How To Conquer the Supermarket!

How many of us quickly pop into our local supermarket for just a “pint of milk and a loaf of bread” and leave with everything but the kitchen sink? The big name supermarkets put massive spends into the phycology around their customers shopping habits by using trade tricks and tactically placing items offering “huge product discounts” that ultimately make you impulse buy and spend more money than you had planned. We are going to go through some of the top tricks supermarkets use to get you to open up your wallets, and how we can avoid falling into these traps to save some pennies!

Never shop on an empty stomach: Shopping while your hungry is never a good idea unless you are looking to come out with 3 share bag of crisps, 10 different chocolate bars, a takeaway style pizza, a large bottle of coke and a tub of ice-cream. Hungry shoppers are easy bait for the supermarkets as we tend to impulse buy when we haven’t eaten. Head to the shop shortly after a meal to avoid shelf grabbing, spending more money than planned and picking very unhealthy options.

Don’t stray from your list: We’ve all gone into the supermarket with a virtual list in our heads of what we think we need, grabbing things as we go and throwing them into the trolley only to get home and realise weve bought nothing that can actually be combined together to make a meal. Be prepared before you head to the shops, check your food cupboards and fridge for items you already have and make a list of all the missing components. Sticking to your list will ensure you not only just buy what you need but also minimises food waste. Pre plan, check use by dates and use your list wisely to ensure you aren’t throwing food out at the end of the week, and remember its not always cheaper to buy fresh produce in bulk if in reality the majority will be thrown away. Cupboard foods with a long shelf life such as pasta, packet and tinned foods can be kept for while, so stock up on these goods and you’ll always have a back up meal in the cupboard.

Grab Level: Most brands and products on “special offer” are placed at eye level, or what the supermarkets call at “Grab level”; an area of the shelf that our eyes automatically look at. These products are often expensive, with the suppliers producing them in bulk resulting in high profit margins. Cheaper products will be placed lower down on the shelf, so make sure you have a good scan of the entire area to get the best deals.

2For1’s and BOGOF Offers: Supermarkets are covered in competitive signage guaranteeing to give us the best offers and prices. Brands pay big money to have their products placed in prime shelf locations because they know it will entice shoppers to buy their products when on offer, even if its an item that they wouldn’t usually purchase. Buy One Get One Free items are often placed at the end of the supermarket aisles eliminating the customers ability to brand check. Head down the actual product aisle to ensure you are looking at the cost of the item when sold individually and checking various alternative brands to make sure you are getting the best value for money. At the end of the day, if you didn’t need the item to begin with and are buying it purely because its on offer, are you really saving money?

Supermarket layouts: The layout of a supermarket is cleverly put together to ensure that customers see as many products as possible during their visit, which in turn will ensure we are spending more whilst in store. Its no coincidence that your everyday staple items aren’t placed together, in fact supermarkets will maximise the distance between the store entrance and where these staple items such as milk and bread are placed to help secure that you leave with more than you intended. Staple products are also usually placed on the outskirts of the supermarkets aisles so as you have to go through all the frozen, canned food, snacks and processed items to get them, being distracted along the way by goodies and product offers which are strategically placed to tempt you. Products are also placed together to temp you to buy combination items. For example, ever noticed that tea bags are placed near to biscuits? This is to temp you with the thought of a sweet treat with your cuppa.

Avoid checkout temptations: Supermarkets love an impulse buyer, and the checkouts are their last attempt to persuade you. Sweet goodies and snacks are placed in large quantities near the checkout to grab the attention of hungry, tired shoppers who need a little pick me up. Often these items are expensive and unhealthy. Turn your back to these expensive goodies and wait to get home to tuck into that pack of biscuits you have in your basket that you will have pay half the price for compared to one of these checkout snacks.

Brand packaging: Don’t be lured into paying extra for fancy brand packaging. Supermarket value may not be a pretty or look posh, but is the product inside really that different? Many of these products are actually made in the same warehouses and are just boxed into different packaging at the end. Try a taste test of top brand vs supermarket value and see if you can actually tell the difference! Top tip: Items such as loose fruit and veg are often cheaper than pre-packaged, so bag them yourself and save yourself a packaging fee!

The Magpie Effect: There’s a trick of the trade which we are calling the “Magpie Effect”. Studies show that when shopping, humans will unconsciously slow down if they see something that’s shiny on the shelves e.g. that fancy packaging brands create that tempts us to buy. Again, doing a quick scan of the whole shelf and brand checking can be really helpful here.

Don’t forget those carrier bags: How many of us forget our shopping bags and end up spending additional money on carrier bag charges!? How many of us also have a massive stock of carrier bags at home going to waste!? Keep a stock of carrier bags in the boot of the car to save your pennies.

Chaos Vs Bliss: Choose your shopping times wisely! Weekends are always manic during the day which can leave you feeling stressed and throwing random items into your trolley that you don’t really need in order to reach the exit as quickly as possible. Try evenings or weekdays if you can for a quieter shop where you can peacefully buy the items you actually need.

Charm Pricing: Charm pricing is a physcological marketing strategy where items are priced a certain way to have a bigger impact on customers and to help increase sales with little effort. With charm pricing, the end digit is reduced usually by a penny e.g £1.99 and £2.49. It is proven that our brains process £2.00 and £1.99 differently, therefore when shopping, if we have the choice between two items, we will usually go for the one priced £1.99 because our brain tells us its cheaper, but this is not necessarily value for money when it comes to quality and quantity.


And there you have it! A few tips iv learnt to help you save money at the supermarkets. Happy Shopping!


Discovered by Sophia

Updated 20th February 2018


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Disclaimer: All content on MMS Student Saver is based on individual experience and research. It does not constitute financial advice. SGS College and its MMS Student Saver authors are not liable for how tips are used, nor for content and services on external websites. Common sense should never be neglected!