grocery shopping tips

Food and grocery purchases make up huge part of almost every family’s expenses. Yet, how many of you are really paying attention to how are you spending your budget?

Sure, you may prefer certain cheaper shops, buying sale items or buying in bulk. This, however, in most cases is not enough from overspending.

I personally go often to the supermarket to buy one or two items we just run out, but end up coming back home with two or three plastic bags full of groceries.

You may blame yourself if this happens to you, too. However, in most cases this is not entirely your fault. The supermarkets have spent millions of dollars on analysing consumer behaviour. Then they arranged their entire stores for the sole purpose of selling you more stuff.

In this article I am going to uncover tricks and methods they use. With their knowledge you should be better prepared to defend yourself from falling into that overspending trap.

Here are the ten facts you should be aware of while shopping for groceries in supermarkets:

#1 Corridors Arrangement

If you shop in Pak’n’Save then you must have noticed the way they organize their stores. Until recently the only way to enter the store was through the fruits and vegetable section.

You were unable to get into other parts of the store before going through the veggies. And that’s not all. The next section you were forced into, was the meats.

All this have one purpose – making you purchase items that you were originally not intended to buy. You go to buy some milk or bread but suddenly see those wonderful bananas or apples on Sale.

It never hurts to buy some more vitamins, so why not? Now you have bread and some additional fruits in your shopping basket.

There is nothing wrong with buying some extra healthy stuff. Just make sure you are not throwing out unused bananas that were lying on your kitchen desk for the last week before you buy some fresh ones.

The good news is that most other supermarkets don’t do that. And even Pak’n’Save recently introduced self-service check-outs. Yes, they are not intended to be used as an entrance, but feel free to do so if you don’t want to walk miles inside their stores.

#2 Expensive Items at the Shelves Eye Levels

This is an old and well known trick. Most supermarkets position items they want you to buy at the eye level in shelves. The problem is that usually these are the most expensive items.

Don’t be afraid to look down or even right to the top where it’s sometimes hard to reach. This way I discovered many not only cheaper items but often better quality ones.

You would be surprised, but also so called eco or organic products cost about the same as regular grocery items. Buy what you want, not what the supermarket wants you to.

#3 Multiple Items Discounts

Have you noticed how many items are on convenient Sale, but only if you buy 2 or 3 of them? There is nothing wrong with buying items in bulk. It can save you heaps. But make sure you are buying only those grocery items which you really need.

If you are buying bread regularly and now they sell your favorite brand at a discount price for two then go for it. The extra bread can be put in freezer to last.

However, if there are some sweets that you shouldn’t really be eating then don’t buy it. Even if the price is only half of what it normally costs.

#4 Discounted Prices with Conditions Attached

This trick is predominantly used by Countdown. They offer great discount on a particular item, however, the discount applies only to the OneCard holders. This little fact is stated on the labels but is also easily overlooked.

For OneCard holders it’s no big deal. Those without it can easily overpay these items. If you don’t pay much attention at the checkout, you may even overlook it and not be aware of your overspending at all.

To avoid paying more, there are two options you have. Get the OneCard and have it with you all the time. The other option is to ask cashier to swipe their OneCard or politely ask some other people at the checkout to use their OneCard.

Normally they will be happy to do so for you since they will get some free points for the value of your grocery shopping.

#5 Confectionery Items near Check-Outs

This is an issue mostly for families with kids. Even if you avoid corridors with confectionery items while you shop, your kids certainly won’t miss those little sweets at the checkout.

Most supermarkets have dedicated one or two checkouts as confectionery-free. But don’t count on it. I have seen so often that these checkouts are simply unattended. It means you need to go through regular one.

Even if confectionery-free checkout is operating, there can be a long queue. So, unless you want spend ages waiting, you have to pick a normal checkout.

There are few things you can do…

Either do not take your kids with you when going shopping. Or, if this is not possible, then buy your kids in advance some lesser evil treats before going to the checkout and don’t let them pick and scream there.

Better still, if your kids are well behaved, you won’t need to worry about this. But how many kids really can restrain them from the chocolate stuff?

#6 Sale Promotions for just some Essentials

You have probably noticed it. Your local supermarket announces great sale for the week. And indeed, many prices are really convenient.

But not all of them! There are still many essential items you need, but are at the full price.

This is not a coincidence. Supermarkets know what people usually buy and discount only some of the essentials. The others are at the full price. Most of us we are usually lazy to do grocery shopping in two supermarkets.

So what we do? We buy the other important items at the full price.


If you know that you can get the other stuff much cheaper elsewhere then buy only the discounted items in one supermarket and the rest in another one.

It may save you only few dollars per one shopping trip, but in the long run it will pay off. Yearly it can save you hundreds of dollars.

#7 Positioning of Related Items

Have you got kids and go often to Countdown to buy some milk formula, nappies or other kids products?

Then you have surely noticed it – right opposite the shelves with the essentials are located shelves with toys. Well, this is no coincidence. Your supermarket has done it on purpose…

While you are picking up the right nappies, your kids are staring in the opposite direction selecting their new favorite toy. There is almost no escape for here.

Your only solution is to leave kids home (if there is someone who will look after them) or let your partner pick the nappies while you and your kids are waiting outside that corridor. Otherwise be prepared to spend some extra dollars for your child’s new toy.

#8 Moving Sales Items to the Store’s Front

This one is another favorite trick of most supermarkets. Between the section with regular shelves and check-outs, there is often quite a wide space.

And this space is rarely empty. It’s the preferable spot where supermarkets place their promoted items. It can be anything from biscuits, chocolate bars and toilet papers to nappies.

It’s a good way to let customers know what’s on Special. But it’s also a great way to buy something you don’t need.

So, if the items on Specials are also the ones that you usually buy then go for it. It can save you a lot. However, if you are rarely buying these items on display then it’s strongly advised to resist the temptation.

#9 Temptation to Browse the Store

This point is closely related with previous one. The columns with Specials usually run through the entire store. Once you are done with all you shopping and are prepared to proceed to checkout, suddenly you see those Specials columns across the entire store.

So you decide to give it a look. And guess what? In most cases at least one of these items end up in your shopping trolley.

If you are serious about saving some money, ignore these Specials. Proceed from your last corridor directly to the checkout. Don’t look sideways, look straight…

#10 Confusing Labelling

If you shop in Pak’n’Save then the product labels are located above items, so you need to look downwards. In Countdown it’s the other way around.

The problem starts if you shop in both. Even if you know how the labelling works, from time to time you get it wrong. I personally ended up buying items which I never would simply because I misread the labelling.

Another example of confusing labelling is when different items are placed close to each other on the shelves. The label which is just under or above the product may not relate to that item.

So, be careful and make sure that the label reads the same product as the one you are looking at. Confusion and mistakes in this area happen too often.

Last and the Most Important Recommendation

All the above tips are very important when trying to save some money while grocery shopping in supermarkets. But there is one ultimate tip that can beat them all.

And the winner is: Make a list.

Yes, every time you go to the supermarket, take a piece of paper and write down a list of items you intend to buy. Take your time, think again and make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything.

But, once you make that list and leave home for supermarket then stick to it. Make no exceptions if something comes to your mind on your way or if already in the supermarket.

In most cases you will be able to go without the forgotten item. And it will teach you to plan your shopping better in the future.

I must admit that I myself don’t follow fully this last principle. And every time I don’t, it cost me a bit of money. But I am trying to improve.

If you follow these 10+1 rules, I can guarantee that it will make a noticeable difference for your family budget.

Self-discipline here is the key. So, good look! If you have some of your own experience avoiding supermarket’s temptations, we would love to hear it. Share it with us in the comments below.

Posted on: September 14, 2017
Categories: Articles

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