Going to the grocery store can sure put a dent in your wallet. But by understanding the tricks that stores use to separate you from your hard-earned cash, you can get the biggest bang for your buck. Shopping is a psychological activity—not just a matter of fulfilling unmet physical needs–and grocery stores have spent years attempting to exploit this.
Purchase decisions are made unconsciously as well as consciously. Letting your instincts have free reign can cost you. To save money, you need to learn to stand up to it. Here are some tips:
Use the smallest grocery basket possible
Grocery stores have increased the size of their carts over the years, to encourage shoppers to pack even more in. Using the smallest cart available can help you limit yourself to only what you really need.
Don’t Go Out Hungry
Eating a small meal before you go shopping can help trim your expenses. Grocery stores take great strides to prepare fresh food that stimluate your appetite—and loosen your purse strings. For example, they may put out chicken hot from the oven, situate the produce department right at the entrance, and display delicious food as attractively as possible. Having something in your stomach will allow you to more easily resist the urge to pile more food than you really need into your cart.
The reason that dairy foods are at the back of the store is to tempt people who came in to buy only milk and eggs, to go home with lots more. That is also the reason that they put other food types in a ring around the processed foods. So, if milk or eggs is all you need to buy, keep that in mind, when you walk past all the other goodies.
Remember Eye Level
Markets also have learned to put the most expensive products at eye level, as they are what most people will see. This includes children’s cereals, so that they beg their parents to buy them. You may find better deals on lower and higher shelves . It’s true that a trip to the grocery store can be a valuable learning experience for your child. But if you take them, you may want to avoid the cereal aisle. Or, you may want to leave them home altogether.
Bring Your Own Music
Stores generally play slow, calm music to encourage their customers to relax and spend more time in the store. If you really want to get through quickly—and take away more green stuff in your purse–bring some upbeat music that keeps you moving along.
Refuse the Free Samples and Checkout Items
Grocery stores use free samples, to encourage you to purchase more expensive products. They also put tempting, high-profit impulse items near the checkout stands, where you see them while you wait in line. (This gives them an incentive to hold down the number of open cash registers, so that you spend some time ogling the items near the checkstand.) Some stores even display toys for children to pester their parents into buying.
In each of these cases, your only defense is self-control—and, if the kids are along, discipline, which may be even harder. Nevertheless, these—and perhaps store savings cards and coupons—are key ways to cut down on your grocery spending.