Rising grocery store prices have been taking a big bite out of people's budgets in 2022. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of eating food at home is up 13% over what it was last year.
In response, people have been sharing ways to save money on groceries. Over on Reddit, a post about Costco's $5 rotisserie chickens being "loss leaders" led u/progress-competitive to ask people for other items grocery stores use as "loss leaders" that shoppers can stock up on for less.
In case you're not familiar, a "loss leader" is an item that retailers sell for less than it's worth to get people in the door to buy other, higher-priced items.
First, u/talik1978 shared three solid tips for spotting a "loss leader" in the wild, writing, "Which items are loss leaders usually varies from store to store, but there are common trends to look for."
And people shared the specific loss leaders they've come across in the thread. Here's what they had to say:
1."Frozen turkeys at the holidays are usually considered one of the bigger loss leaders."
2."I work for a beer distributor, and therefore, know the wholesale price that the store pays. I will often see stores lose a dollar or two, even four or five dollars, on a 12-pack. Guess they figure you'll buy enough chips and other stuff to make up for it."
6."I was a manager in a meat department at a grocery store. Any meat that's advertised on the front page is a massive loss to the stores. We would sell a prime rib roast for $6.99/lb when the actual cost was about $13/lb."
7."In stores with real bakeries (as in they actually bake the bread), the whole bakery is often a loss leader. That doesn't mean the products are cheap, but the bakery itself makes little to no money, or even loses money. It's there to draw in customers so they shop the whole store. You come in for fresh donuts or bread or a custom cake, and you pick up the week's groceries while you're there. It may not seem like a great deal on the sticker, but that fresh loaf of bread would be way more expensive if they were trying to make money."
8."I used to be very, very broke. But I would still go to Whole Foods because they had very good deals on the end caps closest to the registers. Those have got to be loss leaders. Also, whatever big sales a store runs in their weekly flyers. A loss leader doesn't work if you don't know it exists. They're going to LEAD with it."
9."Basically, my entire produce department, especially the big sale items. I frequently sell avocados for a 25¢ or more loss each, grapes at a loss per pound, etc. BUT then, I make up for it with packaged items like nuts and salads, where there is a high profit margin."
13."On sale soda is the one that comes to mind after being a cashier for a couple years."
14."For those of you who have Publix in your area, I'm pretty sure their subs are 'loss leaders.' As of two weeks ago, they still have not raised the price of them from what they were three years ago (before all of this fun inflation hit)."
15."I work in consumer analytics in the grocery industry. The one that comes to mind that most people don't think about is barbecue sauce. On the bigger brands, like Sweet Baby Ray's, a lot of retailers actually lose a few cents per unit. Past that, diapers are a big one."
18."Former Dollar General manager here. Dollar General had several. Bleach, paper towels, and Fabuloso. The rule is anything placed in the back of the store were loss leaders. The idea is that you come in for these necessities, but won’t walk all the way to back without buying SOMETHING else."
19."Former grocery store deli department manager here. The ENTIRE DEPARTMENT was a loss leader. We sold most things at a loss, except for nice cheeses, salami, and some other things. Most sliced meat, for example, was sold at a loss."
20."My dad owns a small farmers' market, and our loss leader is green beans. We are a small operation, and there is no way to make green beans profitable on our scale. But being a one-stop shop for produce is how we make a profit, so green beans are on sale."
22."Seafood. I work as a butcher, and we throw a ton of it away. Most people are just not confident about how to cook it, so a lot of what we have is mostly for show."
23."A lot of the times, BOGO, specifically Buy 1 Get 1 Free, are sales to get people in the door to buy other things as well. They lose profit on said item but get profit from you shopping for other stuff while you're there."
24."I used to work for Fred Meyer. All Kroger-owned stores that have an electronics section are using it as a loss leader to try and be a one-stop shop. We tried to sell protection plans pretty hard since it was one of the only things we didn’t lose money on."
25."Not exactly a grocery, but baby diapers are generally loss leaders. Parents of kids need a lot of stuff and generally don't have time. So, it makes sense for supermarkets to get them in the store and sell a lot of items."
But finally, always remember, "Just because the store is losing money doesn't mean you're saving money."
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