These days, a trip to the grocery store feels like heading to the mall. Endless brand varieties, convenient snack products, obscure artisan-sounding flavors — it’s a recipe for sensory overload. Before you know it, you’ve blown past your food budget and spent your fun money too.
Luckily, there are shoppers among us who figured out how to avoid consumer manipulation. They’ve learned how to work the grocery store system to walk out like a winner. Armed with their helpful tips, you’ll be ready to shop smart and put a little money back in your pockets!
1. While they are warm, familiar, and filled with delicious food, it’s best to stay away from the store if you can help it. Limiting your physical trips to the grocery store forces you to be resourceful and use those pantry staples collecting dust.
2. Hungry shopping is the bane of every budget-conscious grocery goer. One way to avoid impulse buying an industrial size can of cheese puffs is by avoiding the temptation altogether. Use the aisles you don’t need, like the pet aisle, to travel through the store.
3. Staring down the poultry cooler presents you with too many options. If it’s available, always reach for the whole chicken in favor of individual parts. You don’t have to be a master butcher to cut up the pieces, and it’s a far superior value.
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik
4. In an effort to curb daily trips to Starbucks, brewing quality beans at home might seem like a no brainer. Unfortunately, quality coffee beans are often pricier than the alternative. Try intermixing your upscale coffee with a cheaper store brand to stretch your dollar.
Sioux City Journal / The Weekender / Christopher Braunschweig
5. Cottage cheese is a protein-packed staple for many people’s diets. Make sure you get the most of your next tub by storing it upside down. Something about flipping the container increases the shelf life.
Twitter / Save Money Good Food
6. As the first car in the farmer’s market parking lot, you get the best selection of fresh produce. You also pay the highest price. Wait until the last moment to hit up the farmer’s stalls to snag reduced-priced inventory they don’t want to lug home.
Red Tricycle / Pike Place Market / Matt Mornick
7. There’s something in the water, and it’s a hidden cost. Opt for a reusable water bottle to better the planet while saving money on the plastic set available at the grocery store. A water filter container accomplishes the same job.
CalMatters / Anne Wernikoff
8. You know those colorful advertisements your local grocery store pays to have stuffed in the newspaper? They make those for a reason. Those sale sheets should dictate your shopping list because they literally tell you the best sales in the store that week.
9. Reading the sales sheets is just half the battle. Study those deals like math homework that actually matters. Each store has its own sales patterns per month. You can plan your meals accordingly if you know steak is cheapest during the second week.
Chinese American Planning Council
10. The layout of the grocery store has a purpose. Understanding the design comes to your advantage. Healthy dietary staples, like produce, meats, and dairy are on the perimeter. Junk foods, processed meals, nonessentials — they fill the center.
11. Deals pressure us to buy more than we need. Before filling your fridge with yogurt, read the fine print. If a sale sign doesn’t specifically mention that a deal price is honored only when you buy x amount, that price applies per individual item.
12. Say it with us: price per pound. Well, price per whatever unit of measurement. Don’t let the price on the sticker determine what you buy. Compare how much more of an item you are getting for that extra thirty cents.
Business Insider / Kathleen Elkins
13. Don’t be shy. If you see neighbors tossing those sales sheets packed with valuable coupons in their recycling bin, ask if you can snag them. Otherwise, paying for an extra paper subscription may be worth it for the coupons.
Post and Courier / Kathryn Ziesig
14. Take your newfound coupon queen status to the next level and search for those puppies online. Many major chain retailers, including your favorite grocery stores, have online exclusive coupons just waiting for you on their websites.
The Virginian Pilot / Hyunsoo Leo Kim
15. Don’t be afraid to stack coupons. Those people on tv who get a whole grocery cart filled with stuff for the price of a sandwich are using this strategy the right way. Layer multiple coupons from the manufacturer with the ones the store provides.
The Krazy Coupon Lady
16. Come check out time, watch the items as they ring up. There’s always room for error, either on the computer’s end or if the cashier mistakenly enters something. Save receipts and look to make sure all your coupons were applied correctly.
17. Limits are a tactic used in the grocery store biz to drive up sales. Using language like “limit 5 per customer” makes the customer think, “Oh man! This is a hot deal! I need to seize this opportunity!” This is all psychological so try to avoid them.
18. Talk to the store staff. The butcher is there to help you. If you’re reluctant to purchase a cheaper cut of meat, pick their brain for the pros and cons. Lots of times they will cut things, or tenderize them for you.
Baltimore Sun / Carroll County Times / Dylan Slagle
19. When you finally reach the bottom of your table salt cylinder, replace it with a better value. Kosher salt has larger crystals for the price and is said to have a superior taste, so it’s a win-win.
At Home By Steve Poses
Armed with the tricks to knock off the dollars from your weekly grocery haul, it’s important to remember whose arena your stepping in. Businesses are always looking for ways to manipulate the customer, and some of their methods slip right under your nose.
YouTube / HZHtube Kids Fun
1. How do you sell snacks and candy to people who don’t want them? Place them right in the checkout lane! This way, when lines are long, customers can grab a quick bite while they wait.
2. It’s been proven that customers are more likely to buy an item if they’re able to hold and inspect it thoroughly. That’s why items like produce and snacks are placed close to the store entrance — so as many people as possible see and then touch them.
3. When customers see a particular item is selling out, or there are very few left, it leaves them feeling like they need to take advantage and buy one. Who knows when the store will restock?
4. No one likes to spend time in a place with unpleasant odors, and that’s why stores put a lot of effort into their smells. Flowers and savory food are great ways to entice guests to keep lingering in hopes they’ll buy more.
5. According to a study done by the Journal of Consumer Research, customers are inclined to buy more if they’re given a free sample while they shop. Something as simple as a free piece of chocolate or a sample of alcohol can coax people into purchasing much more expensive things.
6. The first thing anyone notices about a store is its visuals. Keeping the vibrant and lively-colored items like produce near the front to welcome the customers usually puts people in a better mood — and happier customers spend more cash.
7. People usually form opinions about a store based on how much it charges for staple items like bread, milk, and eggs. Many times stores will mark down these items only to give people the impression all their prices are reasonable.
8. If you’ve spent more than a few minutes in the fresh produce section, you might have seen those mist machines give the food a spray. You might think the water is for keeping foods fresh, but it’s actually to give it a just-picked look that makes you want to buy.
9. You probably wonder why you have to walk all the way to the back end of the store to get items like meat and dairy products. Well, it forces you to walk past a plethora of other items on your way — and you just might realize you need some of them.
10. The smell of delicious food makes anyone hungry, even if they’ve recently eaten. Placing the bakery near the store entrance allows the enticing smell of fresh baked goods to waft into the noses of customers, hopefully igniting an appetite.
11. The items that are meticulously placed on the ends of aisles stand out way more than the stuff lining the actual aisle. Stores will place more expensive goods in these locations so they catch the eye of customers quickly.
12. Shopping carts were designed to make people buy more, and some places have experimented with extra-large carts in hopes people will feel the need to fill the extra space. As it turns out, they absolutely do. The trick works!
13. You’ve probably seen packs of extra-small items like cans of soda, and at first, they look like their purposes are to help people consume less. However, people consume more because they’re not as filling, which means a return trip to the supermarket.
14. Companies know how to market items to children; familiar movie characters and bright colors immediately grab their attentions. Kid-targeted products are usually placed on the lower shelves so they’re at a child’s eye level and won’t be missed.
15. Just like placing items geared for kids on the lower shelves, most stores will put name-brand items on the higher ones so they’re at eye level with the adults who are actually spending the money. Name-brand stuff always sells.
16. Here’s a sneaky little trick some stores use so you’re forced to buy everything in your cart: designers make the checkout aisles extra narrow so you’re physically unable to put unwanted items back with ease.
17. Nothing leads people to items quicker than those brightly colored sale signs. However, most prices are based off an item’s weight, so those discounts may be worthwhile for heavy items, but they don’t make smaller items worth the purchase.
18. Just because a carton of eggs at one grocery store costs a couple bucks doesn’t mean that brand of eggs at a different store will cost the same. Stores charge whatever people are willing to pay, so in affluent areas, they’ll charge higher prices.
19. The music that plays throughout a store has a large impact on how long a customer stays. Slow to medium-paced tunes will get them lingering longer and puts them in a calm and unrushed mood.
The next time you go shopping at a grocery store, pay attention to all the little tricks they implement to ensure your cart fills to the brim. You don’t need everything they’re selling, even though they want you to believe you do.
At some point or another, everyone has to take a trip to the supermarket—that’s just part of their weekly routine. Rarely, if ever, is it the kind of thing to get excited about, though. Unless you’re one of these folks how accidentally picked up some pretty rare treasures…
1. These double-yolked eggs must have been eggsactly what this supermarket shopper was looking for when they totally lucked out. So much for switching to egg whites, because you’ve got to enjoy this fluke while you can!
2. Everyone knows the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but this is getting out of hand. Perhaps, this is the lemon cousin of the watermelon—a waterlemon, if you will. You have to think that’s going to make one enormous pitcher of fresh lemonade!
3. Talk about a gigantic piece of fruit! This beautiful green grape is probably big enough to squeeze into an entire bottle of wine. It makes you wonder if the lucky shopper was excited to get eight times the antioxidants or not.
4. Now that you’ve seen a dozen double-yolked eggs in all their glory, can someone please eggsplain how a small egg finds its way inside of a regular-sized egg? That must’ve made for quite the breakfast of champions that morning.
5. This is the equivalent of finding a four-leaf clover, except you can totally eat this extra-lucky version. Either that, or these are the elephant-sized peanuts that we’re supposed to be feeding those hungry pachyderms. You decide.
6. Here’s a question: what’s longer? A slinky, or this extra-long curly fry? If you’re having trouble deciding, just know that the mere fact that you even have to think about it just proves how amazingly long this French fry truly is.
7. Talk about tasting the rainbow! This mashup of practically every Skittle in the bag is one impressive candy. Be sure to follow it to the other side, because, with this sort of luck, there might be several pots of gold waiting for you on the other end.
8. Some people like watermelons with seeds and some like them without. Either way, you have to admit this is a rather perfect-looking melon. Not to mention the pure lack of rind! Oh boy, does that look refreshing on a hot summer’s day!
9. Orange you glad you decided to pick this clementine out of the pile when shopping at the grocery store? Just imagine the joy on this shopper’s face when they realized that they’d gotten a two-for-one deal on this sweet citrus fruit.
10. This kiwi is the panoramic version of every foodie’s dream, except it’s not just a photography trick. What should this be called? The accordion kiwi? The gatefold kiwi? Who cares! Just enjoy this extremely rare piece of fruit.
11. Apparently, these gigantic blueberries are the direct spawn of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Violet Beauregarde. Good luck rolling these massive berries out of the grocery store without causing a scene—they’re gigantic!
12. This lucky supermarket shopper captioned their photograph, “My Kinder Surprise was encased in a second skin of chocolate. Dear diary, jackpot.” Yes, you most certainly hit every chocolate and caramel lover’s dream jackpot.
13. So you had a bad day at the office? Maybe you should head over to your employer’s vending machine because look at the luck this person just had dropped into their lap. You can either eat them all at once, share them, or start one amazing junk food drawer at work.
14. You’ve never had stuffed peppers like this! What Food Network star decided to put a green bell pepper inside of a red one? Maybe you’ve heard of her. No, it’s not Rachael Ray. Her name is actually Mother Nature!
15. Holy guacamole, Batman! Buying avocados is usually the pits. They’re either too ripe or not ripe at all. Not only is this one ready to go with a nice beautiful outer-ring, but the extra ‘cado in the middle is sure to please.
16. Does “2 stück” mean there are two extra frozen pizzas stuck to the one you purchased? Even if it’s a single extra frozen pizza, the more the better. It looks like you won’t have to cook for a few nights this week, and that’s worth celebrating in and of itself.
17. You’ve heard of strawberry fields forever, but have you heard of strawberry strawberries forever? Didn’t think so. Either this is the new layout of strawberries, or this one is made of candle wax and it’s melting all over the shopper’s hand. Yikes.
18. This lucky supermarket shopper was just monkeying around when they stumbled upon this insane sight. Are two bananas in one considered Siamese bananas? Whatever you want to call it, most people would go ape over such a great find!