shop wisely, they can easily become a part of your couponing strategy.

How to Find Loss Leaders

Identify the true bargains

Look for the best loss leaders on the front and back pages of a store flyer. Milk, eggs and bananas are popular loss leaders because they’re perishable and people buy them regularly. There are also seasonal loss leaders—like hot dog buns near the Fourth of July or turkeys around Thanksgiving.

Sometimes it’s hard to know if an item is a genuine “loss leader.” But with some planning and research, you’ll have a good idea how deeply discounted the item is compared to the regular price.

Have a plan

Keep notes on your most frequently purchased items. If you keep a notebook (or, even better, use a grocery shopping app on your phone) and track the usual prices of a dozen or so of your family’s essentials, you’ll know when there’s an exceptional bargain. Look for coupons for those items so you can maximize a great sale when it does come along! You’ll soon be on your way to becoming an expert at grocery shopping on a budget.

Speaking of thinking ahead, get in the habit of planning your week’s meals around what’s on the front page of the flyer. Make a list based on your meal plan and stick to it. If that’s just too tough, allow yourself one impulse buy. I even like to put “impulse buy” on my shopping list, so I can check it off later.

Know when to say no

Beware of flashy “sale” areas once you’re in the store. Stores will sometimes mix in small discounts with the big ones, hoping the shopper will assume if one bargain is huge, they all are!

When there is an exceptional sale on a nonperishable item you consistently use, stock up. If there’s a limit on how many you can buy, make your shopping trip a family outing and go through the checkout separately. But when you see a major sale on a loss leader you don’t need? Three words: Pass. It. Up. Make sure you know these grocery store secrets.

For anyone who loves a good bargain, here are more ways to find cheap groceries.

Cathryn Jakicic
Cathy Jakicic has written about everything from business and bacteria to beads and baking in her career —but she greatly prefers the last two. She is a baker and a crafter and loves to try new recipes for both.