The sneaky sales strategies of your local grocery store

It's Thursday, and I've been to the grocery store five times this week. This isn't normal for me. Usually, I take the time to plan and list what I need and get everything in one frugal, fell swoop.

Not this week. Nope — this week I battled with work, deadlines and 14 days' worth of laundry. They all won — I surrendered. In fact, after I write this, I'll be making yet another trip to pick up cat litter.

But coincidentally, I've come across quite a few articles on supermarket psychology this week — and the tactics stores use to get customers to spend more. I figure the frugal gods must be trying to tell me something. So I listened. Most of the info was the usual: pricier items are at eye-level, the bakery lures you with its delicious smells, etc. But there were a few bits of info I didn't know about.

Are We Really That Gullible?

Every time I read one of these store psychology articles, I ask myself, “Doesn't everyone already know this?” Don't we all know about impulse items and colorful advertising? Are we really that gullible? Apparently, we are. Most of us don't have time to analyze the subtle ways in which stores attract our attention. We just shop, and most of the time, we have no idea how we're being influenced. For example, I read about a study that found people automatically slow down when they see a shiny, reflective surface. No wonder they stack those polished apples so high in the produce section.

I definitely don't have time to study all of my inherent behavior patterns and relate them to my shopping habits — but companies do. So while it's no secret that the Almond Rocas near the registers are put there on purpose, there are much more furtive tactics.

In a segment on the Today show, a fashion mag editor pointed out that clothing stores have a habit of putting the fitting room right by the cash wrap. This makes it easier for shoppers to decide on buying whatever they just tried on. To me, this sounds ridiculous — if I don't want something, I'm certainly not going to buy it just because the registers are nearby. But I suppose they wouldn't utilize this tactic if it didn't work.

And apparently, studies have shown that American consumers tend to shop in a counter-clockwise direction. Stores use this pattern to decide where to place all of their colorful and shiny things. This was news to me, especially because I shop in a clockwise direction. But, again, it must work.

Appealing to Our Frugality

For the thrifty folks who are already wary of these tactics, the stores have a whole other set of manipulations. I hate to admit it, but I've fallen for them. The grocery store by my old apartment had “Cart Buster” Thursdays. You'd think the name alone would scare off any frugal-minded person. On Cart Buster Thursdays, the store usually sold 99-cent strawberries, which I was very excited about. My cart wasn't busting, but it was overflowing with way more strawberries than I could consume in a week.

Buy-one-get-one sales, coupons and bulk deals are all examples of how stores try to appeal to our frugality. We've discussed the pitfalls of couponing here before, and with bulk deals, it's not really a deal unless you're going to use all that extra stuff you're buying. Anyway, I wish I could say I was immune to these tactics, but I did learn my lesson. I now buy a reasonable amount of strawberries.

What's Worked for Me

Shopping when I'm hungry and broke

You know how you're never supposed to shop when you're hungry? Well, I never shop on payday, either, for the same reason. I shop when I'm broke. Like most people, I get paid bi-weekly, and I try to do my major grocery shopping on the week that I don't get paid. That way, I don't tell myself, “Hey, I can afford these overpriced air fresheners. I'm rich!” I should mention that I have a weakness for overpriced air fresheners. But it's a lot easier to resist them when I've paid my bills, paid into my savings and have a sobering amount left in my checking account.

The ugly clearance section

Does your grocery store have a clearance section? I had no idea that mine did until I needed to use their restroom one day and found it tucked away in the back of the store. Since this discovery, I've bought discounted canned goods, granola bars and other stuff that I actually use. The good thing about my store's clearance section is that it looks like crap, so there's really no impulse buying. Nothing is shiny or colorful or engaging. It's all dull and dented and dusty. So I definitely only buy something if I know it's a great deal and I'll use it.

I also discovered that they have discounted fruit tucked away in the produce section. It's not pretty either, but if you're going to eat it that night or the next day, it's a good deal.

Healthier, inexpensive choices

I've heard people say that eating healthy is more expensive, but I haven't found this to be true. (Most of my dinners are vegetarian, however.) During the week, Brian and I typically eat dinners that consist of tofu, mushrooms and whatever fresh vegetable happens to be on sale that week. Vegetables are always good for you, so if the artichokes are on sale, that's what we'll have. If asparagus is on sale, it'll be an asparagus week. You can't go wrong with vegetables. Our go-to foods — mushrooms and tofu — are always priced at $1.99, so I'll usually pick up a few packs of each. Dinner for the week usually runs us about $30. Sometimes we'll have free-range chicken, and if turkey is on sale, we'll stock up. But for the most part, eating healthy has been kind to our wallets. We now only shop on the perimeter of the grocery store, where there's much less temptation. We've stopped eating a lot of unhealthy, processed foods, so we don't even bother looking in the frozen food section, which used to tempt us with its ice cream selection. Don't get me wrong, I still eat and love ice cream. But I only buy it when I've decided to buy it, not because I'm buying a frozen lasagna and the Rocky Road is calling my name from across the aisle.

At any rate, lately I've been overwhelmed with work. It's easy to neglect spending less when you're focused on earning more. I prefer to do both, so this week, I definitely needed to be reminded of the subtle ways we're coerced into spending more money.

Are there any other store tactics you know of? What's worked for you in combating the subtle sales tricks of stores?

More about...Frugality, Food, Psychology

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My Financial Independence Journey
My Financial Independence Journey
7 years ago

I shop with a list and move swiftly like some kind of a grocery ninja. The longer I stay in the store and wander the isles, the more likely I am buy something I didn’t really want to. And probably shouldn’t be eating.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago

Grocery ninja! That’s awesome.

AMW
AMW
7 years ago

Some more tactic to be wary of: *Just because it is on sale, it doesn’t mean it’s a good sale, I’ve seen sale signs and then realize the sale price is a whopping .02 less than the regular price. *We’ve been programmed to think that buying the big container is cheaper per ounce than the smaller one…this is not always true you have to check all the sizes. Peanut Butter is usually a great example of this. *Because I am claustrophobic it also helps to shop on off peak hours so I can take the time to make sure they… Read more »

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago
Reply to  AMW

I really like the strategy of shopping during peak hours to make it less enjoyable. I forgot to mention–when I write my list, I write it in order of the store’s layout. Kind of obsessive, but it keeps me moving in a direct route from the door to the register.

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

So sorry AMW…I just re-read your comment that you shop during off-peak hours. For me, it’s the opposite. When it’s not busy, I tend to linger and get tempted to buy more. When it’s busy, I just want to get what I came for and get out.
Another case of “what works for you” 🙂

Jon @ MoneySmartGuides
Jon @ MoneySmartGuides
7 years ago

I never realized about the counterclockwise shopping….which after thinking about it, I do!

I never shop when hungry, stay on the outside of the store (never venture into the middle like you said) and base our weekly meals off of what is on sale. It’s relatively easy to make up some dishes by just buying the things that are on sale.

Anne
Anne
7 years ago

I don’t understand this shopping on the outside bit. In my favorite store, the one side of the “outside” is filled with ice cream and other frozen junk, not to mention a poor quality bakery.

And if I didn’t go into the inside aisles how would I get tuna, spaghetti sauce, cereal and almost everything else?

Katie @ SingleSimpleStudio
Katie @ SingleSimpleStudio
7 years ago

I only shop counter-clockwise because when I walk in to the grocery store, the registers are almost always to the left. Who wants to walk right past the registers and have to maneuver around people in line? I don’t think it is a matter of shoppers actually choosing to shop counter-clockwise, it is that grocery stores are set up that way. Maybe it is now a chicken/egg thing, did shoppers start shopping counter-clockwise and so the stores put the registers on the left, or was it the other way around?

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
7 years ago

I love the idea of shopping when broke — I , too, tend to splash out on things if I shop on payday (fancy steak, flowers, shrimp), but I would be less inclined to do so if I’d just paid my bills. Great tip!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

This post made me laugh. I worked in a grocery store, and certainly learned a lot! One thing I’ve discovered in recent months is that the sale tags at my local grocery store have start and end dates. If I’m tempted to stock up on a sale item, I can read the tiny print and see if the sale is ending in a week. Often it’s two or three, which dispels that sense of immediacy many of feel when it comes to discounts. A note about dented cans: leave them on the shelf – they’re a health hazard. You don’t… Read more »

Phoebe@allyouneedisenough
7 years ago

I plan my meals, bring a list, and shop with cash. Staying within our grocery budget has been one of our biggest struggles but we’ve stayed within it for the last 2 months and we plan on keeping it going!

SAHMama
SAHMama
7 years ago

I feed a family of 5 on $100 per week, which includes cat food and litter, cleaning stuff and detergent, hygiene items, baby formula (baby needs to be supplemented as I have a medical condition that limited my milk supply), and people food. My strategies: Stock up on rock bottom prices. This week, that meant I bought pasta sauce at .47 per large jar and taco seasoning for .12 per packet. For hygiene it was stomach medicine and ibuprofen for .37 to .49 per box. Last week it was cereal for .10 to .50 per box. Otherwise all I bought… Read more »

cathleen
cathleen
7 years ago
Reply to  SAHMama

No wine?! Life wouldn’t be worth living! 🙂

I’m one of those people who stops by the store a couple of times a week but for one small bag/basket and then maybe do one large stock-up trip every 1-2 months (non-perishables, toiletries, etc)

I’m fortunate to have lots of great stores near work and home and also lots of ethnic markets so I can find unusual ingredients for little $.

I sometimes make a game and see how low my per meal price I can get while still making healthy, organic meals.

Ash
Ash
7 years ago
Reply to  cathleen

I do the same though usually most days. I incorporate this shopping as part of my exercise(walking)routine, walking to local supermarkets/stores and spotting special offers/sell by date products etc. It works better for me than one big shop and I get to check out all of the offers in all of the local stores. I usually shop at night whilst things are quiet and there are no queues at the checkout and I can pop in and out in 15/ 20 minutes,

SAHMama
SAHMama
7 years ago
Reply to  cathleen

I’ve been pregnant, lactating or both since January 2006. Also have alcoholics in the family. The only alcohol I like is vodka, Bailey’s and Kahlua anyway 🙂 When I’m done lactating I’ll have a celebratory coffee with Kahlua while I take a much needed vacation with my husband!

amelie
amelie
7 years ago

I definitely make a list of things I want before I go to the grocery store. I’m pretty much only buying it if it’s on sale, with an exception here or there. We stock up, we save the meals, freeze what we can and plan as many meals as possible. If I am thinking about buying an article of clothing, I like to carry it around with me as I walk around the store. I find that if I just walk around for awhile, continue to look at it and compare it to other things, I won’t even end up… Read more »

Peach
Peach
7 years ago
Reply to  amelie

I do the same thing with clothing and it works so well. The longer I walk around with it, even after trying it on, the more I think of reasons NOT to buy it.

abby
abby
7 years ago

i shop counter clockwise but only because my grocery store forces you to. if you were to shop clockwise you’d have to maneuver around all the cash registers and customer service counter…when its so much easier to go down the nice little path they have cleared and shop counter clockwise, starting with the shiny apples.
maybe i’ll fight the man and go the other way next time.

SwampWoman
SwampWoman
7 years ago
Reply to  abby

Yep, my store is laid out in a counterclockwise position, too. Makes it pretty easy to go through produce, then the meat department, then dairy, with quick forays into pet food and things like hot sauce, olives, and salsa. Salsa is a need, not a want (grin).

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago
Reply to  abby

I think stores are arranged counter-clockwise because of the side of the road we drive on in the U.S. If you go counter-clockwise around the perimeter you are on the right-hand side of the road, as it were, and don’t have to cut across traffic to get to the food.

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

You’re right, Honey. In the studies I read on this topic, researchers mentioned that it has to do with our traffic orientation. Shoppers in other countries, like Japan, apparently move in a clockwise direction.

Allison
Allison
7 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

I am from Australia, were we drive on the left side of the road. I have always shopped clockwise.

Trevor
Trevor
7 years ago

“stores have a habit of putting the fitting room right by the cash wrap. This makes it easier for shoppers to decide on buying whatever they just tried on.” They aren’t trying to make it easier to buy in a sense of the tills are right there I might as well. They are trying to ensure you don’t have time to decide not to buy it after you have decided you want it. In other words, it’s not trying to influence a positive line of thinking (from the stores point of view) they are trying to prevent a negative line… Read more »

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago
Reply to  Trevor

Yes–good point. You expressed this way better than I did. It’s more about not having time to make a decision in the negative than changing your mind when you’ve already made that decision.
Thanks for clearing this up!

Helen
Helen
7 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

That’s interesting. I’d always assumed the cash desk was close to the fitting rooms to help staff keep an eye out for shoplifting – never imagined it might help boost sales.

Sophie
Sophie
7 years ago

I recently read “Brandwashed” by Martin Lindstrom and it’s a great introduction to the crazy ways companies trick us into buying – like stacking green apples near deli counters, which apparently makes us perceive the deli goods as fresh and enticing.

Carlee
Carlee
7 years ago

Someone once told me that the tiles used in the isles of a grocery store are smaller than the tiles used around the perimiter. So, when yu are pushing your cart the sound of your wheels on the smaller tiles gives you the impression that you are going faster and you unconciously slow down. Also, necessities like milk and bread are often found at the back of the grocery store so when you “just need milk” you have to walk past everything else just to get it and you are more likely to pick up something else you never intended.

UlrikeDG
UlrikeDG
7 years ago
Reply to  Carlee

Milk is as far from the main entrance of my primary grocery store as you can get. However, if I go in through the liquor store entrance, I don’t have to walk nearly as far (i.e., past nearly as many temptations), and there’s almost always a parking spot right there. I can check-out at the liquor counter, and there’s rarely a line. Win-win. It’s strange, though, how the fact that it’s the “liquor” entrance keeps people (including me, at first) from using it if they’re not there for alcohol. Twice, I’ve gone in with a friend or family member and… Read more »

Somsiah
Somsiah
7 years ago

(1) Always bring a list, and keep to the list. It can be very challenging, especially when you came across that nicely wrapped roses, aromatic artisan breads, or the yummy looking displayed cheese in well lighted glass case; but every time I managed to keep to my list I felt like a champ – a worthy achievement to the wallet and happy hormone. (2) Bring my son, and let him do the crossing on the list. One thing he is very strict, two he finds grocery shopping most boring, so with him in tow – grocery shopping is just what… Read more »

Aaron
Aaron
7 years ago

Surprised that nobody has mentioned packaging sizes yet. Granted this is the slight of hand by the producers, but most stores are willing participants. Take for example coffee. That $7.99 bag of starbucks with a yellow sale sticker compared to the $8.99 bag of Peets. Most non-brand conscious folks pick up the least expensive bag not realizing that the Starbucks bag is 10oz vs 12oz for the Peets. Peets is the less expensive in this case. If I am not being brand specific for a certain item, I usually check the small print on the price tag that shows the… Read more »

Samantha
Samantha
7 years ago
Reply to  Aaron

Have you noticed that stores have started swinging the other way and NOT listing unit price? I saw a swing towards it for a few years, but now I almost never see it listed.

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago

Read Paco Underhill’s _Why We Buy: the Science of Shopping_. It’s a real eye-opener about the tricks retailers use to get us to buy stuff and especially to make impulse purchases.

Joseph
Joseph
7 years ago

My wife and do the same “shop the perimeter of the store” tactic.

Another thing to be wary of is to eat what you buy. I know that sounds like stupid advice, but there are plenty of times where we’ve bought things and then either they go bad because we just don’t eat them, or next week we go and buy all new and different food when we still have stuff in the pantry that we haven’t eaten. Like buying rotini pasta when we know we still have half a box of farfalle pasta that we haven’t finished.

Beth
Beth
7 years ago
Reply to  Joseph

Overbuying is the WORST! I hate food spoilage, so I try to make a plan for the food I buy (“Hey, I can use these apples to make pie on the weekend”). I also try to eat through what we have before I do the weekly shop. You don’t want to push the leftover salad to the back of the fridge, where it will be forgotten. To that end, I’ve instituted “Eat the leftovers” night. I don’t care what my family eats, so long as someone eats the rest of the lasagna, or the cheese that’s about to go bad,… Read more »

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
7 years ago
Reply to  Beth

We had “eat the leftovers” nights growing up. My mother called them Smorgasbords, although we’re not Scandinavian.

cathleen
cathleen
7 years ago
Reply to  Ramblin' Ma'am

We call it Tapas night 🙂

Just the other night we made the following, all from items in the fridge (not cooked leftovers, just one off ingredients that might get tossed):

Spanish tortilla (“omelette” with potatoes, onions)
Mushrooms in sherry sauce
Spinach salad with shallots and red pepper
sauteed artichokes
citrus salad
homemade focaccia

jxm
jxm
7 years ago

I often shop with a list. I find that when I don’t, deviations start to crop up and the cart is full by the time I’ve crossed the last items off my mental list. Going in cart-less is also a strategy to cut down on overload – I can only buy what I can carry. If I’m there for a few heavy items like milk and meat, I’ll grab a basket instead. When my partner and I shop together, we each grab a basket and that’s it! Every so often though, we venture into the aisles. We also employ a… Read more »

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago
Reply to  jxm

My mom does the same thing! She loves those rotisserie chickens.
The veto system sounds like a great idea, and keeping math/numbers in your mind probably has a huge influence on your frugality while shopping. Love it!

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  jxm

Yum! I just ate avgolemono (a Greek lemon chicken soup) last night with homemade broth made from a store bought rotisserie chicken.

EMH
EMH
7 years ago

I use an app on my phone to create a shopping list of everything I need which has been very helpful. I wouldn’t say this is a “trick” but be wary of items in the bulk section. Perhaps this is just a Whole Foods issue but I have found that some of the bulk items (almonds, couscous, rice) are more expensive than the packaged couscous, rice and almonds. I try not to buy packaged cookies or candies, meals, etc but my husband has a weakness for the WhoNu chocolate cookies. I wrote the company and they sent out many coupons… Read more »

FrugalTexasGal
FrugalTexasGal
7 years ago

I buy only true loss leaders in bulk(often combined with coupons and rebateds), and only get produce and milk on a regular basis each week. I plan my meals from my pantry, I do not shop to a list, I shop to the true sales I used to have a price book so I knew what the best prices were on everything, but I now pretty much have that in my head most of the time. In general I am not brand loyal. I do except for staples for my pantry shop the outer aisles. because I have a pantry… Read more »

Laura
Laura
7 years ago

My grocery shopping rules for myself: (1) Always, always, always bring a list. Always. I can make up to three impulse additions to it at the store, but no more. Only one can be crap, the others must be healthy (e.g., a sale on fruit). (2) Make up the list ahead of time, checking the grocery flyers and coupons on hand, figuring out which store has the best deal on what. Check the fridge, freezer, kitchen cabinets, and food storage shelves in the basement. Think about what I’ll actually prepare for dinner and need for packing lunch. If something’s on… Read more »

PB
PB
7 years ago

Interesting about when to shop. We get paid once a month and when we got to the end of that period, especially when we had teenagers at home, the pickings around the house were pretty slim. We would take the whole family and do what we called Big Shopping, which was stocking up for the month. Everyone had a specialty, which cut down on the time involved and taught the kids how to compare prices and quality. We also went to the day old bread shop, bought in quantity, and froze stuff. We were also helped in not giving in… Read more »

HappyFund
HappyFund
7 years ago

I find that anytime I start to browse without a purchase in mind I become more susceptible to these tactics. Even then, I don’t fall for them because I don’t end up buying, but I did take the bait to at least think about buying. Lists help a ton. When shopping for clothes, I know exactly what I’m there to buy with a budget in mind. In and out. Don’t bother to browse and I don’t even notice these tactics. On a similar note, I read somewhere that fast food restaurants painted their buildings bright and vibrant colors because that… Read more »

My Shiny Pennies
My Shiny Pennies
7 years ago

I used to fall for the 10 for $10 trick. I thought I needed to buy 10 items in order to get the savings, but now I realize I can just buy the quantity that I actually need. For quick trips, I don’t use a basket or cart so I can avoid buying unnecessary stuff.

Art Shapiro
Art Shapiro
7 years ago

Actually, that’s not always true. Here in California, the Ralph’s chain (I think that’s a Kroger company) often promotes 2 / $x.xx sales in which one HAS to purchase two. Otherwise they sign, in small letters, announces a higher price for buying just one. They pull this on ice cream a lot. I love ice cream (as long as it isn’t “frozen dairy dessert”) but I’m not about to purchase two at a crack. And now they’re pulling the same stunt on two liter bottles of soda, lemonade, and the like, where one has to purchase FOUR to get the… Read more »

My Shiny Pennies
My Shiny Pennies
7 years ago
Reply to  Art Shapiro

Boo, that stinks! I guess that’s another way grocery store try to trip you up. They entice you with big bright yellow sale signs and then include tiny print of the terms and conditions.

ABC
ABC
7 years ago

One thing that trips me up when grocery shopping is the “2 for $4” or “3 for $5” deals. They don’t make it clear that you don’t have to buy 2 or 3 to actually get the deal price; you only need to buy one.

uscroger
uscroger
7 years ago

Funny how noone talks about ‘buying smart’ or buying on a price per measurement basis. Many people will buy based on a low price–say, this can of tomatoe costs 45 cents while that one over there is 50 cents. Not realizing that the 50 cent can is probably cheaper ounce per ounce.

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago
Reply to  uscroger

YES–I forgot to mention this. I’m surprised that many people I’ve shopped with neglect to look at the price per measurement. Although…it’s not always the most frugal option (if you don’t use all of it, it doesn’t matter that it’s cheaper).

Wm
Wm
7 years ago

I remember the first time I shopped in US. The grocery store was about 10 times bigger than the store back home. All the delectable treats were calling out my name. Needless to say, my diet went awry. But as a graduate student, my budget was limited and I have spent innumerable times trying to pick among the many delicious choices. I guess the two things that “kinda” worked for me was having “a list” and “a bit of will power” (I didn’t have a lot of it. If I had, I would have skipped all those treats entirely).

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago

Why is a writer for a personal finance site broke again every two weeks? Sigh, this site lately. It’s the blind leading the blind. I guess it’s easier to sell credit card ads to people who run out of grocery money every other week than, you know, people who are slowly getting rich.

Beth
Beth
7 years ago

I don’t expect every PF to be peeerfect with their finances all the time. We all stumble and make mistakes.

It’s also possible the writer used “broke” as hyperbole. Yeah, maybe she has money, but maybe it’s already earmarked for other expenses. Or maybe some unexpected expense has come up.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
7 years ago

If part of her paycheck is going to savings, then she isn’t really “broke.”

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago

Tyler–No, I’m not blind, and I’m not broke every two weeks. What I mean by “broke” is that I set a modest budget for myself after “paying into my savings,” which I mentioned in the article. Perhaps I could have made this clearer. Frankly, I have a healthy savings and a decent amount in retirement. I have no debt, and I paid off my student loans the year after I graduated. I’ve done pretty well for myself at age 29. But there are things I would like to save up for–a home, maybe. A bigger emergency fund, perhaps. Maybe I… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

If you’ve got lots of cash in the bank what difference does it make if your balance goes up or down by one paycheck before you go shopping?

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago

It’s all psychological. We have a decent sized saving, but when our checking account gets low and there are still a few days left in the month, I do my best to stretch out what’s in checking. I know it’s a silly psychological game, but it works for us.

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago

My savings is not linked to my checking account. I don’t take money out of it. I don’t think of it as money I can use for budgeting, and I don’t allow myself to use it for wants that aren’t planned for. This strategy helps me to keep my savings in savings until I’m ready to use it for whatever I’m saving up for.

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago

Funny, I just told my husband a few days ago not to buy gas or food because we are “broke.” We spent all of our grocery and discretionary budget early this month. Oops =) We are very serious about sticking to our budget so once it’s gone, it’s gone!

Luckily, it’s payday tomorrow and a new monthly budget to work with.

jxm
jxm
7 years ago

Same here. My paycheck is split into two direct deposits each week. Half goes to an account that I use to pay my living expenses – leftovers at the end of the month get rolled over for next month’s expenses so I never have to worry about not having enough to cover each month because these expenses never exceed 50% of my monthly salary. The other half goes to a separate account that I consider my primary income – money that I can spend or save at my discretion. 50% of my income sits in this discretionary account. From there,… Read more »

anna
anna
7 years ago

That’s a great idea about shopping during the week not getting paid – I tend to shop when I have the money, but it’s a good call to delay it a week so you can make smarter, less expensive choices. Thanks!

Babs
Babs
7 years ago

I am a fan of Aldis. They don’t have a ton of different brands – 1 sometimes 2 brands of Olive Oil for example. The stores are small instead of acres to wander around in. The produce is fresh and brought in everyday. The food is good quality. They have started carrying some organic products. The prices are low – avocados are 19 cents this week. It is VERY fast. Bring a quarter to rent a shopping cart, bring your own bags and you bag it yourself. It’s not the only place I shop but since they built one a… Read more »

Lisa Aberle
7 years ago
Reply to  Babs

I love Aldi, too!

tosajen
tosajen
7 years ago
Reply to  Babs

I like Aldi, but only as I’ve gotten over my squeamishness for how they make their packaging exactly like the mainstream brands, but with silly “brand names” of their own. I think most of the produce is “further along in ripeness” than at some of the other stores I have available. This is fine if I’m planning to use things in a day or two, but I don’t stock up on a good produce deal. Also, as a Trader Joe’s fan (Aldi family owns both), I’ve noticed that Aldi occasionally carries a small selection of items similar to TJs gourmet… Read more »

Peach
Peach
7 years ago
Reply to  tosajen

I’ve learned to be careful with produce at Aldi’s. Some of their produce is super-fresh. I picked up blueberries for over $1 less a pint than the full-service grocery stores and they were great. Wish I had bought two. Yet their onions are always right on the edge. I have to use them quickly, or they will spoil no matter how well they’re stored.

Kimberly
Kimberly
7 years ago

In my neighborhood, there are 2 large grocery competitors across the street from each other, Cub and Rainbow. I had always shopped at Rainbow since moving into the area. I loved their wide aisles, their whole wall of bulk bins, their soothing sage green color scheme. I knew where everything was in the store. Cub, however, seemed crowded and messy, not nice enough to get me to shop there even if they had good deals. About 2 years ago Rainbow decided to make long aisles instead of shorter aisles broken up by a path in the middle, with meats dairy… Read more »

Laura
Laura
7 years ago

Most of us are convinced that all the crap in the middle of the store is normal grocery shopping. Most have no idea that we are buying cancer-causing killers.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Yes we should all eat healthy food. But you know, athletes who eat organic diets die of cancer too. Chubbies who sit on the couch and eat Twinkies live well into their 80’s all the time. Que sera, sera. We don’t have as much control as we think. When I see these kinds of comments I always think how young the readers here must be that they think there is a fairness about who gets what horrible illness when. I should add that my husband and I try to eat low sodium, low carb, high protein, unprocessed, and organic when… Read more »

Kristin
Kristin
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

I’m so sorry for your losses, MOF. You make a good point.
We eat pretty healthy, as I mentioned, but we do like to splurge on the “middle-of-the-store” foods once in a while. I agree that there are scare tactics used to get people to eat healthy. But personally, I’ve felt a lot better since eating less processed foods and more greens. So I’m not necessarily doing it because I want to live longer (though here’s hoping), but so I can feel better day-to-day.
Again, I’m sorry for your losses. Sending hugs.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Kristin

Thanks Kristen. I wasn’t directing my comment to you. My husband and I also feel better when we eat healthy foods. As much as we like cookies, pretzels, diet soda, and beer, we pay for it almost immediately.

I guess I’m just trying to warn folks that we humans can’t lifestyle away all our problems.

tosajen
tosajen
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

Sorry for your losses. 🙁

Your point is one I want to yell at the people whose reason for not buying health insurance (and thinking the rest of us don’t really need to either) is that they take good care of themselves. Healthy eating improves the odds of living well for a long time, but not everything is in our control.

Meghan
Meghan
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

I see both sides of that situation. Clearly eating better helps but we’re all dealt a hand of cards. I am scared of breast cancer as it is a familial curse, so I personally avoid canned foods because they contain BPA. Society figured out they were in plastic but still don’t understand that BPA lines cans. Go figure. There are a few companies that have gone back to vegetable resin and I’ll buy those for ready to use beans (Eden Foods), and tuna (Wild Planet). Maybe one day I will live somewhere that has a decent growing season and I… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
7 years ago

I actually wrote a post on this after I read several books on the subject of impulse buying and impulse eating – Check out Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating – it’s fabulous! The best tactic is to know what the marketers are doing and be armed against it. For instance, the longer you stay in the store, the more you will tend to buy. So I set a timer on my phone to get out quickly before the time goes off (it’s a duck quacking – very embarrassing!) They play slow music to make you shop slower – wear earphones and… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago

I try very hard to shop only one day a week. I have found if I go into a grocery store, I buy something. If I were very disciplined, I could make out a lot better only buying from the sales/coupons from each store. But instead, I generally make one big trip to BJ’s or Costco each week and then once or occasionally twice a month I’ll make an extra trip into Walmart or Target for our monthly supply of yogurt and frozen pizza. I know we could make the pizza ourselves. Sometimes we do. Frozen pizza is for nights… Read more »

DR
DR
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

My sister showed me how to make pizza with biscuits! It was pretty cool and easy to make.

Jarrod
Jarrod
7 years ago

Another thing to keep in mind is grocery stores ALWAYS put staples (Milk, eggs, meat, etc.) at the back of the store – forcing you to walk past higher priced “non-essential” items that may catch your eye and you’ll buy, especially if you’re hungry.

Matt @ Healhty N' Wealthy
Matt @ Healhty N' Wealthy
7 years ago

CNBC did a special a couple years ago on this topic called Supermarkets, Inc that they still air from time to time. It’s really interesting, and also a bit scary that grocery stores know so much about its shoppers, even at the individual level. I’ve said this before: I shop for groceries as if money ain’t a thang. I’ll certainly try to be opportunistic when it comes to sales and coupons, but I won’t sacrifice being healthy for money. Money, for me, is a way to be healthier, because it means I can afford better fuel for my body. I… Read more »

DR
DR
7 years ago

Grocery shopping with a set cash amount made me consider each item more carefully before adding it to the cart. I’d hate to go over my cash amount while checking out. (I did bring a little cash for the “just in case” moment). I shop usually after work, around 10/11PM when it’s died down and I can walk around taking my time, comparing prices and such. And I always make sure to bring my shopper card so I can save that extra little bit of money. And it might be because of the time I shop, but I always shop… Read more »

Nick @ ayoungpro.com
Nick @ ayoungpro.com
7 years ago

I never thought that these cheap tricks worked, until I got married. 🙂 My wife definitely makes a lot of last minute purchases at the register.

Lynn
Lynn
7 years ago

“If I don’t want something, I’m certainly not going to buy it just because the registers are nearby.” But what if you like the item, but are indecisive because of other reasons?

I have certainly left behind items that I liked because I wasn’t in the mood to buy something at that moment. I wouldn’t be surprised if in that mindset I might be swayed if the register was only a few steps away.

Jennifer Roberts
Jennifer Roberts
7 years ago

My store loves to advertise great deals and then fail to stock enough of the item, so the shelves are cleared out by Monday. Of course I could do a raincheck, but I hate the hassle. Other than that, I’m on to them. My husband is a little slower to pick things up–he still gets nervous about using coupons or picking up only 1 or 2 of an item when then sign says 10 for $10, but he’s getting there. Even though I can see right through the gimmicks, it’s really irritating to see them prey on people who don’t… Read more »

Brigitte
Brigitte
7 years ago

Several great tips which most of them are used in our household. We also shop at Aldi but I also watch sales at other stores. For example Gordon Food Service have some great specials. I have purchased fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts for only 1.50 per pound. The only cavet is it is a 40 lb box. But I do a ton of bulk freezer cooking which saves us time and money. Another thing is to be flexible. Once I found a #10 can of pizza sauce on sale. Way too much normally but I froze the sauce in a… Read more »

T
T
7 years ago

Make sure that sale prices actually ring up at the register. I live in DC, and my local Safeway often has good sales… but often the sale prices don’t ring up! I’ve had to ask the cashier to change items to their correct prices a good number of times.

Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years ago

One grocer told me that companies pay the grocery stores for their product to have prime space… Not only location, such as eye level, but also the shelf display length, such as two feet vs. one foot.

KSR
KSR
7 years ago

Kristin, you are a classy lady–and a class act. Whatever you are doing in life is just fine, reasonable, and legit. That’s what’s great about you–you are everyones wannabe friend, someone we all like to know. It’s great to know you’re out there writing for everyone about anything. *Your Mama is proud*— as she should be.

Cassi
Cassi
7 years ago

I read an article about how target realized a teenager knew she was pregnant before her own father, because they tracked what she bought, and she bought what pregnant women buy. They sent her a coupon book fill with baby strollers and toys and clothing, and the father got pissed, and the daughter was forced to tell the truth.

Hill Roger
Hill Roger
7 years ago

I also try to shop counter clockwise and yes when my belly is full of food 😀 so that I must not get too tired to shop more.

Barb
Barb
7 years ago

Another tactic is to put brand name / higher profit items at eye-level. Kid-oriented items are at kid eye level, as you said usually with brighter more enticing labels. So look to the really high shelves and the really low shelves to find the lower-profit margin items.

Also, retail stores often put high-cost items on display at the front of the store. Your brain immediately says “I wish I could have that” and begins to look for a substitute item that will fill that feeling of desire- meaning you are likely to purchase more than what you wanted intended.

Olivia
Olivia
7 years ago

Grocery store psychology is real! That’s why the clearance is always in the back of the store and even know I know the tricks- I still get influenced by it!

Siegfried
Siegfried
7 years ago

wow! I shop in anti clockwise direction! I am really shocked! Have to change this 😉

Fred
Fred
7 years ago

i walk in with only a hundred dollars. I better be able to buy enough food to last me 2 weeks because thats all i get.

Id also like to point out that buying “real food” is much much cheaper than snacks. i can get enough food for 2 weeks for about 60 bucks, the remaining f40 goes to some cheezits, Doritos and maybe 2 or 3 other things before i cant spend anymore

KMR
KMR
7 years ago

I found the best way to avoid all of these issues is to shop online for groceries and have them delivered. There’s a great local company in my area that has this service and charges a $2 delivery fee. No traffic, no lines, no creative displays or shiny reflective surfaces to contend with. It’s actually been a big help in managing my grocery budget.

Ruth
Ruth
5 years ago
Reply to  KMR

That was exactly what I was going to post!

I never could get a handle on my grocery budget until I just quit going to grocery stores. Now I eat better, burn up less gas, and don’t have to haul 3 restless kids to the grocery store regularly.

I figured that the surest way to avoid the advertising tactics of the store was to stop going!

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