What you may not know about grocery shopping

How do grocery stores make you and others grocery shoppers spend more than it was planned? Well, they use number of ways to have you spend more, every time. And, you may not have realized this is happening. In business, everyone wants to make money but this does not mean an educated food shopper has to spend more than necessary. So educating yourself with the information presented here is a good defense against falling for food store tricks.

A grocery store sign indicating what is on sale.
A grocery store sign indicating fruits on sale such as strawberry, honeydew, cherry, blueberry, peach, and so on.

Ten secrets worth knowing about your grocery store

Here are ten secrets that you may not know about your grocery store:

  1. Be ware food stores offer free samples with a catch to have you visit the store and have you buy more than you intended.
  2. Grocery stores make audio announcements or use visual advertising to increase impulse buying. With this approach, the store is counting on that you buy items that may not on your list.
  3. Coupon books or dispensers are just another way of increasing product sales. Use these coupons only if you went to the store to purchase that item. Otherwise, you could be paying more because the coupon discount may not enough to offset the high markup.
  4. Putting stuff in the checkout area is a real money maker. How many times have you bought a candy or magazine or something else from the checkout area? Items in the checkout area are likely not on most shoppers’ lists so they still buy and spend more.
  5. Take a look at how the shelves are organized. Have you noticed shelving is done to place highest-priced items at eye level while items that are priced lower are placed at the bottom shelf? Items placed on top shelves are easier to spot and reach but cost more.
  6. Older food products are placed in front to sell them before expiration.
  7. You are lured to buy an item that is unbelievably at low price. This time the item is not free (as in secret 1 above) but it is priced low for a reason: the grocer’s main motivation behind this is that you will buy something else.
  8. Buy one get one free. It may not be free after all because the selling price of one is set high enough to offset the sale.
  9. When prices rise, weight of the food containers is reduced. This is done cleverly so the shoppers hardly notice the change.
  10. High markup on non-food items such as shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste, paper towels, napkins, etc.

Ways to save on your grocery bill

Grocery shopping is necessary and routine. As such, there is a greater risk of overspending if shopping is not done in predictable and planned ways. Besides being aware of the above secrets, you should also know tips that can potentially reduce your grocery bill. Here are some ways to shop smarter on grocery:

  • Limit what you buy when it is not on your grocery shopping list. Better yet, don’t buy anything that is not your list unless you know it is really on sale.
  • Avoid buying items that are lined up at the checkout areas. If you have bought these items, you know they are expensive. Consider buying them some other place.
  • Notice the organization of the products in the store. Observe some items can be expensive in one aisle and in another they could be reasonably priced. Explore alternative products that are beyond the eye-level shelves. Items that are expensive are shelved on top while inexpensive items placed on below shelves.
  • Avoid buying non-food items because they have high-markup.
  • Consider shopping at farmer’s market or at small grocery shops. You will be surprised how much you will save this way.
  • Consider enrolling in preferred-grocery-shopper program because the frequent-shopper membership card will entitle you to save on sale items for members only!
  • Use coupons to cut your grocery bill. Search online, in newspapers, magazines, in-store displays, and ads landing in your mail box. Be careful with coupons; know you really are saving when using a coupon. If the item is on sale, consider using the coupon for bigger savings.

Other tips to consider when shopping for grocery:

  • Make sure your total is accurate. As you put items in your court, calculate the total cost in your head (if you are good with math and if you are not buying many items) or use a calculator. Consider rounding the cost of each item to a whole dollar amount to make it easy for you to count. For instance, $2.98 would be $3.00 and $4.95 would be $5.
  • Make sure your sale items are scanned at sale price to avoid scanner over-charges.
  • Keep your sales ads and coupons with you when you go shopping.
  • If you are overcharged for an item, go back to the customer service for a refund. Some supermarkets will give you the overcharged item for free but the catch is you have to catch this mistake.
  • Remember to read the tiny print to make sure you are getting a deal.
  • Use a shopping list even if you buy most of the items repeatedly.
  • Shop early in anticipation of busy shopping times:
    • Announced weather conditions (hurricane, winter blasts, etc)
    • A day before a holiday (Labor Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving Day, etc.)
    • day after a natural disaster
    • Evening hours on any day and Sunday around noon. Observe your local store to find out the busy times.
  • Be aware of packaging changes
Posted on 4/15/2008
by Raj Singh