Save at the supermarket without breaking the rules

How to make smart savings without fudging the self-service checkouts.

Love them or hate them, nowadays at almost every supermarket you’re forced to use self-service checkouts. And while you’re wrangling the kids, juggling your groceries and struggling to find the right button to weigh up your fruit and vegies, it can be tempting to let a few items slip through, or just hit any old button to get your shopping finished.

But be warned, supermarkets have joined forces with police in an effort to target shoppers who aren’t using these checkouts properly. So remember, even if it’s just letting a $2 avocado slip through here and there, it’s still stealing. There are some much smarter – and legal! – ways to save on your supermarket shopping.

Beat the supermarkets and their efforts to make you spend up big. Here’s 10 sneaky tricks supermarkets use to make you spend more.

  1. Layout tricks to catch lazy shoppers

Ever noticed that you have to go all the way to the back corner of the supermarket to find the milk? This is no accident – it means you have to walk through the aisles and past loads of temptations when all you needed was a litre of milk.

Other sneaky layout trick supermarkets use to get you to buy more are:

  • tempting your senses with pretty and fragrant items like fresh flowers and bakery items at the entrance
  • placing all those tempting treats around the check outs
  • big ‘special’ displays on the end of the aisles
  • putting the most expensive brands and products at eye level. Always check the top and bottom shelves for good value!
  • placing items next to each other to tempt you to buy both – such as corn chips next to tomato salsa or garlic bread next to the fresh pasta

Stay savvy, and don’t be fooled. Bring a list, and stick to it, buying only what you need.

  1. Fun music to give a feel-good vibe

Music makes us happy!

  • Happy shoppers linger longer and spend more cash.
  • The supermarkets know this, and hope that by playing music they’ll lift our mood and encourage us to spend more.
  1. Pre-cut and packaged fresh food

Yes, it’s really handy that you can buy pumpkin or celery already cut up into handy little pieces. But do you really need to pay almost twice the price per kilo for the privilege?

  • Likewise, while it might be quicker to grab a wrapped tray of chicken breasts from the meat fridge, they’re likely to be several dollars cheaper a kilo if you buy them over the deli counter instead.
  • Compare prices on pre-packaged versus loose pricing to make sure you’re getting the best value.
  1. Saying ‘up to 50% off’

Sure, perhaps some items might be reduced by 50%, but chances are they’re not the products you’re planning to buy.

  • The super cheap items are usually the random products that no-one’s buying and that the supermarket needs to get rid of.
  • Don’t be swayed into buying things just because they’re super cheap.
  1. Buy one, get one free – or the two for one.

It’s pretty hard to resist a so-called freebie! But unless you had already planned to buy the item, this isn’t really a perk.

  • Sure, it may feel like value, but if it isn’t something you normally use, buying it just because of a two-for-one special isn’t really saving you anything.
  1. Multi-buy discounts

Supermarkets also often advertise multi-buy discounts like ‘3 for $3’ that don’t actually save you any money.

  • Take a good look at the price ticket and you’ll often see that the item is $1 each anyway. It’s just a ploy to get you to spend more and buy more of a certain item.
  1. The word “special” just isn’t special anymore

Just because something is listed as a special, does it really make it one?

  • Take a good look at the price ticket for the original price and the so called ‘special’ price. Sometimes it’s funny to see that the saving is as small as just one cent!
  • By putting a big, brightly coloured ‘special’ ticket on a product, it’s amazing how many customers grab one or two, thinking they’re nabbing themselves a bargain.
  1. Grocery unit pricing – bigger doesn’t always mean better

The introduction of standard unit pricing on supermarket price tickets is really handy for letting you see how much say 100g or 100mL of a product is costing you in various package size options.

  • But don’t always assume that the biggest packet is going to represent the best value for money. Sometimes supermarkets try to catch us out and move their stock – making it cheaper to buy smaller packages of an item rather than the big ones.
  • This goes against what we’ve been led to believe – that biggest is always best value for money – and so we often get caught out.
  • So take a good look at the unit pricing on each ticket to see what you’re really paying and where the best value lies.
  1. Cheap introductory prices that get raised once you’re hooked

When a product is new to the market it’s usually offered at a special introductory price that makes it affordable and grabs your attention – so you buy it, and often you like it!

  • Once you’re hooked and in the habit of buying the product, this ‘special introductory price’ is replaced by a higher regular price.
  1. Shrinking sizes
  • Grocery producers are really sneaky. Sure, they mightn’t have put the price up for ages on that chocolate bar or packet of chips….but is the packet as big as it used to be?
  • Many packets are slowly shrinking to maintain the producer’s profit margins, and you’re not getting as much for your money.
  • So keep an eye on packaging sizes and use those handy unit pricing tickets to determine which brand and size is really giving you the best value for money.