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35 Money-saving grocery hacks to help you get the most out of your next visit (40 Photos)
Food experts, industry analysts, and store employees shared their insider information. As it turns out, their are strategies that will help you to save money on groceries, stay healthy, and beat the supermarkets at their own game. But don’t take my word for it…
We’re very aware of the role that the senses play in marketing.
When you walk in the door, you smell bread baking or rotisserie chicken roasting in the deli area because we know those smells get your salivary glands working. When you’re salivating, you’re a much less disciplined shopper. —Paco Underhill, consumer expert and author of What Women Want: The Science of Female Shopping.
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It’s no accident that shopping carts are getting bigger.
We doubled their size as a test, and customers bought 19 percent more. —Martin Lindstrom, marketing consultant and author of Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy.
The store I worked at would make some of its sales very specific…
…and, in my opinion, very deceptive. For example, it would offer 50 percent off a ten-ounce package of deli ham and put the sign right between the ten-ounce packages and the 16-ounce ones. Shoppers would wind up grabbing the wrong one and paying full price. —Jason Swett
In a supermarket, a good sale is anything that’s half price.
“Buy one, get the second one 50 percent off” discounts are not good sales—that’s only 25 percent off each. Almost everything is reduced to 50 percent at some point. —Teri Gault
Customers think that when they buy in bulk, they end up with a better deal.
But that’s not always the case. In the produce department, individual peppers are almost always cheaper than those in the multi-packs, and loose avocados are usually cheaper than the ones grouped in mesh bags. —Teri Gault
The more people buy, the more they consume.
If you used to buy a six-pack of soda and drink six cans a week but now buy a 12-pack because that’s the current standard size, you’re probably going to start drinking 12 cans a week. Be mindful when buying larger sizes to make sure your habits don’t change as a result. —Jeff Weidauer, former supermarket executive and vice president of marketing for Vestcom, a retail services company.
The average consumer tends to remember the price of only four items.
Milk, bread, bananas, and eggs. Ninety-five percent of shoppers have no idea what all the other items cost and don’t know if they’re getting a good deal when they buy them. —Martin Lindstrom
The produce department is at the front of the store because…
its bright colors put you in a good mood and inspire you to buy more. That’s why I recommend that you start shopping in the middle of the store, with its bland boxes and cans. —Phil Lempert, grocery industry expert and editor of supermarketguru.com
Over 60 percent of shoppers off-load products as they check out.
So supermarkets started making checkout lanes narrower, with less shelf space, which means it’s harder to ditch goods at the last minute. —Martin Lindstrom
We let you linger … and it’s good for business.
Customers would tell me as they went through the checkout, “I just stopped in to get eggs,” and they would have $250 worth of stuff. —Jason Swett, former bagger and cashier at a grocery store in Kalamazoo, Michigan
Do not assume…
…that if something is displayed at the end of an aisle, it is a good deal. Often, it’s not. Those endcaps are sold specifically to companies trying to promote a product. —Paco Underhill
At the fresh seafood counter…
…most products are labeled previously frozen in small type. Those same products are probably for sale in the frozen-food case for 40 percent less. Not only that, but you won’t have to use them right away, since they haven’t been thawed out. —Phil Lempert
The ten-for-$10 promotion is one of the most effective.
When a store does it, volume takes off, even if the promotion raises the price of something. We’ll take an 89-cent can of tuna and mark it “ten for $10,”
and instead of buying six cans for 89 cents, people will buy ten for $10. —Jeff Weidauer
There’s a lot that grocery store employees will do for you if you just ask.
The butcher will tenderize meat for you, the baker will slice a loaf of bread, and the florist will usually give you free greenery to go with your loose flowers. At some stores owned by Kroger, the seafood department worker will even coat your fish in flour or Cajun seasoning and fry it up for free. I couldn’t believe it the first time they did that for me. —Teri Gault, grocery savings expert and CEO of thegrocerygame.com
It’s almost always cheaper to buy a large cut and have us trim it for you.
We can cut a chuck roast into stew cubes, a whole boneless strip loin into New York strip steaks, or a flank steak into stir-fry strips. We’ve had people buy one big roast and have us remove the bone for soup, run half of it through the grinder for hamburger, and cut the rest into a pot roast. That can save you about 30 percent compared with buying everything cut. —Bradley McHugh
To save money, wear headphones and listen to upbeat music as you shop.
Many stores play music with a rhythm that’s much slower than the average heartbeat, which makes you spend more time in the store—and buy 29 percent more. —Martin Lindstrom
Kroger uses heat sensors…
…to track where people are in the store to determine when there’s likely to be a rush of shoppers to the checkout counters so that they can get cashiers to the front in advance. —Jeff Weidauer
Grocery stores can’t compete with Walmart on price.
So what are they doing? Bringing in people who are passionate about food. They’re hiring butchers who are skilled at cutting up meat, produce managers who are experts on fruits and vegetables, and a few dietitians who give seminars on healthy eating habits. —Jeff Weidauer
Most grocery stores have a budget for supporting local causes…
…and are interested in being a part of the community. So if your school is having a fund-raiser, don’t forget to talk to your nearby store. —Jeff Weidauer
People believe milk is located in the back of the store…
…so that they have to walk through the aisles to get to it. But the real reason is simple logistics. Milk needs to be refrigerated right away; the trucks unload in the back, so the fridges are there so that we can fill the cases as quickly and easily as possible. —Jeff Weidauer
About 80 percent of what shoppers buy, they buy every week.
Keep your receipt, which shows the item and the price you last paid, so you can tell when something is on sale. That’s when you should stock up. —Phil Lempert
If you need a cake, don’t buy it the day you need it.
We’ll have to give you one from the display case, and those cakes have often been sitting out for a while. If you order in advance, we’ll make the cake for you that day or the night before, and it will be a lot fresher. —Lindsay Smith, former cake decorator and bakery worker at a grocery store near Birmingham, Alabama
Some of the same cheeses displayed behind the deli counter…
…are available in the dairy case. The packaging isn’t as fancy, but they’re much cheaper. —Phil Lempert
The mist that’s sprayed on your fruits and veggies…
…may make them look fresh, but it can make them rot faster. The water also adds to an item’s weight, so make sure you shake off leafy greens. —Martin Lindstrom
We recycle the vegetables and fruits that don’t sell in time…
…by using them in our prepared foods. —Bradley McHugh
Just because something is advertised in your grocery store circular…
…doesn’t mean it’s on sale. There’s a whole lot in there that’s full price. —Teri Gault
Grocery stores usually don’t have the best milk prices.
The milk at drugstores and convenience stores is typically priced 30 to 50 cents less per gallon; it may even be locally produced and hormone-free. —Teri Gault
I’ve tasted every item in our deli case…
…and there’s very little difference between what’s been prepackaged and what we slice fresh. A lot of times, it’s the exact same product. But you’re paying $1 to $2 more per pound for the same product just to have us slice it for you. —Bradley McHugh
When you buy fresh bread…
…we give it to you in a brown paper bag. Why? Because the bread may go stale faster, sending you back to the store to buy more. A quick fix: Place loaves in airtight plastic bags as soon as you get home. —Lindsay Smith
If we’re having a sale on a baked item…
…and you don’t need it until the next month, ask if you can buy it now, during the sale, but not pick it up until your event. We let people do that all the time. They bring back their receipt a month later and get their order. —A cake decorator in an Ohio grocery store
If you see something in the bakery…
…or meat department that will expire the next day, say, “Hey, this is expiring tomorrow. Are you going to mark it down?” A lot of times, they’ll mark it down for you right then. You’re really doing them a favor, since they have to unload it anyway. —Teri Gault
Is there a product you want that the store doesn’t carry?
Talk to the manager. A lot of today’s supermarkets will special-order things for you. They’ll even arrange to bring something in for you on a regular basis. —Jeff Weidauer
If you can, shop when the store is not busy.
Studies show that most consumers buy more when the store is crowded because they
subconsciously want to be part of the group. Mondays and Tuesdays are the best days to shop. Whatever you do, avoid weekends. —Phil Lempert
Just because a cut of meat is labeled Angus doesn’t mean it’s going to be a great steak.
What you really want to check is its USDA quality grade. Prime is the best, then choice (usually the highest grade available in grocery stores), followed by select, and finally standard. —Kari Underly, former grocery store meat cutter and author of The Art of Beef Cutting: A Meat Professional’s Guide to Butchering and Merchandising
One of our best-kept secrets…
…is that you get filet mignon much cheaper by buying whole T-bone steaks. Every T-bone has a small filet mignon on the bone, and a New York strip on the opposite side. The price difference can be $3 to $5 a pound. —Bradley McHugh
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