The big, shiny supermarkets, probably the glossiest ambassadors of modern-day consumerism, have made our lives unthinkably exciting and convenient with their myriad offerings. However, the flipside of the story is that most of us regularly purchase stuff we need and don’t in equal proportions from the retail stores.
And we do so without even realising it; worse, under the wrong impression that we’re saving money.
Supermarkets actually put a lot of thought behind every minute aspect to lure their customers to spend more — right from the background music they play (here’s a study), the smell of fresh products, to the way the things are exhibited.
But hey smart shoppers, here’s our list of 11 simple hacks to outfox the supermarkets and ensure that the next time you step in to buy a carton of milk and a loaf of bread, you don’t end up with a bill of RM300.
1. Avoid going to a supermarket hungry
Yes, you read that right. The University of Minnesota in a study has found that hunger actually increases our intention to acquire not just food items, but also non-food objects.
Do make a point to have a meal before you head to the superstore so that you can curb the impulsive temptation of buying that extra packet of cold-cut that was not included in your shopping list.
2. Make a detailed shopping list based on a weekly meal plan
Many of us already carry our shopping list when we visit a supermarket based on a rough idea of containers and refrigerator compartments that need a refill. But then, we keep on picking up unnecessary items from the aisle thinking “I might need this”, or, “This Buy 1-Get 1 offer is too good to let go”.
Rather, try and make a complete meal plan for the entire week in advance and then head to the supermarket to buy the stuff you’ll need to prepare those meals. This way you’ll also be able to regulate what you eat and how much you eat, as a healthy diet is a must to stay fit.
You can also choose to keep a small writing pad in the kitchen to tick off items that got consumed so that your final shopping list is precise.
But the key is — just stick to your list!
3. Don’t always fall for the items placed at eye-level
You might have heard about this before, but it’s a fact that many supermarkets place the more expensive, or new, or popular items at eye-level to boost their sales.
A simple hack is to look up and down to find cheaper (or healthier) alternatives of the same product.
4. Walk straight to the corners where essentials are kept
If you’re familiar with the layout of your neighbourhood supermarket, you might’ve noticed that often the essentials like grains, vegetables, and meats are placed right at the far-flung corner of the store. A possible reason behind this is that supermarkets want their customers to walk past scores of aisles before they reach the counters selling essentials, in order to trap them into buying attractively-presented yet unnecessary things.
So the hack is if you know where the essentials are kept, just reach for those corners, making a conscious effort not to pick up unnecessary stuff on your way.
5. Don’t always take your kids along to the supermarket
It may sound a bit heartless, but yes, even the best of us have given in to our kids’ tantrums at times in the supermarket.
So take your kids along only if you have to.
6. Give the big shopping cart a miss
Yes, the sizes of the big, shiny shopping carts at the supermarkets have consistently grown over the years, and it does little to help consumers budget their purchases. In fact, we tend to fill up a big shopping cart with stuff we don’t actually need, without even realising.
Our hack, pick up a small basket if you’re at a supermarket just to buy a few things. Better, don’t pick up any basket for a handful of stuff.
7. Relook at your cart before billing
Take a strong, hard relook at your shopping cart just before entering the billing line, and ruthlessly remove products you picked up without putting much thought.
Let every item in your cart go through the tough scrutiny of this simple question — Do I REALLY need this?
8. Don’t fall for the ‘convenience’ trap
There are loads of items on the supermarket aisles that are sold at mark-up prices for the ‘convenience’ they are supposed to provide. You can rather buy cheaper versions of the same product and make it convenient for yourself with a little effort.
For example, watch any YouTube video (like the one below) to learn how to easily cut and debone a whole chicken at home instead of buying expensive ‘boneless chicken’ from the supermarket. Or grate your cheese at home as sometimes cheese blocks are sold cheaper. You may also find the cheaper cheese at the dairy freezers, and not at the special cheese counters.
9. Buy stuff that you know
We’re not saying not to be adventurous with food, but many of us must’ve realised by now that just because an item is imported (and hence, way more expensive) it has to be good. Yes, many imported food items like cheese, spices, sauces or seafood may not always please our palate.
Worse, they are at times sold near to their expiry dates. So be real cool, and stick to the stuff that you’re familiar with, that suits your budget.
10. Beware of ‘money saving’ offers
When purchasing grocery online, many of us often hike our bill by adding extra stuff to our shopping cart — just to avoid paying a delivery fee. We’re actually saving nothing by doing so. Instead, stick to buying only what you require, even if that involves paying a fee to get it delivered.
Similarly, we buy ‘three bags of coffee at the price of two’ at the supermarket thinking we’re saving money. Such ‘blockbuster offers’ are actually making us pay more. Worse, you might not be able to consume it all before it expires (leading to wastage), or simply get bored of its taste. So be smart and don’t fall for them.
11. Complement your smart purchases with the right credit card
Yes, a cashback credit card will reward your grocery expenses. But be mindful of things like what’s the minimum income requirement or annual fee policy of the card, which stores you can use them, what’s the total cashback cap and what’s the amount you need to charge the card in a month to get the desired cashback.
Click here to read about some of the best cashback credit cards in Malaysia.
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