7 Ways To Outsmart Your Supermarket

supermarket cart

Have you ever walked into a grocery store, determined to only buy one thing, but ended up walking out with a pint of ice cream, a box of cookies, and some magazines that were conveniently placed right next to the checkout counter?

We’ve all been there. Consumers are urged to spend more at supermarkets by a combination of in-your-face tactics (30% off sales, freshly baked bread that smells amazing) and more subtle ones (from the color of the packaging to the size of your shopping cart). On your next trip, save at the supermarket with these 7 handy tips:

  1. Make a plan and stick to it. In Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, we find out that 60 to 70 percent of grocery store purchases are unplanned. Thus, making a list will cut down your costs. List down the food and household materials you absolutely need for a week, and stick to it. Buying that extra bag of chips near the checkout line might only cost you P100 now, but buying that extra bag of chips every single week will cost you P5200 a year. And if you know exactly what you need, you won’t wander around every aisle buying things left and right just because you saw them.

  2. Know your colors. Did you know that the color of packaging can influence whether you buy it or not? According to the home cooking blog The Kitchn, red and yellow are the most common food marketing colors. Red is said to trigger appetite, and yellow is the color of happiness — the brain releases serotonin, the happiness hormone, when you see yellow. (No wonder McDonald’s is always doing so well.) So when you find yourself reaching for that red package of pasta or that yellow box of crackers, stop and think whether you’re getting that brand because of its value, or because you’re unconsciously attracted to the color.

  3. Ditch the huge carts — use a basket. “We don’t feel like we are done shopping until we have some sort of visual cue—like a full cart,” says Ali Benjamin, co-author of The Cleaner Plate Club: Raising Healthy Eaters, One Meal at a Time. In the US, a marketing consultant did a test by doubling shopping cart sizes at a supermarket. Customers ended up buying 19% more. So if you end up with a gigantic shopping cart at your local grocery store, fight the compulsion to buy more items to fill it. Or better yet, use baskets, or those tiny shopping carts with room for two baskets for you to push.

  4. Bypass the end-aisle displays. Companies pay supermarkets a premium to have their products featured in that prime real estate, usually when they’re trying to launch a new item. The ends of aisles are attractive to buyers because they stand out and they’re easy to access. So if the end-aisle products look extra enticing, it’s because they’re designed that way. Check the price of these products to see whether you’re actually getting a good deal before buying.

  5. Never shop when hungry. A lot of us have learned this the hard way, but research gives us even more support: in a study, researchers noticed that shoppers bought more high-calorie food if they bought in the hours leading up to dinnertime than if they bought it earlier in the day. So have a snack before you head to the supermarket, or schedule your shopping after mealtimes, so you don’t walk out of there with a box of donuts and bottles of Coke.

  6. Shop alone. It’s much easier to stick to your list if your kids aren’t putting cereal boxes in your cart when you’re not looking, or if your roommate isn’t throwing candy bars in there while you’re trying to buy produce. People tend to buy more when they’re in groups than when they’re shopping alone, according to Why We Buy. So if you can, make supermarket trips alone.

  7. Go generic. Buying supermarket store brands, like SM Bonus or Shopwise’s SureBuy, instead of your usual brand, will save you a lot of money. For example, SM Bonus branded spaghetti can be 50% to 70% cheaper than the branded kind. Store brands aren’t limited to food — you can also get things like cotton balls and trash bags for a lot cheaper. To save on your total grocery bill, replace some of your items with the store brand. If you don’t notice a big difference between brands, you might as well save some money and buy the cheaper brand.

Do you have any tips on how to outsmart your supermarket? Let us know in the comments!

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