Grocery bills often wind up totaling to more than you expect. You may be wondering how that can always end up happening to you. Consider the effects of marketing gimmicks. Stores hire marketers to design tricks to fool you into spending more at the check out.

This article looks at some of the most common tricks of the trade, and how to avoid them.

Be careful what you’re taking the time to smell

Be mindful of how hungry you are when you go shopping, and how the scents around you will influence your grocery bill. If you’re starving and you walk into a baked goods scented aisle, chances are you’re going to pick up at least a few extra goodies that you don’t need.

Cart size

Since it’s creation, the grocery cart has been ever increasing in size. Why? Much like the thinking that goes with portion size versus size of plate, the bigger the cart is the more you’ll be inclined to fill it.

Crowding of the aisles

Grocers often crowd aisle ways to force you to walk through slower. The slower you walk through, the more stock you’ll see, and likely the more that you will buy.


Displays are set up so that when you walk into the store for one thing, you end up buying a million other ‘related’ items. A great example of this is tortilla chips, cheese, dip, and soft drink. If you walked in for just the chips, chances are that a display like this may entice you to pick up at least the soft drink – if not a little bit of everything. Each of these extra purchases is a few dollars, and all add up to spending too much.

This goes for end of aisle display settings too, these are always in the line of sight and make it easy for you to see and thus buy (whether you originally needed it or not).

Grocery unit pricing

Always figure out what you’re paying per unit. Grocery stores often make it look like you’re getting a better value by saying things like “4 for $5” or “2 for $3”, instead of telling you what you’re actually paying – because in actuality the price may not have changed at all.


Watch out for markups, making sure that a for sale price is actually less than the regular price before you pick it up. You want to make sure you’re getting the best value.

Mind the layout

The layouts of stores are never accidental, they are designed to ensure that no matter what you came in for, you will have to pass a million things you didn’t plan on getting. In short, think of the grocery store as temptation aisle. Try to consider what you need, make a list, and only get those things on the list if you want to avoid impulse buying.

One item sales

Watch out for pricey stores that put one specific item on sale. When you come in for that one item, they often trick you into doing the rest of your regular grocery shop there too (costing you the money you save and then some).


Stores often have patterns that dictate when certain items will go on sale. By paying attention to your store and keeping track of what’s on sale, you’ll be able to know when something is about to come on sale so you don’t waste money buying it the week before.


Grocers are smart, they know you’re going to go for what’s easiest to get to. They put things that are marked up right in front of your face, and cheaper brands lower, making it less convenient to grab the best value for yourself. Solve this by not letting placement dictate purchase for you.


Every now and then stores rearrange their stock to keep people looking through them, again forcing them to see more stock and increasing the chances that they will buy more.


When you’re coming to take advantage of a deal, make sure you know all of the rules of that deal. Do you have to buy several to get the sale price? Is it only possible on certain days? Know the rules of the sale before you come to take advantage of it.

Smaller portions, same price

Think your favourite brand just decreased in sale price? Make sure it actually is still offering the same portion size, lest you get ripped off “stocking up” on something that’s actually the same price as it was before.

The music

Be mindful of what’s playing while you’re in the store. They often play house music, or slow and relaxing music, designed to relax you into staying in the store longer. The longer you stay in the store, the more you’ll wind up spending.

Other tips for effective grocery shopping

  • Carry a calculator for fast calculations and on the move price matching
  • Don’t go down aisles that you don’t need
  • Keep menu plans to track what you need and when you need it
  • Make a list, and buy what’s on the list
  • Shop on your own to avoid extra impulses you’ll need to avoid to keep your prices down

These tips will offer a great start to getting you to a more effective grocery shop.

Do you have any tips to add to this list? SHARE with us in the comments below.

Main image source: Shutterstock

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  • I buy what I need to buy and thats that.


  • yes stick to the list, stick to the list, stick to the @#$% list!!! if you can not do this, try online grocery shopping and it is easy to stick to your budget and re-evaluate your purchases


  • I only shop with a list and I stick to it. I never shop hungry. I always have a big trolley as I shop once a month and need to stock up


  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  • Don’t shop hungry!! It really affects what you put in your trolley. Try and avoid the checkout stuff. There’s always junk food and fizzy drinks at the checkout. Maybe even unsubscribe to some websites. I know I get lots of emails for items on sale that I can end up purchasing, even though I might not need them!


  • When supermarkets “Reorganise” their layout and have me running around looking for an item, if I can’t find it within 5 minutes, I just leave without it. Perhaps they could put a sign on the shelf to advise where the items has been moved to.
    I will go to their opposition to purchase that item because I know where it is located.


  • Yes I always make a list and don’t buy things I don’t need. For many years I shopped with a calculator, for fast calculations and to keep track on the total value of the shopping trolley.


  • I avoid the whole issue by shopping for my groceries online. I always compare the unit price for the items I need which is really easy when you can see them all on your computer screen. I still make a list and just use that to load up my virtual trolley. I find I have been saving money this way because there is no impulse buying. I also like that it gets delivered to my kitchen table and I just have to check it off and put it away. It’s also good if I want to make a specific recipe, I can have the recipe open on the computer and make sure I have those items added to the list.


  • I tend to shop on my own with my list, and don’t deviate unless it’s a super special.
    I write my list according to where the goods were last time I shopped – but I keep finding that the goods are in different aisles or different ends of the aisle which is so annoying.
    Sorry marketers, but if you think that will make me buy something that wasn’t on my list, think again. What usually happens is because it isn’t where I expected it to be, I often don’t buy it all – especially hair shampoos/conditioners.
    I don’t impulse buy and always go shopping after I’ve had my meal.


  • I try to make myself stick to my shopping list, but I’m not always successful. Online shopping is handy for avoiding buying extra!


  • We shop as a family as i feel it is important for our children to learn how to budget, buy for a week and how to calculate costs. We buy in bulk where ever possible and shop at more than one store. butchers, fruit and veg shops and the major chain stores often compete against each other in our town.


  • I shop for 9 for a fortnight, costs a lot, I found that being strict with my shopping list was key but if I was having a very poor time I would record every price and keep a running tally, that worked the best! No surprises at the register and it really helped me figure out if I really needed the items of not!


  • Great read. We have recently went from a basket to the small trolley and our grocery bill has got larger too. Not a wise move!


  • I compare unit prices as sometimes even when something is on sale, that brand sometimes isn’t cheaper to the other branded item.


  • These are not new really. Hence you should not shop on an empty stomach too, and come prepared and only buy what is on your list.


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