Supermarket Tricks of the Trade

Supermarket Tricks of the Trade

So you’re going shopping.  You’ve worked out a food budget, made a meal plan and wrote up a shopping list.  You confidently go through the store, pick out the items you need and proceed to the checkout.

As the cashier rings up your order, you become increasingly horrified as you watch the total go up and up…and up.  Sure, you picked up an extra thing or two.  Those cookies were on sale (a bargain, really).  The canned anchovies were a threefer…so you got 3.  Ok, six.  Because you’re sure you can come up with a great way to use them.  They don’t go bad, right?  And that cake on the clearance rack was too good of a deal to pass up.  Someone will eat it.

You leave the store wondering what went wrong.  Where did you lose control?  How could this possibly have happened?

Don’t beat yourself up.  It’s not your fault.  You’ve just been marketeered. 

Supermarket Tricks of the Trade

Supermarket Tricks of the Trade

It’s a fact.  Supermarkets literally pay people to figure out how to get you to buy things you don’t need and never intended to purchase using money that should have gone towards the light bill.  Just like any other business, they are out to make as much profit as they possibly can.

Sound devious?  Sure, but here’s the problem.  You still have to shop there.  You’re gonna need to eat. The only way to avoid the pitfalls is to learn how to spot these supermarket tricks of the trade so you can steer clear.

The More You Know

The More You Know

Celebrity endorsements. Food manufacturers will often court celebrities to endorse a certain product with the hope that, if you like that person, you’ll buy the product  Sometimes the celebrity simply endorses it, or sometimes it’s a line of products with their name on it  The one thing you need to remember is this:  Most endorsements are simply a way for celebrities to make a quick buck.  It doesn’t mean that they use those products and it’s more likely that they don’t.

Background music.  Music affects what or how much consumers buy.  Slower and nostalgic music is relaxing and tends to make people linger longer in the grocery store.  And the longer you linger, the more you buy.

Clearance Tags. The definition of clearance sale is, “A sale of goods at reduced prices to get rid of superfluous stock or because the shop is closing down” so check the actual discount before you fill up your basket.  You may be surprised to find the “clearance price” is often a very small percentage off the regular price.

10 for $10.  As luck would have it, these are usually shelf-stable products with a long life like canned tomatoes or tuna so why not save some $$$ and get 10, right?  But how much are you really saving? Often not much.  Sometimes nothing at all.  Take a minute and see how much they cost at full price.

Samples.  That tiny sample is not going to fill you up…instead, it’s going to trigger your hunger response and actually make you buy more.  It’s the store’s way of making sure you go shopping while you’re hungry.

The Smell of Bread Baking.  For the same reasons as above.

All Staples to the Back, Please.  Notice that the last time you dashed into the store for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, you felt like you’d run a marathon by the time you got to the register?  Staples are routinely scattered about in the far corners of your favorite market.  That’s so you can walk by and be tempted by all those things you don’t need to get to the few things you do.

And those lines!! When was the last time you left a store because the line was too long?  Probably never.  Stores walk a fine line between losing a customer and having you wait long enough to be tempted by all the impulse items they have laid out for you.  Magazines, gum, candy bars, tables full of cookies and cakes.  The longer you have to look at it, the more likely you are to buy it.

Limit 3 Per Customer.  This has taken on more meaning during the Pandemic but it’s a tool that’s been used for a long time.  When you’re limited, it automatically makes you want more.  And if it does sell out?  You’re more likely to come back later to get the item you missed.  Oh, and you’re also likely to buy more groceries on that trip too.

BOGO.  If this was on your list, by all means, take advantage.  But “Buy One, Get One” is intended to be a hook to get you to purchase something you hadn’t intended to buy and probably don’t need.

Buy One, Get One Half Off.  BOGOs less popular cousin is still a downfall for many.  Again, if you were going to buy two anyway, go for it but if not, steer clear.  Keep in mind that it’s only a 25% discount.  If that item was $4 then the second is $2, which means that you only saved $2.  This also means you just spent $2 (or $6) more than you intended to.

Shopping carts at the Entrance.  And those carts get larger all the time so it‘s easy to throw that extra thing in.  And then another.  Before you know it you have to leave because you can’t fit anything else in there without crushing your eggs.  Next time you only need a thing or two, just grab a basket.  Better yet, leave the basket and then you’ll be limited by how much you can carry in your hands.

There’s a Reason That Stores Keep Getting Bigger.  Yes, they can carry more items but it’s also because people don’t like to be crowded.  It makes us uncomfortable.  We’re more relaxed and will stay longer if we feel that we are being given enough personal space.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!  Whatever time of year that is for you, it’s a period when people are in a good mood, often have time off and are looking forward to spending time with family and friends. Your favorite supermarket is here to help you celebrate with seasonally themed foods, decorations and music in an effort to encourage you to overspend.

Eat Well and Spend Less

Eat Well and Spend Less

These are just a few of the supermarket tricks of the trade that entice you to spend more than you wanted to.  I hope it helps the next time you have to shop. Remember,  the more you know, the easier it is to eat well and spend less.  And if you do have buyer regret once you get home?  Just return the items for a credit or refund.   After all, the store is the one who fooled you into buying it in the first place.

What about you?  Has this opened your eyes to any strategies that have caused you to buy something you hadn’t intended to buy?  Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Saving Money On Food – 13 Ways To Slash Your Grocery Bill

Do you find yourself spending more than you wanted to on groceries? Here are a few tips for saving money on food – 13 ways to slash your grocery bill!

Saving Money On Food
Saving Money On Food

Here you are in the checkout line of your local grocery store. Do you watch in horror as the numbers on the display register go up and up…and up? How many times have you cringed when the cashier announced your total? Yup. Me, too.

How did this happen? You just went in for a couple of items and now you’re wondering how to adjust your monthly budget to account for this comestible catastrophe. Well, this episode may be water under the bridge but let’s look ahead and talk about saving money on food the next time you go shopping.

With some planning and critical thinking, there are ways to slash your grocery bill!

Have A Game Plan

Have a Game Plan
Have a Game Plan

First, I’ll say this: All that money you just (over)spent? Not entirely your fault. Grocery stores pay people to come up with ways to entice you to spend as much as they can entice you to spend. The store set-up, end cap displays, lighting, colors, shopping carts, the yummy smells? All part of their diabolical plan to make you spend more. There are 2 important things you can do to overcome this psychological warfare before you even leave your house!

Make a meal plan: This isn’t as hard as it seems. What are you having for dinner tonight? Why not double it and have the rest for lunch tomorrow? Two meals down. Maybe grab some oatmeal, raisins and yogurt for overnight oats or granola parfaits to take to work for breakfast this week? Now you’re down 7 meals. That’s ⅓ of your entire meal plan and it just took a minute. See how easy that was?

Make a shopping list: Now, use that meal plan to make your shopping list. I’m going to assume you’ll be shopping in the same store that you always do, so, with that in mind, set up your shopping list in the order that you’ll be walking the store. Does the entrance lead you to the produce section first? List all your produce items first, then (for example) all your meat items followed by the dairy items.

Once you hit the aisles of the store, group items together that will probably be in the same section (all the spices together, all the baking items together, etc.) This will prevent you from backtracking and being further tempted by all those sneaky displays!

Into The Fray

Into The Fray
Into The Fray

Stick to your list: Do it like it’s your job. No unauthorized purchases, no maybe-I-can-use-its, no gosh-that-looks-goods. Keep your eyes forward and only stop for the things on your list.

… Unless you don’t stick to your list: OK, so there’s that Manager’s Special on chicken. That really good special. Riddle me this: Do you eat chicken? A lot? Can you break that package down into smaller portions for storage? Do you have room in your freezer? Can afford to spend the extra money this week? If you can answer “yes” to every single question, then go ahead and pick up a package.

Stay In Your Own Lane: No unplanned off-ramps. No side trips down aisles “just to check it out”. Stick to the store perimeter and only enter the aisles that have items you planned to buy.

Stick To The Basics

Stick To The Basics
Stick To The Basics

Learn to read the shelf tags: These tags help you to discern the true value of an item compared to another by breaking down the cost per unit (such as ounce, pound or individual item). Once you know how to do this, the following advice is easy to check out.

Do your own prep work: Food in its most unprocessed form is always less expensive than pre-cut or prepared items. A few examples of this are:

  • Whole carrots compared to baby carrots or matchstick
  • The whole roast compared to steaks or stew meat*
  • A block of cheese compared to pre-sliced or shredded cheese

Doing your own prep work does take more time, but I find that it’s easier to just do it all when I get home from the store. Some like to set aside some time on their day off to all the prep work for the week while others prefer to just prep for the meal that they’re cooking. You can play around with different methods until you find one that works for you!

*I’m not going to discuss edible yield in regard to meats here as I find the bone-in/boneless argument is usually more of a personal choice than a cost point.

Size doesn’t matter: Bigger is not always less expensive. Use the shelf tag to determine which size is truly the best value.

Buy generic: Many lesser-known brands are a better value than the Big Guys. Make sure to read the ingredient and nutrition labels to make sure it’s as high quality as the name brand.

Put down the frozen french fries: For real. Just do it. Put back those individual packets of flavored oatmeal while you’re at it. These two items, on average, cost twice as much per unit as their unprocessed counterparts (fresh potatoes and old-fashioned rolled oats). That’s true of most convenience foods. The truth is that it doesn’t take much more time to make these items fresh.

Ban Junk Food

Ban Junk Food
Ban Junk Food

The average American spends almost 25% of their grocery budget on processed, convenience, pre-made and snack foods. Don’t believe me? Dig out your last grocery receipt and add it up. I’m positive it’s more than you think it is.

Ask yourself how much of that food was eaten mindlessly? It’s easy to prepare (if it needs any preparation at all) so it’s easy to just grab some to chow down while you’re watching TV or working on your computer. Seriously, when was the last time you wondered why there were only crumbs in the bottom of the chip bag? And did you really eat all the microwavable pizza nuggets?

Now ask yourself if you’re really going to spend that much money on things you didn’t even enjoy eating. Surely if you had enjoyed them, you would have remembered actually eating them. Think of how much you’re going to enjoy keeping all that money right in your bank account from now on!

OK, yes, you’re gonna want cookies. These no-bake cookies come together in less than 15 minutes for about $3.50, which is less than ½ the price of buying the same amount of the same cookies pre-made.

I found some other great ideas in this post from honestfoods.com.

Go Forth And Conquer

Go Forth And Conquer
Go Forth And Conquer

Be bold. Be unafraid. Get out there and go shopping. You’ve got this.

 

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

No Throw Zone: How To Use Leftovers

Many think that “leftovers” are just a step ahead of “garbage”. Welcome to the No Throw Zone as we talk about a few creative thoughts on how to use leftovers.

No Throw Zone
No Throw Zone

Show of hands, who loves leftovers? Anybody? No? Well, I’m not surprised. Leftovers have gotten a bad rap over the course of time.

Old adages such as “Waste Not, Want Not” and “Clean Your Plate” still ring in our ears from our childhoods (and maybe our children’s childhoods as well!). We were continuously reminded that there were starving children that would give their eye teeth for just one bite of the tuna surprise that was sitting on the table in front of us.

Even Pope Francis jumped on the bandwagon in 2013 saying, “Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry.”

All of this makes us feel like leftovers are something we must eat instead of something we could actually enjoy.

I would like to welcome you to the No Throw Zone as we talk about a few creative thoughts on how to use leftovers.

Safely Storing Food Leftovers

Safely Store Leftovers
Safely Store Leftovers

I’m gonna put this at the top of the list because it’s important to store your leftovers in a manner that will allow you to use them in a timely manner before they go bad. For cooked meats and hardy vegetables, the general rule of thumb is that they should be eaten or frozen within 5 days of putting them in the refrigerator (which should happen within 2 hours of cooking them!).

This 5-day rule doesn’t apply to everything so make sure you do your homework. Cured meats can be stored up to 14 days in the fridge after being opened, whereas a fruit or vegetable salad will probably look mushy and unappealing by the next day.

It’s best to use the “first in, first out” method of using your leftovers. When you put a container in, pull any existing containers to the front so they can be used first and the older stuff won’t be hidden in the back!

Keep in mind that’s OK to toss something that looks or smells “funny”. Or, as often happens to me, if you can’t remember when you made it. Never take the chance of getting sick just so you can say you didn’t have to throw it away!

What’s For Lunch Today?

What's For Lunch?
What’s For Lunch?

How about leftovers from your dinner last night?

Nothing’s easier than depositing your leftovers from diner directly into a microwave-safe container to have for lunch the next day. Many dishes are even better when the flavors have had a chance to meld overnight. Don’t believe me? You can’t argue with science, man.

Let’s take that soup or stew, for example. This type of dish is typically simmered for some amount of time, both to cook the ingredients and to evaporate some of the liquid, which makes the broth more concentrated and flavorful.

This evaporation process continues as the dish cools and even in the refrigerator. The meat and vegetables absorb liquid as well, causing them to become more tender and flavorful as time goes on. These chemical reactions are what turn that tasty dinner into a heavenly lunch!

Make It New Again

Make It New Again
Make It New Again

When my kids were growing up, a family favorite was turning stew, pot roast or boiled dinner into hash a day or two later. Simply remove the meat and veggies out of the liquid, chop ‘em up small and crisp them up in a saute pan with a little oil. Use cornstarch to turn the broth into the gravy and you’ve got a real “stick-to-your-ribs” kind of meal. My kids now use this recipe for their own families!

You can also turn any kind of leftovers into a stir-fry. Give them a quick saute and then toss with soy sauce, sesame oil, grated Parmesan or whatever you’ve got on hand!

Puree leftovers to stir into pasta sauce to kick up nutrition and flavor. Or mix them in with pasta and some grated cheese for an easy-peasy meal.

Leftover meat or seafood? How about a sandwich? Or toss it up with some lettuce and your favorite salad dressing! Nachos, chicken salad, ham salad…the possibilities are endless.

Quick And Easy Soup

Quick and Easy Soup
Quick and Easy Soup

Soup’s On! Make that quick and easy soup. Got some bouillon? Puree your leftovers to add for a comforting, tasty broth or mix them in as they are for a hearty soup. Top it with freshly made croutons (made from any kind of leftover bread) and dinner’s ready!

Feeling adventurous? How about some ramen? I know this recipe calls for chicken, celery and carrots but you’re feeling adventurous, right? Go ahead and try it with some different ingredients. Basic, dried, unflavored ramen noodles can be found in the Asian section of your local supermarket and have a long shelf life so why not stock up?

And, just for the record, making your own soup or ramen broth is about one million times better than that “instant” stuff.

Improving The Bottom Line

Improving The Bottom Line
Improving The Bottom Line

Using (reusing?) your leftovers has benefits far beyond the cost of trash bags. Not only are you saving money on your grocery bill, but you’re also reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as your ecological footprint. You’re improving the bottom line for yourself and the whole world.

And lest I end this sounding like your mother, I will also point out that you’re creating tasty and nutritious meals to enjoy with your family and friends. Because that’s the real bottom line, isn’t it?

Enjoy.

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

 

 

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