If you’re tired of grocery trips turning into hours-long, expensive affairs, check out these 11 easy tips from Louise Gleeson, who grocery shops three times a week for her family of six. With input about industry secrets from grocery gurus Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, and Yu Ma, associate professor of marketing at the University of Alberta, these tricks are guaranteed to save you time and money on your next shopping trip.
Tip 1: Park in the same row every time (if you can). This way you won’t waste minutes trying to find the minivan afterward.
Tip 2: Bring a helper. If you have a kid old enough to assist (without melting down mid-aisle), bring him with you for some input on dinners and school lunches. Divide the list and send him down the aisles for items, turning the task into fun one-on-one time.
Tip 3: Have a system for all those totes. Reusable shopping bags and bins go back into the trunk as soon as they’re emptied, and the grocery list gets reset for the next round of meals and household supplies.
Tip 4: Do your research. Ask department managers which day produce, bakery and meat deliveries arrive, and plan your shopping accordingly.
Tip 5: Don’t shop hungry or tired. A recent study from Cornell University shows hungry shoppers significantly increase their overall spending, while also buying 31 percent more high-calorie food. Being tired also lowers your defences and affects your decision making.
Tip 6: Stick to a pre-planned list. If you see some- thing that isn’t on it and think you should be putting it into your cart, move it to the list for your next trip and see if it still appeals then.
Tip 7: Choose sales wisely. Nearly 55 percent of people say they recently bought something they didn’t plan to because it was on sale, according to a 2013 survey from Bank of Montreal. (You can break rule No. 6 if you see a sale item that isn’t on your list this time, but that you do buy often.)
Tip 8: Look up and down. Companies pay more to have their products placed at eye level. Look on higher and lower shelves for nutritionally equivalent but cheaper items. And watch out if you have a pint-sized companion in your shopping cart — the cookies and treats are often placed deliberately in a kid’s sightline.
Tip 9: Beware of end-of-aisle displays, which feature items that are on promotion, but not always on sale.
Tip 10: Keep track of your spending. Adding up your monthly grocery bills and dividing it into categories can be eye-opening. It may inspire some changes in future list planning.
Tip 11: Find a go-to recipe to clean out your fridge. A soup or a stir-fry that uses up leftover veggies means no throwing away of old, spoiled produce.
A version of this article appeared in our January 2014 issue with the headline “Outsmart the grocery store,” p. 54.