Besides a mortgage or rent, food shopping is one of the biggest expenses in most households. The main reason behind this expense is because we have to eat to survive. And since most of us are too lazy to grow our own food, we love to pay for the convenience of having other people grow our food so we just have to pick it up at the store.
We’ve already covered ways you could save money food shopping, but we should also be aware of some of the tricks supermarkets use to try to get us to spend more. Reader’s Digest put together a list of 50 supermarket tricks you still fall for, but some of them are not even tricks and the article is a series of slides (51 freaking slides) that keep you clicking around until your hands go numb. I should write about “50 website tricks to keep you on their sites longer”… making you click through 51 slides is one of them.
Here I’ll summarize the most important points in the article and add a few more that I’ve learned along the way.
Supermarket Tricks You Should be Aware Of
1. Bigger Shopping Carts – Shopping carts keep getting bigger and bigger so we can keep adding more and more stuff to them. Sure, it’s cool to find a cart big enough that you can put your three kids inside (you know who you are), but supermarkets are not getting bigger carts for your convenience, they just want you to feel bad for walking around with a nearly empty cart.
To avoid filling up your cart with unnecessary things, have a shopping list and determine if you can do your food shopping with just a hand basket.
2. Colorful Entrance – Ever wondered why the colorful fruits and veggies are usually the first thing you see when entering the store? It’s because they know colorful things put shoppers in a good mood, which makes them buy more stuff. Supermarkets also use the water mist on vegetables, which is known to make produce rot faster and add water weight, to make them look shiny and fresh.
Being in a good mood is not bad, just be aware of this trick. Also shake off some of the excess water if buying produce by weight. It probably won’t change much, but why pay more?
3. Slow Tempo Music – Many stores play music with tempo that’s slower than the average heartbeat so that you move a little slower and spend more time in the store. The longer they keep you in the store, the greater chance you’ll buy more things. That’s also the reason why most supermarkets don’t utilize all their check out lanes and instead make you wait in line. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you grab that tabloid magazine, or that pack of gum staring you in the face for the last 47 minutes.
Instead wear headphones and listen to upbeat music if you’re shopping by yourself. You will look anti-social, but it will make you move faster. Or you can go food shopping with a fast walker. Kate gets this “supermarket walk” where she just takes off as soon as she gets into the store leaving me behind all the time. I usually take my sweet time. You want to go food shopping with Kate and not with me.
4. 10 for $10 Is Not Always a Good Deal – Sometimes stores raise the prices of certain items and by having a 10 for $10 deal, give you the impression that it is on sale. The example given in the article is about cans of tuna, which could sell for $0.89 per can, but the store puts them on “sale” at 10 for $10. Making you not only paying $0.11 extra per can, but making you buy 10 of them.
Be aware of this trick and only buy things when you know they’re really on sale. Most consumers buy the same 80% of items every week. You can keep your receipt and see how much you paid for them last time. Also, often times you don’t necessarily have to buy 10 items to get each item for a $1. Supermarkets only advertise 10 for $10 so you feel like you have to buy 10 items, but if it doesn’t say “Must buy 10” you could just buy one and pay $1 a piece.
5. Deceptive Placement of Deals – Some sales only apply to a very specific size of a particular item. For example, some stores would offer 50% off a 10-oz package of deli ham but put the sign between the 10-oz package and the 16-oz package, which is not on sale. You might just look at the sign and assume that everything next to the sign is on sale and could grab the wrong one.
Pay close attention to the sale signs to ensure that you don’t pick the wrong size. This applies to coupons as well.
6. Breads in Paper Bags – Stores give you their fresh bread in paper bags so it goes stale faster and you have to go back for more bread. Some stores have also been known to use the same dough for their French Bread and Italian Bread, but just shape it differently.
There’s probably nothing you can do about them using the same dough, but to keep your bread from going stale faster, place it in an airtight plastic bag as soon as possible.
7. Items in the Store Circular – Many people assume that items in the weekly store circular are on sale, but that’s not always the case. Many of those items are full price, but stores make you believe they’re on sale by saying “Bananas $0.75 THIS WEEK.” Often times it is the same price it was last week and the same price it will be next week.
As I mentioned before, you could save your receipt or save last week’s circular and compare prices to ensure that you’re getting a deal.
Before You Go Food Shopping
Be aware of these tricks supermarkets use next time you go food shopping and remember to always have a shopping list at hand and stick to it. Also, try to keep to the outside perimeter of the store where all the essentials are placed. If you wander into the aisles you might come out with 27 different things that weren’t on your list.
What tricks have you noticed stores use to get you to spend more money?
[Photo Credit: Anthony Albright]