Supermarket Shopping for Savers: 6 Ways to Avoid Their Tricky Traps
Going to the supermarket and sticking to a list is an exercise in discipline and requires fortitude and resilience of epic proportions. Employing tips like “don’t shop when you’re hungry”, “look for the no-name brand”, and “avoid the checkout counter displays” are simply damage control for an experience that (if you are like me) categorically breaks the budget.
But most of us still need to shop, and supermarkets often offer the best prices and selection. In some cases, the supermarket is all we have. Here are six tips on how to get in and get out without going over your budget:
Put Blinders On
Staple foods (like eggs and milk) are often located at the back of the store. And for good reason: the only way to get there is to walk through aisles upon aisles of temptation. If all you need is a quart of milk, then do not allow yourself to get sidetracked by an “amazing deal” (see below) on something you don’t really need.
Be Wary of Amazing Deals
Many people (myself included) look for sales, and will often formulate the week’s menu accordingly. However the supermarket marketing gurus are on to us: when your eyes scan the shelves looking for the sale stickers, take a peek at the original price before you decide that it’s a steal; you may find that the amazing deal is a discount of a whole whopping 8 cents. Now I’m all for a deal, but 8 cents is not enough incentive to buy that can of corn for a dish I may not have otherwise used the corn for.
That Special Display is Just for Show
The gondolas (displays at the end of each aisle, and racks of product hung where shelves join) and other special displays - be they seasonal promotions or just a mountain of cases of pop in the middle of the floor - are also tricky traps. You may automatically assume that they are featuring sale items, since they are prominently displayed and have a neon sign highlighting the price. Again, buyer beware: check the original price and compare it to other similar products. Often the items displayed on gondolas are actually more expensive, be they on sale or not. Only after some due diligence should you decide if that pretty pyramid of product is really meant to compliment your shopping cart.
“Complimentation” – the Ultimate Distraction
Coffee or tea is on your list. And before you know it, a package of yummy-looking biscuits that are temptingly displayed next to the coffee and tea is also in your cart. Then you head for the pasta aisle, and walk out with an over-priced pesto sauce that simply looked too good to resist. Be wary of items which compliment each other that are positioned near one another in the supermarket. If you aren’t the sort to rigidly stick to a list, complimentary items will jump off the shelves and into your cart before you know what happened.
Watch the Checkout Like a Hawk
You may not remember the exact prices for everything that is in your cart, but you likely have a good idea of what you will be charged, especially if you picked up a few sale items and are proud of it. But upon reaching the checkout, you could well discover that those items you thought were on sale are not scanning through as such – either because the actual sale item was next to or below the one you picked up (a very sly maneuver on the part of grocery stores), or because the scanner codes were “accidentally” never adjusted.
If there is a huge line up behind you and you don’t want to cause a stir with the check-out clerk (who will likely have to call for assistance and stare belligerently at you while you both wait for somebody to run around the store doing price checks), then simply march your items and receipt up to customer service and politely point out the discrepancy.
Try a Cupboard Special
After reading this, are you angry at supermarkets for their little ploys and marketing decoys? Great! Skip your next scheduled trip to the supermarket! See what you can scrounge up from the dark corners of your cupboards or frost-bitten freezer, and get creative. Some of my best meals have been dubbed “cupboard specials”, making use of what I have on hand when supplies start to dwindle.
Does anybody have some supermarket saving tips of their own? Let’s beat sneaky stores at their own game!