Do you walk into the grocery store to pick up just a few things but leave with a basket full of food, an eye-popping bill, and an urgent need for a nap? It’s no wonder. With about 40,000 products in today’s typical grocery store, the supermarket industry is using more tricks than ever to get you to buy more than you had planned. And if you know what to look for, you might find that food safety and hygiene have fallen by the wayside in some stores. Reader’s Digest asked 16 grocery experts, including industry analysts and store employees, to share their insider strategies to save money and beat supermarkets at their own game.
Surprising Grocery Store Secrets:
1. Appearances can be deceiving: Believe it or not, my years of research have found that the average apple you see in the supermarket is 14 months old … or older.
2. The newest tricks: Over 60 percent of shoppers off-load products as they check out, so supermarkets started making checkout lanes narrower, with less shelf space, which means it’s harder to ditch goods at the last minute.
3. They want you to know: Most grocery stores have a budget for supporting local causes and are interested in being a part of the community. So if your school is having a fund-raiser, don’t forget to talk to your nearby store.
4. The customer is king: Is there a product you want that the store doesn’t carry? Talk to the manager. A lot of today’s supermarkets will special-order things for you. They’ll even arrange to bring something in for you on a regular basis.
5. Deals may not be deals: The ten-for-$10 promotion is one of the most effective. When a store does it, volume takes off, even if the promotion raises the price of something. We’ll take an 89-cent can of tuna and mark it “ten for $10,” and instead of buying six cans for 89 cents, people will buy ten for $10.
6. Get more for your money: Grocery stores usually don’t have the best milk prices. The milk at drugstores and convenience stores is typically priced 30 to 50 cents less per gallon; it may even be locally produced and hormone-free.
7. Better meat for less: One of our best-kept secrets is that you get filet mignon much cheaper by buying whole T-bone steaks. Every T-bone has a small filet mignon on the bone, and a New York strip on the opposite side. The price difference can be $3 to $5 a pound.
8. The scary truth: When I was training as a health inspector, the instructors beat into our heads how to inspect restaurants. But there was very little training focused on grocery stores. They took us through a grocery store in one day and then turned us loose, even though the stores have all this processing equipment that’s tough to clean. And I have to admit, I’d look at some of these machines on my inspections and say, “Yep, looks good.” But I didn’t really know what I was looking for.
9. Supermarkets aren’t out to steal from you. The average supermarket makes about 1.5 percent net profit a year. To give you some idea of how low that is, the profit margin for clothing stores can be several times that.
10. It’s no accident that shopping carts are getting bigger. We doubled their size as a test, and customers bought 19 percent more.
To read the rest of the 50 Secrets Your Grocer Won’t Tell You please visit ReadersDigest.com.