We all have different methods for shopping. The way most of us shop however — slowly dragging a cart around, maybe taking a rough list — provides many benefits for the supermarket while offering very few to the shopper.
This is because supermarkets use a lot of psychological tricks in-store. But by being aware of these mind games, and changing the way you shop, you can easily save time, money and effort. Image by Gurza (Shutterstock).
Shop Quicker: How to Reduce the Amount of Time You Spend In-Store
One of the first things that might pop into your head when you think of supermarkets is the music they play in-store. But do you know why they choose the songs they broadcast? In most cases, the music they play is specifically chosen to slow you down. Slower music causes shoppers to move more slowly, meaning they will spend more time looking at offers and considering extra purchases. If you want to spend less time in store, wear headphones and listen to fast, energetic music to speed up your shop.
Impulse-lead shopping may seem like the quickest way to shop — impulse buyers tend to move faster and make decisions quicker — but they also shop inefficiently, wandering all over the place, forgetting things and buying at random. They often have to go to local shops to buy things later in the week, have a larger weekly spend and have more food expire before they can eat it.
A key thing to keep you moving quickly and shopping efficiently is to eat before you shop to keep your blood sugar up. Even if this means buying a snack and eating it at the entrance before you start, hunger and blood sugar have a massive bearing on how you shop. People with low blood sugar move more slowly, think more slowly, are very easily confused and are far more drawn to junk food.
Shop Easier: How to Arrange Your Shopping List for Maximum Efficiency
You might think it's unnecessary work, but an accurate shopping list is the easiest way to save time and energy in-store.
The key isn't just to have a shopping list, but to break your list down into categories. Whether you use an app or the back of an envelope, break your shop down into sections and, if you're feeling super organised, arrange the categories into the order they are in the shop.
This has two advantages. Firstly, you only go into each aisle once to make purchases and secondly, you should easily be able to tell if something is missing from the list. Make sure your list is as detailed as possible — for example instead of 'capsicum' write 'two red capsicums'. This prevents you from overbuying. If you're shopping for a recipe, write down the exact quantity you need — you're unlikely to be able to buy a 435g bag of flour but it reminds you to buy the 500g bag, not the 1kg bag.
Once your list is written, commit to it and only buy what you've written down. If you realise you've forgotten an essential (such as nappies), add it to the list. Don't get drawn in by offers and discounts unless they're to replace products on the list for better value. 'Value' bags of vegetables seem appealing but if you're going to buy them, make sure you're able to eat them in time — if you're only cooking for two, are you going to eat 1.5kg of carrots in a week?
If you are regularly shopping for a large family you should consider online shopping, especially if you have to take your family with you to the store — kids are big on impulse buying! The cost of delivery may seem high at first glance but the time and money you could potentially save can be dramatic — especially if you or members of your family are prone to impulse buys (or in-store tantrums).
If you're only buying the items you're searching for on the supermarket website your shop could be dramatically reduced, and it's delivered to your door; especially convenient if you don't have access to a vehicle. Many supermarkets also offer off-peak delivery slots at reduced prices.
Shop Cheaper: How to Dramatically Decrease Your In-Store Spending
We are often self-conscious about money, especially if we have less of it than we'd like. But the best way to decrease your in-store spending is to be aware of the price of everything you buy, meaning that you can budget more accurately; also, if you are aware of the price of your purchases, you are less likely to let them go to waste. We've all thrown the odd unused vegetable in the recycling bin but would you make the same mistake twice if you instead visualised throwing away cash?
Luckily this is less complicated than it sounds. Many shopping apps will store prices automatically, and will add up an estimated total of the shop for you as well as saving the prices for your next shop. If you're committed to writing everything by hand, write the prices on your list as you shop.
If you have the time, a detailed weekly meal plan can help you to dramatically reduce spending. If you don't have time (or don't have a lifestyle that allows for forward planning), make sure you aren't overbuying or buying duplicates. Try not to buy ready meals — in addition to being high in sugar, salt and fat, even the value versions cost a lot for what they are. If you have the time, you can make versions of supermarket ready meals at home for a much lower cost.
One of the best techniques for this is to get out last week's shopping receipt and discover what you didn't eat; staples such as pasta and rice will last, but that sad looking lettuce you throw away every week doesn't improve your diet or your wallet. Before going out shopping, you should also check your cupboards — make sure you aren't buying extras of food you already have.
Everyone can save time and money by breaking their normal habits and thinking just a little more about how they shop. By committing a little time and thought to it, the weekly trip to the supermarket can be a lot less stressful and a lot less expensive.