Grocery Geek Presents: What’s a Loss Leader?

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The term loss leader is one that is thrown about quite often and it’s one you want to know. Especially if you want to save money at the grocery store. Loss leaders are the items that a store sells at a loss. See pears advertised for $.20/pound? Well, the store is not making a profit off those. In fact, they may actually be losing money. But, like a good ad campaign, loss leaders draw customers through the door. And once you’re there, are you really going to limit yourself to just those pears?

The store wants you to stick around, do all your shopping there – pay for the overpriced milk and cereal and whatever else you might need. And you can do that. No condemnation here. There’s a time and place for everything.

But, you can save money if you try to limit your purchases to stocking up on loss leaders.

Case in point #1: Cereal, bananas, clementines
I bought these Sunday night. Since my freezer is full, there isn’t a lot I need to buy. But, I can stock up on great deals so that when I do need them, I won’t pay full price.

  • Honey Nut Cheerios: $.50-$.75/box (after sale and coupons)
  • bananas: $39/pound (sale)
  • clementines: $1/pound (sale)

Case in point #2: Crackers and laundry soap
Anytime I see these for a good deal, I snatch them up. With six kids, we go through a lot of both. Picked these up the other night when my coupon buddy and I went shopping.
  • crackers: $.50/box (after sale, coupons, and gift card rec’d)
  • laundry soap: $1.50/bottle (after sale and coupon)
Obviously, man cannot live on loss leaders alone. At least not during the week of purchase. But, if you make a habit of buying more than you need just for a week, eventually you’ll build up a stockpile that can carry over into future weeks.

In the above illustrations, the bananas and clementines are gone already. But, I make a habit of letting the loss leader produce dictate our fruits and vegetable choices for the week. I’ve rationed my kids to one box of cereal per week, so we’ve got a month’s supply. The crackers (all ten boxes) should last through the end of January — at least! And the laundry soap should see us through New Year’s.

Purchasing loss leaders is one great way to save money. What do you do?

** Read Jen’s post, Are Coupons Worth It? for another perspective on this loss leader/couponing phenomena.

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  1. Yes! Loss leaders all the way. I too have a full freezer right now (completely thanks to YOU FishMama) and was able to stock up on a TON of loss leaders this week, as my grocery store doubles coupons each Wednesday. I got $217 worth of groceries for less than $40 dollar out of pocket.

    I love your blog!!

  2. Aww, that's so sweet! Made my day. Thanks! Love that counter full of groceries. Great job!

  3. Yes.. coupons are worth it! & you're right loss leaders are great!

    For me it's the only way to shop and I love it.. I can get so much more for so much less than I used to.

    Being a stay at home mom, it's my way to contribute to the household budget. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the post! Finding and looking for loss leaders is definately something I am working on. I think that stocking up on items while they are cheap or free is the only way to go. I live in a one bedroom apt., and every storage space is full of food storage & free personal care products from Walgreens. Buying on sale & with coupons instead of when you need it is the only way to go!

  5. I never thought about loss leaders.
    Hmmmm I am not even sure I knew what they were… but thanks to you…

    You rock!

  6. Stupid question: how do you know it’s a loss leader? Do you just shop enough to know the regular going price of all the items, and can recognize when they have been discounted to way cheap? Or do you just assume anything with a Sale sign/sticker is a loss leader?

    1. A big part of it is becoming familiar with prices. Part is just recognizing an outrageously low price, like $.29/# for apples. That is definitely a loss leader. Great question! Don’t trust the sale sticker, though. Just keep an eye on prices. Money Saving Mom had a good post about price books recently.