10 Things Supermarkets Don’t Want You to Know

I really like shopping for groceries, once I stop procrastinating. It’s like a high stakes game that’s played for money with bright lights and alluring displays.

Supermarkets prefer that shoppers not be fully aware of what’s happening in the aisles. Instead of trudging through stores like zombies, it’s wise to shop with intention like one would when playing a game of skill.

And just like with other skills, you can hone your grocery shopping skills!  Here are some things to look for in order to turn the tables on merchants, which I learned by writing for marketing trades and being a diligent shopper.

1. Brands: Store brands cost less than national brands, which are usually no different. Advertising costs boost national brand prices.

2. Coupons: Use coupons only for items you’d normally buy. Coupons are offered to get shoppers to try new products that they’re unlikely to buy otherwise. Ignore coupons from stores offering limited quantities, because the few items stocked sell out quickly, unless you’re willing to wait in line or be there early.

3. Customer Loyalty Cards:  Use customer loyalty cards for regular purchases; don’t buy extra items to earn points and spend more than intended.

4. End Aisles: Prices on products promoted in end aisles are not necessarily great. Sometimes the same items with lower prices in different packaging can be found in center aisles, where such items are normally stocked.

5. Holiday Shopping:  Some stores raise prices on some items during major holidays, higher than regular special sale prices. Some prices are hiked before offering 20% (or some percentage) off of the original price. So the discount may actually be small or non-existent. If a store heavily advertises certain products, it probably offers few regular bargain prices and raises the prices on other items to cover the cost of its highly promoted products.

6. Imperfect Produce: Shop like many caterers do to save money. Buy slightly bruised and completely ripened fruits and vegetables; cut off any spoiled parts and save money. Buy meat with today’s expiration to use immediately or freeze.

7. Middle Aisles: The most commonly purchased products with the best prices are stocked on lower- and upper-level shelves. Products displayed at eye-level cost more money.

8. Shop at Different Stores:  Never shop at only one store. Become knowledgeable about bargains by constantly comparison shopping. Get to know where to purchase certain items for the best prices, particularly loss leader items that stores offer regularly to draw customers.

9. Store Design: Main entry aisles and walls typically feature bargain-priced items for impulsive purchases because shopping carts are empty upon arrival. It creates a perception that prices throughout the store must be low. Popular and essential items are placed in the back of stores to keep customers inside longer and spending more money.

10. Unit Pricing: Perhaps the easiest way supermarkets charge shoppers more money is creative packaging and signage. Check the unit prices (by weight) that stores obscure on tiny, difficult-to-read labels because so-called economy-size packages sometimes cost more on a per-unit basis than regular-size packages. Just because signs indicate an item is on sale doesn’t mean the price is actually a bargain.

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