Tips to save money at the grocery store

July 21, 2008 7:16:47 PM PDT
Grocery prices are going through the roof these days. So what can you do to save money?

How many times have you gone to the store to pick up one or two items and walked out with a whole cart full of stuff? Experts say it happens more than you think.

Kerry Honey and her kids went shopping for a few basics.

"We were out of milk and bread and fruit today," said Honey.

They bought all that, and a bit more.

"We ended up filling our cart with cleaning products, soaps and all sorts of other stuff," said Honey.

They weren't alone. A group of women planned to spend $100 on groceries. But they spent three times that much.

"Here's part of the beer, here we have some pita chips lot of burger fixings over here," said Heidi Isern from San Francisco.

Experts say we all tend to buy on impulse when shopping.

"It's a whole Pandora's box once you enter a shopping mall or a grocery store," said Stanford University business Professor Uzma Khan.

Professor Khan studies buying habits. She says as soon as you buy "one" thing, it triggers "more buying."

"Something just comes over you, you just continue to shop more and more," said Professor Khan.

The Marketing Science Institute agrees. A study says 59 percent of our purchases are not planned.

7 On Your Side tested that on May Chin. She was determined to buy only chicken and corn because both were on sale.

"I know I have two items I'm going to get and that's it and I'm leaving," said May Chin from San Francisco.

And when she comes out?

"I bought chicken and corn, and then i threw in the flowers," said Chin.

A small transgression that costs $6. What about Claudia Magnus? She didn't intend to buy anything. Just use the cash machine in the store.

"I went down a canned vegetable aisle and I thought, oh I want some canned vegetables for my earthquake kit," said Magnus.

She wound up with that, plus some batteries.

Professor Khan says you could make fewer trips to the store, but there are better ways to avoid temptation like don't use a huge shopping cart.

"When you put that pack of milk in that grocery cart, it's going to look empty and you will end up filling it up," said Professor Khan.

And, watch out for great deals on things you don't need.

"That's what leads us to this impulse buying when we stop listening to what we need and start paying attention to what we want," said Professor Khan.

"I did that. Lots of brownies," said Jennifer Bauer from San Francisco.

And an odd way to curb buying? She says start with something indulgent like chocolate.

"Once you buy a chocolate bar you feel guilty. That guilt in itself will stop you from shopping more and more and more," said Professor Khan.

Like these ladies did.

"There were definitely things I wouldn't have thought of that I grabbed," said Bauer. "Tonic water. I'm sure the vodka's in here somewhere."

Other tips we got: don't shop when you're tired. You lose self control. And if you're on a budget, pay with cash. So you can watch your money leaving your hands.

Tips for avoiding impulse buying:

  • #1 Shop with a list and stick to it.
  • #2 Resist good deals on items you don't need. (If you see "buy two get one free," ask yourself if you really need three items, and do you want to pay for two if you only need ONE?)
  • #3 Avoid using huge shopping carts. The tendency will be to fill it up. If you came for two items, use a small basket.
  • #4 Avoid shopping at the end of the day. When you are tired you lose self control.
  • #5 Oddly it may reduce spending if you start off with something indulgent like a chocolate bar; guilt may stop a buying spree.

    Source: Asst Prof Uzma Khan, Stanford University School of Business


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