Your Guide to Supermarket Lingo

The average supermarket carries tens of thousands of items, so it can be hard to simply remember the name of your kids’ favorite cereal bars, let alone keep up on all of grocery store lingo flying through the aisles. Here’s a guide to some common grocery store terminology. Know these definitions, and you may even save a few dollars on your next trip through the aisles.

Rain checks are vouchers that customers can get at some stores when a sale item is sold out. That way, when the item is back in stock, you can bring in the voucher and redeem it for the sale price.

Rebates are refunds for a portion of your purchase. Usually you have to buy a qualifying item and then provide proof of purchase online or by mailing in the receipt and/or barcode. Sometimes you will find instant rebates, which are applied at the time of purchase.

Unit Price is the best way to compare prices in the aisle. It is typically on the shelf tag and will tell you how much an item costs per ounce or other unit of measurement. This can determine which brand is a better deal and if the family size package is worth the upgrade.

End Caps are special display shelves on the end of aisles typically used to highlight sale items or seasonal products. Just because an item is on an end cap does not mean it is on sale! It may be placed there simply to drive purchases, not because it’s a good deal.

Stock Rotation is a standard grocery store practice of pushing older products to the front of the shelf and stocking those with a later expiration date in the back. It’s the reason so many people reach to the way back of the shelf for their gallon of milk.

5/$10 means 5 items for $10, but it does not necessarily mean you have to buy all 5 to get the sale price. Most stores will honor the sale price no matter how many you buy, so whether you buy 4 or 6, you’ll get them for $2 each.

Limits could be the exception to the 5/$10 rule. If a shelf tag says “limit 10,” that typically means you can only get the sale price on a max of 10 units in a single shopping trip. But feel free to go back the next day and buy 10 more!

Sale Cycles are staple items stores rotate at rock bottom prices to draw you into the store. Follow the store circular and you may start to see patterns like loaves of bread for $1 every 4 weeks.

Final tip: Officially, “local” produce must be from less than 400 miles away or from the same state. Each store typically has its own policy as well. For some, local is anything from an 8-hour (or less) drive away and for others it could be anything within a 100-150 mile radius.



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