7 ways to save big when grocery shopping at Publix

A Publix supermarket and Pharmacy in Fort Myers, Fla.
Jeff Greenberg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

You don't need to live in the South to have heard of the grocery chain Publix. It's a cult favorite, from its clean stores to its friendly employees to its famous "Pub Subs" and baked goods.

The chain, which is the largest employee-owned grocery retailer in the U.S., has over 1,200 locations spread across seven states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Publix is known for its customer service, Shannon McCaig of the grocery site Passionate Penny Pincher tells CNBC Make It. In fact, when you shop at many locations, baggers will carry out your groceries and help load up your car, no extra fee or tip required.

That extra quality does come with a slightly more expensive receipt, however. "Their prices are higher than most other stores," McCaig says. But if you spend a little time strategizing, you can score some good deals that make Publix affordable.

Here are seven ways to maximize your value when you shop at this Southern grocery chain.

1. Go for the BOGO

Publix is the master of the "buy one, get one free" deal. The chain frequently offers its customers this type of sale, and you don't always need to buy two products to take advantage. At most Publix stores, you just need to buy one product and you get it half price.

Just in time for the holiday, Publix has a range of buy one, get one deals on food and snacks for Independence Day, including Sabra hummus, Snack Factory pretzel crisps, potato salad, Heinz ketchup, Hellmann's mayonnaise and 12-packs of Coca-Cola soft drinks, according to a flyer for an Orlando location.

Sale prices at Publix are about 5% to 15% cheaper than regular prices at Walmart, McCaig says. And if a sale item doesn't correctly ring up at the advertised price, you'll get it for free as part of the Publix Promise.

A buy one, get one free retail display in a Publix grocery store.
Jeff Greenberg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

2. Pick up your local ad

Not everyone wants to be a couponer, but you should at least skim the "Extra Savings" (sometimes called the "Advantage Buys") flyer. It's located right inside the front entrance of most Publix locations, and the grocery chain releases a new edition every two weeks. This flyer contains both store coupons and a look at all the sales going on throughout the store.

You can also check out the Publix app, which has digital copies of the sale flyer and coupons, or just wander the aisles next time you're in the store. Publix generally does a good job of labeling when items are on sale. It rolls out new deals every Wednesday or Thursday, depending on your Publix location, according to the Krazy Coupon Lady website.

The best part is that you don't need to be a member of a loyalty program to take advantage. It may still be worth signing up for a Publix account, however, so you get alerts and deals sent directly to you.

3. Redeem all the coupons

Beyond its own coupons, Publix stores generally accept most others: manufacturer's coupons, internet coupons and coupons from nearby competitors. This varies store to store, so check your location's policies. Plus, McCaig says you can use a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon on the same item for double savings.

"The cashiers will always help you if it's your first time couponing — they're great about helping and they're used to couponers," McCaig says.

4. Grab a "Pub Sub"

No article about Publix would be complete without a mention of the famous "Pub Sub," which is made with Boar's Head deli meats and cheeses sandwiched between halves of Publix's fresh-made hoagie buns. Though the price varies based on location and type of sandwich, you can usually pick up a half sandwich for $5.99 and a whole one for $8.99.

Through July 5, Publix is offering customers $1 off any deli combo of a sub, chips and a medium soft drink. In case you're torn on which to order, Publix has a helpful list, which includes the popular chicken tender sub and the ultimate sub.

A Publix employee restocking bread in the bakery section of the store.
Jeff Greenberg | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

5. Check out all the prepared foods

Beyond just the deli sandwiches, Publix has an extensive bakery and prepared foods section. "It is good quality," McCaig says, adding that everything is always fresh. Publix bakeries also usually offer a free cookie to kids — or big kids if you're shameless.

The two items that people seem to rave about the most are Publix's fried chicken and cakes. In fact, some people even order their wedding cake from Publix.

And these products are a good value. In Orlando, for example, Publix currently offers an 8-piece fried chicken for $7.49, $1 off the regular price, according to the savings flyer. But an 8-piece bucket from an Orlando-based KFC is $13.99, according to MenuwithPrice.com.

6. Skip delivery or in-store pickup

Publix partners with the online delivery service Instacart for delivery and a majority of its curbside pickups. But shoppers should be careful about using the service, as Instacart charges higher prices than you'd find in-store, according to the Krazy Coupon Lady website. That's on top of a delivery fee (usually $3.99).

Publix tells the Krazy Coupon Lady that "the increased price covers the costs of Instacart providing the overall service and in-store shopper. Publix is not attempting to profit from this service and is not collecting additional fees from customers to use it."

Still, if you're watching your pennies, you're better off shopping in person.

7. Buy store brand

Store brands can really save you money, and many times the product is almost identical to the national name brand. The grocery chain has three store brands: Publix, Publix Premium and Greenwise. The Publix brand is a basic store brand, while Publix Premium specializes in high-quality ingredients and flavors, such as cold­‐pressed extra-virgin olive oil, as well as limited­-edition ice cream flavors.

Publix store brand quality is on par with Target, McCaig says, and she's "never been disappointed" in it.

The store's Greenwise brand, which consists of USDA organic products that do not contain artificial preservatives or flavors, packs both quality and value. "It is awesome," McCaig says.

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Grocery expert: Here's the 'secret to saving money' on food
Grocery expert: Here's the 'secret to saving money' on food