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How to save money while shopping for school supplies this year

10TV put four retailers to the test buying 10 items you might need to send your child back to school.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The days of summer are dwindling, which means, back-to-school shopping for many families. But what can families do to cut their costs? 10TV put retailers to the test!

We bought a roundup of 10 items families might need for back-to-school. We didn't buy the exact same brand from each store, but instead were looking for the least expensive items.

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These are the 10 items we purchased from each store- five your child would need in a school lunch and five school supply items:

Bread, cheese, deli meat, individual snack packs, five bananas, pens, colored pencils, a folder, notebook and sticky notes.

We looked for the cheapest price for each item at Target, Walmart, Kroger and Meijer.

These were our final prices:

Target: $18.59

  • Bread - $1.19
  • Cheese - $1.99
  • Lunch meat - $3.50
  • Snack pack - $4.99
  • Bananas - $1.39
  • Pens - 99 cents
  • Post it notes - $2.59
  • Notebook - 95 cents
  • Folder - 50 cents
  • Colored pencils - 50 cents

Walmart: $17.51

  • Bread - $1
  • Cheese - $1.68
  • Lunch meat - $3.48
  • Snack pack - $2.22
  • Bananas - 65 cents
  • Pens - 97 cents
  • Post-it notes - $4.54
  • Notebook - $1.48
  • Folder - 15 cents
  • Colored pencils - 75 cents

Kroger: $19.01

  • Bread - $1.34
  • Cheese - $2.49
  • Lunch meat - $3.69
  • Snack pack - $2.19
  • Bananas - $1.35
  • Pens - $1.49
  • Post-it notes - $2.49
  • Notebook - $1.49
  • Folder - $1
  • Colored pencils - $1

Meijer: $16.93

  • Bread - $1.09
  • Cheese - $1.88
  • Lunch meat - $3.99
  • Snack pack - $3.19
  • Bananas - 5 cents*
  • Pens - 99 cents
  • Post-it notes - $2.99
  • Notebook - 99 cents
  • Folder - 29 cents
  • Colored pencils - $1

*We were undercharged for bananas, but Meijer bananas were still at the cheapest price at just 27 cents a pound.

Credit: WBNS-10TV

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The most expensive retailer was Kroger, coming in at just over $19.01 for all 10 items. The retailer's school supply selection was the most limited of the stores visited.

We reached out to Kroger, their response: “We’re doing all we can to keep prices low, we are happy to share tips customers can use to stretch their dollars even further.” 

The store recommends customers get their mobile app and shop their sales.

The second and third place shops were Target and Walmart. Target came in at $18.59. The store declined to comment on our experiment but says customers can price match at their store.

Walmart cost us $17.51 for all 10 items. The retailer sent us a statement that reads in part:

“We’re excited to get back to school this year, and we know many of our customers feel that same enthusiasm. We also know that this year, finding the lowest prices is the top priority for many families, and customers are shopping earlier than ever to get the best deals.

"To deliver amazing value for our customers, Walmart has all the must-have items on the top of back-to-school checklists at the low prices our customers can count on, and this year, we’re offering more than 100 of the top school supplies under $1, with items starting at just a quarter. And, like every back-to-school season, customers can also expect Rollbacks on top of amazing deals in the coming months.”

The least expensive retailer was Meijer. The total came to $16.93, but we want to note we were undercharged for bananas. On our receipt, it shows we were only charged 5 cents for five bananas. But the price per pound was the least expensive at Meijer- bananas were on sale for 27 cents a pound. Even if another full pound of bananas were added to the total, it still would be the least expensive retailer we found.

RELATED: How parents, students can save on school supplies during supply chain disruptions

We did visit Giant Eagle for this experiment but found their school supply prices to be much higher. We did not include them in this story since they are not really a school supply retailer.

The National Retail Federation says this year, the average family will spend $864 per household to get kids back to school. In 2019, that number was $697, which is a difference of $167! 

So what can you do to cut costs? Rachel Krych lives in Ohio and runs a blog, Couponing with Rachel. Krych said she prefers looking at multiple retailers.

“I like to shop around for the best deals, I also looked through the sales flyers to find out what I need and then I can buy things that way,” Krych said.

She also revealed school supply prices are the lowest now that they'll be all year, so buy now and buy extras!

“If you have multiple kids, buying in bulk is a great way,” she said.

Krych added that sometimes the least expensive option isn't the best option when you're looking at cost over time.

“Buy quality, so while it costs a little bit more out-of-pocket, some of these quality school items will last you longer,” she said.

Krych said she used to tell families they could shop after the back-to-school rush but since COVID-19, some stores aren't restocking, so she emphasizes shopping now.

A final tip from Krych: before you go shopping, check your cabinets, check your kid's backpack from last year and take note of what you have.

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