For some men, grocery shopping is akin to having a tooth pulled: a dreaded experience to be delayed as long as humanly possible. You put off going until you can’t stand the pain or, in this instance, the cupboard is so bare that the mice have moved out. At least the dentist has anesthesia. But guess what? We’re about to give you some (pain) killer advice to take the “ouch” out of food shopping for you and your wallet.
Grocery Shopping 101: Make a List
Let’s start with the one absolute essential: a list. A list is important for several reasons, not the least of which is actually coming home with what you went for in the first place. In his book Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, psychologist and market researcher Paco Underhill writes that supermarkets are “places of high impulse buying… Fully 60% to 70% of purchases there were unplanned.” Honestly, I can’t even begin to count the number of times I went to get one or two things, got neither one and brought home three or four “unplanned” sacks. Golden Grocery Shopping Rule numero uno is know before you go.
Store Loyalty Cards
All the big chain stores have phone apps and customer loyalty or reward cards, and you should have one! The app for our favorite local store, Smith’s, has a built in list and loads digital coupons to your card. Kids need shampoo or a notebook for school? If they have the app, you enter your loyalty card number and they can add what they need to the list from their own phone or device like an iPad mini. (Beware the “soda” and chips requests….)
There is most definitely a science to shopping, which grocery stores use to their advantage. When it comes to “getting your money”, nothing is left to chance. Familiarizing yourself with your local store is both a time and money saver.
The stores themselves aren’t just randomly laid out; there are carefully researched psychological reasons for everything – from the placement of aisles and specialized areas for things like produce and meats to how packages are specifically placed on the shelves, counters and racks.
Store brands, bulk and discounted items are down near the floor because things on the bottom shelf typically get overlooked by a majority of shoppers. Why? Because that two-thirds majority often wear skirts in which they avoid bending down. Nowadays guys are cutting into those numbers and grocery stores know it.
The next time you go in, take a peek at the books and magazine rack (near the front by the cash registers where those in line are more likely to pick them up). The Times they are a changing’. Once filled with romance novels, Women’s Day and Cosmo, you are just as likely to find books by Clive Cussler and Steve Berry right alongside Wired and GQ today. The traditional image of a female dominated, domesticated shopping environment is fading. All of this makes it easier for you to be a shopping king!
Men Are Savvy Shoppers
Men armed with just a few insider tips, like we’ve given here, actually make better shoppers. They tend to overlook the marketing tactics that females fall for. Researchers discovered that given a choice between two identical items, women will almost always pick up the one with the most eye-catching packaging, even though it cost more.
The attention grabbing item for men is typically meat and in that department, more often than not, guys make better, more practical choices. On the other hand, men average a lot less time in the store and spend more money. Golden Grocery Shopping Rule number two: slow the heck down! Take time to smell the roses in the floral section and leave less of your own green stuff behind. Or grab a seat at the increasing number of in-store coffee and sandwich bars opening up.
Once upon a time, grocery stores wanted you to shop hungry, believing you’d buy more. Why not use what they already order in bulk in a different way? Customers can buy freshly prepared food to enjoy instantly and the ingredients to take home later. Of course, this isn’t an example of saving a lot of money, but it is a great way to strike up a conversation with the redhead at the next table! You could tell her about Golden Grocery Shopping Rule number three…
The Secret Power of Unit Pricing
Every box, bag, can, carrot or egg carton has a ‘cost per unit’ label located either on the shelf beneath it or attached to the bulk bin and rule number three is to never buy anything without at least glancing at it. This little gem is the single most over-looked shopping tool consumers have at their disposal. It displays the item’s individual barcode, utilized by dozens of apps that can tell you everything from ingredients and allergy info, whether a coupon is available, best local price and MSR to whether or not the manufacturer is on a boycott list somewhere.
Don’t get me wrong, the barcode information is fantastic, but for now we’re interested in the tiny little box in the lower left-hand corner: the unit price. This is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. The real truth in advertising! Is that sale price really the best price?
Your first task is to define the unit. This might say “per ounce” or even “per sheet” – in the case of paper towels. How is this useful? In about two seconds you can determine how much more you pay for a name brand product compared to the store brand. It tells you that the great deli cheese on sale is actually cheaper than the prepackaged stuff in the dairy case. More is less? You bet! The price you pay for that larger jar of mayo may appear higher, but the cost per ounce is significantly lower. Getting into the habit of quickly scanning the unit price of surrounding items saves you money and takes mere seconds.
Let Someone Else Do The Shopping
You get to select your items, including review unit pricing, and schedule a time to stop by for pickup. Some stores will even load the car for you. You can’t beat this option for time saved, convenience, and the money saving benefit of avoiding impulse purchases, since you aren’t setting foot in the store.
Have you tried online grocery services yet? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Know any guys who need help shopping?
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