Tuesday, June 3, 2014

winning the grocery store game part 1

It seems like feeding a family is getting to be more of a challenge everyday. With soaring food prices and shrinking budgets how can you win?

This is part 1 in a series of how to win at the grocery store game, be on the lookout for more posts coming up soon.



Grocery stores do what they do very well!  They have a way of enticing you buy more stuff than you came in for. How many times have you made a run to the store for basics like bread and milk only to come out with six bags of groceries in hand?  It can be a real challenge to get in and out of the store without getting caught by impulse purchasing. After all, you usually have to go clear to the back corner of the store to buy milk, So grocery stores try to distract you with cookies and other things to go with your milk. The grocery store is designed that way to entice you to impulse buy, but I  have some tricks that can really help see the traps before being caught in them.

1. Do NOT go to the store hungry.

You may have heard this before, but I will tell you again. Do not go to the store hungry it spells disaster. It is plain and simple, the grocery stores are set up to trap hungry customers. They count on many of us being hungry when we walk into the store. When you go in hungry you are more likely to make the impulse purchases. From the time you walk in the store, they are enticing you and playing off of your hunger.  Everywhere you turn there are foods ready to be opened and eaten nearly before you get out of the store.  To the hungry, the smell coming from the bakery almost picks you up and carries you away to a dream land of soft sugary clouds. The deli smells wafting through the air entice you to buy. When you are not plagued by hunger pangs, it makes it so much easier to pass up the temptations and stick to buying only what you came for. You are less likely to toss in a package of cookies to go with the milk.

2. Know your prices

Grocery stores have a way of enticing us with sale prices that are not very much of a sale. It seems like if they have a big banner that says SALE in big letters people will buy it. The stores have a habit of lowering the price of a product by only a few cents and putting it out in a prominent place. Doing this leads people think that they are getting a real bargain. It is not always so.  I have actually seen where they have raised the price on a product and put in a prominent place with a "SALE" sign and people are piling up their carts. 

Watch out for the sales that advertise 3 for $5 or 4 for $10 or other such things.  These can be real traps. They entice us to buy more than we need. We see something on sale 3 for $5 and how many do we put into our cart? You guessed it, three. Do you really need three?  Then this poses another question, do you have to buy all three to get the deal? The answer is usually no, but check your stores. It will usually tell you right on the sale tag.

10 for $10 is really popular in my area right now.  My Father got caught in that trap. He ended up buying seven items more than he really needed in order to make up his ten items. He ended up buying things that he didn't even want and justified it by saying that the grandkids would enjoy it.  A word of caution here: Drugstores and convenience stores usually do make you buy in the quantities advertised. (The tag will usually indicate that singles are at full price)  Read the fine print.

This stuff really works!  Let me tell you a true story about my brother. He had a store he frequented. They had some candy that they kept near the register (a place that traps many) This candy sold for a dime a piece. He would often pick up a few pieces and enjoy them as he went out the door. One day he noticed they had changed the prices on the candy, it was now labeled as 8 for $1. He inquired of his friend who worked the cash register about the change and why they had raised the prices. His friend looked perplexed, " They did, they raised the price!" he exclaimed. He hadn't really noticed the price being higher, in fact he though they must have lowered the price by the way people had been acting. He had noticed that more people had been purchasing them, in fact they had been flying off the shelves. As they continued talking the cashier had noticed that people were also buying in groups of four and eight.  A lesson was learned by both of them that day. (Amazing isn't it.) 

3. Watch out for big displays  

End cap displays (the end of the isles) can be detrimental to a budget. It is those prominent places where an item that is not really on sale can take off and sell like crazy. When I find myself picking up something from these areas I have trained myself to ask the question "Do I really need this?"  I have also trained myself to go down the isle and check it out. Usually I find a better deal by going down the isle and looking, for example a larger size may only be a few cents more and a much better deal.

The truth is that the big food manufacturers pay to have their product displayed and sold to you. Product placement is big business. The products that are prominently displayed are not always the best deals, but are the one that they want you to buy. A lot of impulse buying happens here.  Another trap, Eye level placement. You are more likely to buy things that are at eye level. Placing a product at eye level is big deal that leads to many sales for the large companies. They pay big money to keep their products at eye level to tempt you. You can save a lot of money by avoiding the products at eye level. So, look up, and down, not at eye level, and watch out for those end cap displays.

These are just a few of the skills I use to avoid overpaying at the grocery store. 

What are your tricks for saving money on groceries and avoiding impulse shopping? What advice do you have for other shoppers?  Please leave a comment below.     


  1. It is a great rule to think about your list first and not put anything in the cart that you weren't coming to the store for!! I also like to say don't buy anything that you can't make at home. I use this rule all the time and make my own bread, cookies and treats at home so it keeps me out of whole sections of the store. My son is sometimes sad that we don't have oreos in the house but that makes those special treats just that...special when you get them! Great list and I hope that it helps some people save a little in the grocery store!

  2. I keep a box of granola bars in the car, so if I remember something I have to get on the way home I can snack before I go in. Hello from Penny Pinching Party.

  3. Absolutely don't go shopping when you're hungry! That's my Number One rule. Thank you for sharing this at the HomeAcre Hop; I hope you'll join us again this Thursday.
    Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead