You've probably heard many times that you should have a list going to the store. In fact, you've probably heard it so often you groaned when I mentioned it. However don't think of it in terms of eating nutritionally. Think of it as a way to save money.
Grocery stores are not designed with efficiency in mind. If they were, the milk would be right beside the entrance. It is one of the most common items people run to the store for, yet it is the furthest away from the doors. Why? Because you have to walk past nearly every other item in the store to get to the milk. If you grab one item you didn't intend to, and most of us do, the grocery store benefits.
Here are a few ways the grocery stores try and entice you to buy more:
Mmm, fresh baked bread
Have you ever noticed the bakery smells in the entrance area of the grocery store? It's not a flaw in the ventilation system. They go to the entry way because they are pleasant, and more importantly make you hungry which makes you buy more.
How to get past it: I have to be honest and say I love that smell. There is nothing better than the smell of fresh baked bread in my mind. The trick is to eat a meal before you go shopping. If you are full, your hunger drive is dulled and you aren't going to grab everything that looks good.
The ends of the aisle are a great place to display new products. Usually it is a large stack of one or two products, with a flashy sign or packaging nearby. Everything about it says "sale," except for the amount you might save. Usually they aren't sales at all, and it is away from the related items for you to compare.
How to get past it: Walking past without stopping is probably the easiest. If it looks enticing though, go to the aisle with the related items. Usually they have some stacked there as well. Then you can compare the two prices and decided if it is worth putting in your cart.
Location, location, location
The best real estate in the grocery store shelves is at eye level. Usually all the name brand items are at that level, and are easy to grab. The less expensive no-name brands are above and below. Manufacturers actually pay extra money to have their items place at the ideal level.
How to get past it: Look above and below the shelf. It sounds easy, but we humans don't like doing it. I'm sort of used to it, since being 6 foot 2 means I have to watch out for small children underfoot, but it still takes a conscious effort. Most of the times the no-name brands are just fine too.
Things for children are usually place lower, such as snack foods and sugary cereals for obvious reasons.
How to get past it: That one stumps me, since I don't have children. At a guess, I would say leave them home, keep them in the cart or have lots of willpower to say no. I wish you luck.
Will you really use that coupon?
Have you ever seen a grouping of a few items on display for a meal? A typical one involves spaghetti, spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese. Perfect for a quick meal. Sometimes a coupon will be advertised with it as well.
Here's something you might not know though: coupon redemption is very low. One grocery chain did this type of grouping, with the coupon mailed out in the flyers. Sales went up 60 per cent on those three items. Coupon redemption? Five per cent.
How to get past it: If you forgot the coupon, don't buy it. Better yet, know how much you pay regularly, and compare the price before you even step inside the store. It's only a deal if it saves you money after all.
Grocery store design is all about psychology. I don't believe it is good or bad, but rather just a store trying to maximize their dollar. However it's also my money, so I want to spend it so my dollar stretches further and not waste food.
So when they say going with a grocery list is the best way to save money, it really is true. You are going in knowing what you need for what you want to make, and it is easier to breeze past the blitz of non-deals and temptations. I'm not saying you can't buy things on a whim, but at least you can do it on your own terms.