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Turn Off All Your Senses When Grocery Shopping – Except Your Common Sense

August 13, 2010 · 99 comments

in Personal Finance

I was at the grocery store the other day buying produce, and I suddenly realized how much grocery stores rely on the senses of consumers while trying to market their items.

For instance:

Sight:  I was selecting some corn in the produce department, which was very reasonably priced at 4 ears for a dollar.  I stood there shucking corn when I looked one shelf up and there was prepackaged ears of corn (5 per pack), selling for $3.49.  $3.49!  I couldn’t believe it.  There was one ‘strip’ of the corn that had already been shucked so you could see the quality of the kernels, but the back of each ear still needed to be shucked, so it isn’t like the store even did all the work for you.  I couldn’t believe that someone would spend almost triple the amount for prepackaged corn.  It took me all of 4 minutes to grab 5 ears and shuck it, and my ears of corn were undoubtedly fresher than the ones all tightly wrapped in plastic.

Right next to the corn was a display of pre-cut fruit.  It looked very nice on the twenty dollar platter – blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, etc.  Very colorful, very appealing, and very expensive.  Sure, I expect some amount of markup for the labor put into prepackaging products, but the markup they put on these items is definitely not worth it to me.  I am convinced that people buy certain products not only out of convenience, but also because it looks nice and fresh.

Smell:  Think of the bakery.  I love walking into the store and smelling the freshly baked items.  I see so many moms walking around shopping with kids eating donuts and whatnot.   I am sure that some consumers are drawn to the bakery based on the smell wafting through the store.  Same is true for rotisserie chicken.  Although I don’t see kids eating legs of chicken while sitting in the cart, I know that the smell gets me thinking of buying some chicken every time I am in the store.

Taste:  Free Samples!  Obviously, the free samples are there to lure consumers into buying whatever the sample is for, but hey, at least you are getting something for free.  Just don’t fall for purchasing that item unless it is on a super-sale!

So if you are ever tempted to buy that overpriced corn, think ‘geez, I could buy 14 ears of corn for what they are charging for 5’ and run away.  Don’t fall for that or for buying things at the end of the aisle, which is always a ripoff.  I could go on and on about saving money at the grocery store, but I will save that for another day.  (Plus I am sure you readers are tired of me screaming about how you need to combine sales with coupons for maximum saving.)

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole August 13, 2010 at 8:27 am

Man, I’m glad I’m not trying to save money at the grocery store anymore. Grocery store shopping is one of my life pleasures, and without smelling and tasting and the occasional rotisserie chicken (which still costs less than dinner out) or impulse (sampled) cheese, I would miss that little bright spot in my life.


Kris August 13, 2010 at 9:58 am

Nicole, I do agree, I love the free samples. But a lot of times it is for garbage food (especially at Costco) that really isn’t very good for you. However, I do like the free cheese and fruit. My kids like the free samples of brownies, of course.


The Biz of Life August 13, 2010 at 9:10 am

These businesses have gotten marketing savvy. You can’t avoid the way they entice the senses, but never walk in a grocery store hunger or you’ll be shocked at the total bill when you check out.


Kris August 13, 2010 at 9:57 am

Biz- Oh I agree about not shopping while hungry! However, I have also made the mistake of shopping entirely full and I came home with next to nothing!


The Wealth Artisan August 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm

No kidding!

I’m a sucker for the free samples, and yes, I sometimes feel so guilty I might purchase them. I’m getting better though!!! I’ve also gotten better at walking through stores with my eyes closed and ears covered. 🙂



Budgeting in the Fun Stuff August 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Sam’s Club usually has free samples of stuff I don’t want to eat, but this last trip, they had samples of Vanilla Silk Milk (soy milk)…I could see that being good in smoothies. I didn’t buy any but I have been thinking about it.

Anyway, I completely agree that to save when grocery shopping, you have to turn off your sense of smell. Sometimes I open up and buy a donut or a chicken, but I try to make sure to keep that to just a few times a year so I don’t completely blow our budget on good smelling food (which would be entirely possible if I went hog wild, lol). 🙂


Vitaeus August 13, 2010 at 3:28 pm

If you have the storage space, buying food on sale in large quantities is a good way to get off teh grocery store treadmill. If you can eat from your pantry and wait for the sales you come ut ahead, even if you spend more in the start-up phase. Been doing it for a year and it is amazing how much less our grocery bill is, even with two kids. Now we just need to set up a weekly meal plan so we can get even further ahead on stocking the pantry.


Mike - Saving Money Today August 17, 2010 at 9:28 am

I like to taste free samples but I know it isn’t going to convince me to buy it on impulse unless it was a real steal of a deal.


Rob Ward August 18, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Another good reason to not go grocery shopping when you’re hungry…


rain@free groceries February 3, 2011 at 1:54 am

true! true! and many really falls into it. just like with those pre packed fruits, i have tried buying such kind once just to disappointed. sometimes i feel like its still better to buy fruits and veggies on other markets instead on the grocery store, its fresher over there and a lot cheaper.
let’s not be deceived by our eyes…haha we should all be wise in spending, getting the best out of our hard earned money!
nice post and i will be checking on your other article to get more ideas. 🙂


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