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Do everyday low prices beat couponing?

Last week, I touched on a topic that's of intense interest among my Super-Couponing students: where do shoppers get the best deal, at a supermarket or a supercenter? The former has a reputation among most shoppers for being "more expensive;" the latter is widely considered to be the better value due to its "everyday low pricing." But savvy shoppers know the sale prices of the supermarket almost always beat the everyday prices of the supercenter.

To test the idea, I recently took a field trip of sorts and compared prices on more than 20 common items at both types of stores. Here's a sample of the price differences I found on six popular name brand products at an "everyday low price" supercenter (ELP) and at a supermarket (SM).

Single-serve fruit cup: $1.97 ELP / $1.50 SM

Half-gallon organic milk: $3.50 ELP / $3.99 SM

Frozen pizza: $4.75 ELP / $4.99 SM

Dishwasher detergent tablets: $4.26 ELP / $3.99 SM

4-pound bag of dog food: $6.97 ELP / $4.99 SM

Juice pouches: $1.98 ELP / $1.49 SM

I found the everyday low prices at the supercenter were higher, in most cases, than the prices for the same products at the supermarket. Many shoppers believe using coupons to buy products at the supercenter with its everyday low pricing will save them as much, if not more, than watching for sales at a supermarket and using coupons there. This is just not the case. As you will see, on my shopping trip I bought milk and pizza at the supermarket and paid significantly less for them than I would have paid at the supercenter using the same coupons. Let me walk you through the numbers.

During my comparison-shopping trip, the supermarket was running an additional promotion. If you spent $30 on featured items you received a coupon at checkout good for $10 off your next shopping trip. So, a third of my supermarket expenditure would be returned to me in the form of a Catalina coupon printed out at the register. That coupon is just like a $10 bill I can use the next time I shop at the store.

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