Supermarket aisles can be a bit of an uneven battle ground, often pitting the cunning and trickery of the supermarkets’ marketing experience against the bargain-hunting naivety of the shopper.
So what tricks do the supermarkets use, and what can you do to become a more effective shopper?
- Eye-level items – it’s no real surprise that you’ll find the highest priced, premium items displayed on the middle shelves of the aisles, where they are the most visible. To avoid falling into this trap, take a look for cheaper alternatives on the higher and lower shelves – can take a little more stretching, but it can pay off.
- Get fresh – supermarkets will naturally try to sell their oldest fruit and veg first, to ensure that it doesn’t go off on the shelf. Always check the sell by dates if possible, and check at the bottom and back, where the latest stock is likely to be. Getting fresher produce will hopefully mean less waste and ultimately less money spent.
- Tempting checkout shelves – the tricks don’t end when you reach the checkout, as most supermarkets will try to tempt you with sweets, magazines and possibly batteries whilst you wait to get your shopping beeped through the till. If you’re shopping with the kids (usually a mistake, in my experience), if they haven’t twisted your arm into buying something for them on your way round the supermarket, it’s here that they’ll apply the final bit of pressure. They’re there, of course, to induce impulse purchases.
- Similar items priced differently – supermarkets can cunningly price similar types of item very differently, and get away with it by putting them in different parts of the shop. For example, you will rarely find organic produce right next to it’s non-organic alternatives. Why? Because that would make it too easy to compare the different items, and most of us would choose the cheaper ones. This way, they can target two different markets, who will each pay as much as they’re prepared to.
- Make a list and check it twice – supermarkets will generally keep frequently purchased items apart and spread them around the shop, meaning you’ll take the longest route to get round. On your route, you’ll pass carefully positioned items trying to get you to make impulse purchases. By making a shopping list, and ensuring you only buy the items you have on it when in the supermarket, you can avoid making those impulse purchases that’ll quickly push your spending up. Writing a shopping list is a skill in itself – you should plan your meals for the week (or longer if you can, as the fewer trips to the shops the better), and remember to check your fridge, freezer and the back of your cupboards for anything that can be eaten or incorporated into your meals without having to buy more items.
- BOGOF – many buy-one-get-one-free offers are tempting, but unless it’s something you would have purchased anyway, they can often be a false economy.
- Downbranding – also known as “downshifting”, this is where you find cheaper alternatives of your favourite foods. As mentioned above, the stock on the eye-level shelves will generally have the premium items on, above and below will be cheaper versions. Now, a supermarket will not be producing their own brand goods themselves (they’re unlikely to have their own factories for each of the items), so there stands a good chance that the premium goods and cheaper / own brand goods are made by the same people. It’s a good idea to test out an alternative each week to see if it meets your requirements or tastes as good as the more expensive option. It won’t always work of course, but over time you should find that you’re buying the cheaper items as they’re as good as the more expensive ones. One of the keys is to not be a snob about buying own brand goods.
- Those handy complimentary items – again, this is a trick aimed at enticing impulse purchases. Lookout for some carefully positioned items that just happen to compliment the item your buying – for example, if you’re picking up some beers, you might find some tasty nuts or crisps next to them, or similarly, buying tea or coffee and there happens to be some biscuits right there. Once again, you must have a list and you must stick to it to help you avoid these impulse buys.
- End of aisle displays – I think a lot of us assume the displays you see at the end of each aisle feature some great bargains. If it’s something you need, you should check the price to make sure it is a good deal, and don’t assume it’ll be cheaper than it normally is. If you don’t need it, avoid it.
Hopefully by employing some of these tips you can ensure you’re not overspending at the supermarket.
What tips do you have to avoid overspending at the supermarket? Let us know in the comments below.
photo credit: gorriti
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