Ever notice that when you go into the grocery store to buy milk and bread, you end up spending $40 on a bunch of stuff you really didn't need?
It's all designed that way, thanks to some supermarket tricks you need to know about.
Location, location, location
Produce in the front of the store, milk in the back and candy at the checkout. That's standard in every big grocery store these days, and it's all designed to get you to spend more time and money in the store.
Busy mom Kristy Neal, who often shops with her two young children, said it's tough to keep her kids from the sugary treats.
"There are more characters, more colors, sounds, lights, they even put toys up front," she said.
And it works, according to nutritionist Lauren Niemes.
So with Niemes's help, we found the grocery store secrets that get you to spend more.
Produce and endcap displays
See that colorful produce up front? It puts you in a happy shopping mood.
"Supermarkets have lots of strategies they use to get consumers to buy food," she said. This starts with what you see the moment you walk into the store.
Now notice those "endcap" displays, at the end of each aisle? In the old days, the manager put his or her specials out there. Not anymore. Niemes said they are now products that paid for promotion.
"They are not always the good buys. But they are placed there to get you to purchase it," she said.
When it comes to getting you to buy certain items, it's all about the placement, including kids items where the kids are going to find them.
"Often food products targeting young children will be on lower shelves," she said.
Which brings us to the checkout lane, stocked with sweets for kids to demand, and the sweetest of candy strategically located down low at an adult's knee level.
"What we see there primarily are candies, in large sizes, and soft drinks," Niemes said. Her tip: If you must have it, candy is much cheaper back in the aisles.
And did you ever wonder why there are now so many flavors of Oreos and Cheerios, always at eye level? It's to help them dominate the shelf space, which means you wont even see smaller, independent brands (typically much higher up so you have to reach).
"So the more shelf space they have the more the consumers will see their products which leads to more purchases," she said.
Speaking of cheaper, here's another secret: Pre-sliced cheese in the milk section can be half the price of freshly cut cheese at the deli counter.
Even if you are looking for grated parmesan for your spaghetti, it is often cheaper in the dairy case than in the gourmet cheese cooler upfront.
Shopping cart secret
Another secret: Yes, shopping carts have gotten bigger over the years, Niemes says. So she suggests unless you are buying a week's worth of family groceries, try to use the small cart, and you'll spend a lot less.
One last secret: Did you ever decide to put something back at the last minute? Look around the checkout lane: many stores are actually removing flat shelves at checkout, making it tougher for you to leave stuff you really don't want.
Grocery stores are like casinos these days: It's always daytime inside, and it's hard to leave. But knowing their secrets will help you be a better shopper.
That way you don't waste your money.
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