Visiting the grocery store is a weekly ritual for most people across the country. While it’s great to have access to pretty much any kind of food you desire, it’s easy to walk into the store and leave with more than you intended. If your food budget is in need of a break, here are 15 ways in which grocery stores trick you into buying products and how you can avoid them.
1. Sample Overload
Free sample stands may seem innocent at first glance, but they are just another way grocery stores get you to buy new things. Samples are often sugary or overly processed foods, which make them even more enticing to your palate. Avoid this clever trick by skipping out on the free samples or checking the ingredients list on the package. If the list is long and full of things you cannot pronounce, then it probably should not be in your cart.
2. Bigger Carts
Grocery stores have been increasing cart sizes for quite some time. The logic behind this move is that shoppers are more inclined to add food to their cart if it does not look full. But instead of just coming out with ginormous carts, stores across the country have been slowly increasing their size so that people do not notice the change. You can avoid this mind trick by skipping carts altogether and going with a basket. That way, you can only buy as much as you can fit in a tiny space versus an over-sized cart.
3. Tricky Product Placement
Another way grocery stores trick you into spending more is by placing higher-priced items at eye level on the shelves. When searching for products, most people look at eye level first, which means you may be more inclined to pick a higher-priced item than a generic version. Luckily, this scheme is easy to get around. All you have to do is check out the bottom and top shelves to find better deals on similar products. Who knows, you may even like the generic versions better than the name brand stuff.
4. Sugary Temptations
Ever notice how candy, sodas, and other delicious goodies are always on display in the register line? That’s because these are all considered impulse items and grocery stores are basically tempting you while you wait in the checkout line. But how do you avoid falling for these delicious temptations? One method is to pick out at least one treat — preferably something healthy — for yourself while you’re shopping. If you have one treat already in the basket, then you are less likely to add another at the checkout line. You can also walk around and wait until a clear register opens up, that way you are spending less time in front of all of those treats.
5. Slick Advertising
Sometimes, all it takes for you to buy a new product are some eye-catching ads. More often than not, the best signs are reserved for the more expensive items in the store, while the generic stuff gets smaller ads. This helps draw your attention to products the store wants you to buy, versus the other way around. These slick signs are usually placed on end-caps and places with high traffic. Avoid falling prey to this trick by simply looking around for less expensive items before you pull the trigger on anything new.
6. Enticing Specials
Bulk specials are another way grocery store try to get you to buy more. Even if you think you are saving money by buying in bulk, the special often applies to any amount you purchase. For example, a common bulk special is a 10 for $10 deal on soup cans. However, you can often purchase each can for $1, without needing to buy 10 of them. This is not always the case, but you should always double check the fine print in the ad and try to purchase only what you will actually use. After all, why do you need 10 of something when you might throw away a portion of them?
7. Store Organization
Grocery stores have always organized products so that the essential items, such as milk, eggs, and dairy products, are at the back of the store. This ensures that customers have to travel through the entire store in order to reach the basics, which increases the chances that a few additional products end up in your basket than originally intended. Unfortunately, there are no easy ways to get around this short of convincing your local grocery store to rearrange things. You can, however, make things less tempting by only getting the essentials when you do your weekly shopping. This will cut down on the trips you make to the store, as long as you stick to the list.
8. Peaceful Music
Most grocery stores avoid playing local radio stations and opt for a more controlled musical experience. Playing lighthearted, peaceful music is meant to slow you down and lengthen the time you spend in the store. You can combat this by either ignoring what is playing overhead or bringing some headphones and jamming to your own music while you shop. If you pick the right kind of songs, you may find yourself spending less time in the store, which is definitely good for your wallet.
9. Confusing Changes
There are few things more frustrating than walking into the grocery store and finding out that they’ve switch everything overnight. After what feels like a never-ending scavenger hunt, you end up walking through aisles you haven’t visited in ages. This, of course, increases the chances that you will buy things that didn’t make your grocery list. It is also why larger chain stores don’t follow similar layouts. You can avoid spending too much time re-orienting yourself by looking at the aisle signs. You can also ask an employee for help if you are having trouble finding items in your list.
10. Pricing Schemes
Grocery stores are notorious for rounding down when it comes to prices. Although it’s only a cent difference, .99 cents looks a lot better than $1.00. This tactic makes you think you are spending less or getting a great deal, even if the savings are limited. There is no real way around this except for knowing what is going on and shopping around for the truly good deals. Also, keep an eye on how much things cost per item instead of the overall price tag. Sometimes buying in bulk pays off, but there are times when it doesn’t.
11. Scent Overload
There is a reason why the bakery and in-store restaurants are usually placed at the front of the store: they smell amazing. While most people enjoy the smell of freshly baked bread, these aromas can make you feel hungry, which usually means spending more on groceries. You can fight back by always shopping on a full stomach. This will help keep those cravings down, even when confronted by the best smells in the store.
12. Store Cards
Reward cards usually offer some pretty sweet deals, but they come at a price. Although you may be happy with the extra incentives, you are probably spending more money accumulating points than you would without the card. But instead of skipping out on reward cards altogether, the trick is to use them wisely. Only purchase things on your grocery list and accumulate points as you go. Avoid buying things just because you might get extra points and practice patient when accumulating rewards.
13. Changing Your Habits
Companies are great at taking advantage of packaging and quantities to change consumer habits. For example, there was a time when the standard size of a pack of soda was only six. But once companies started selling 12-packs, people started increasing their soda consumption to catch up. You can avoid this mistake by simply keeping an eye on your habits and remaining consistent with how much you consume on a weekly basis.
14. Color Schemes
In addition to smell, grocery stores also use colors to trick you into buying more. This is why the produce section — typically comprised of bright fruits and vegetables — is usually in the front of the store. The bright colors are supposed to give you good vibes as you walk into the store, which usually translates into you spending more. Avoid this trick by starting your grocery list once you enter the middle of the store, which is usually packed with the boring stuff.
15. Pairing Products
Grocery stores will often pair two products together hoping that you will buy both. For example, you might find a display of whipped cream next to the strawberries. This is also why the chips and snacks are usually near the soda. This is a clever way to tempt you to buy something you may not need. The only way around it is to stick to your list and avoid lingering around the aisles for too long.