SPECIALS THAT AREN’T
Supermarkets will often place a large display of, say, cases of soft drink on a highly trafficked aisle corner far from the soft-drink aisle, making shoppers think there’s a special on when there’s not. Don’t fall for this ploy; double-check the price.
To save cash, you’ll have to bend. A survey of shampoo products in supermarkets showed that in almost all of the 20 stores visited, the higher priced shampoos were at eye level. Called ‘slotting’, this tactic is used throughout the supermarket. (One exception: the most expensive children’s breakfast cereals are often placed at a kid’s eye level, not yours.)
Along with price, a second factor that can determine which products are placed at eye level is whether a manufacturer paid out the most money for product placement. So, remember to look above and below for better buys.
‘IDENTICAL’ STORE BRANDS
The supermarket will often set its own store brand next to an external brand product and trumpet their lower price, insinuating that their product is identical to the pricier version. They’re often made to different specifications and cheaper formulations than the branded product, so it can involve trial and error when it comes to choosing between home brand and big brand.
‘BUY MORE AND SAVE!’
Stores will often sell big packages of cheap products – like an 8-pack of generic paper towels or toilet paper – to make it seem like it’s an incredible bargain compared to the external brand (which may give them less profit). We’ve long been trained to think buying in bulk is cheaper but you may not actually get any more in the bulk package. Look at sheet count and ply, and the actual square footage.
Big supermarkets and online grocery retailers must now have comparison prices per 100g or per 100ml, so don’t forget to read the fine print on the shelf tags. Another trick used by some supermarkets is a buy-two-for-X amount of £££’s special, but the fine print shows no saving at all – you’re just paying for two instead of one.
SALES ON THE SHELF, NOT AT THE TILL
While systems are getting a lot better, many errors still occur at the checkout. Don’t blame the cashier or scanner; the problem is someone didn’t input the new sale prices into the system in time. Always double-check the register rings up the sale price, especially on the first day of a promotion.
Plan ahead to beat the tricks and traps
With a list in hand, you can stay focussed on what you need without being tempted by special offers and other supermarket traps. Once you know your store layout well, you can plan out your list aisle by aisle for maximum efficiency and minimum distractions. Map out where the healthiest foods are located and make them your target zones – think fresh foods, grains, nuts and soups.
It’s easy to compile a basic list of everyday foods that will stay pretty much the same each week. All you need to do is add the extras from your meal plan. Not forgetting treats, which you can build in and keep track of.
IS IT NECESSARY TO SPEND THOSE CALORIES?
And we don’t just mean whether you can afford them. “Ask yourself whether it’s worth spending calories on a tablespoon of olive oil when you’re roasting some vegetables, when you could just spend 1 or 2 calories with a couple of quick sprays of oil, and wind up with the same result”. Think about how you can lower your calorie spend without affecting the flavour.
CAN I AFFORD IT?
It’s all well and good to eat something because you know you’ll enjoy it but it also needs to fit in with your weight-loss plan. Make sure that you’ve budgeted for the food in your daily or weekly calorie allowance. If you can’t afford it then choose an alternative or give it a miss and plan for it next time.
DOES IT TASTE GOOD?
It’s not worth eating something if it doesn’t hit the mark taste wise. It’s less likely to be satisfying and you could have spent the calories on something more delicious. Don’t just eat for the sake of eating – every mouthful should be enjoyable and worth every bite. And sometimes this means swapping low-fat or diet versions of foods for the real thing. It’s just a matter of eating less while really relishing the taste.
IS IT BETTER THAN ANOTHER CHOICE?
Foods in the same ‘category’ aren’t created equal. If you trade a ½ cup of white rice for the same amount of the brown variety, you’ll save calories and feel fuller for longer. Plus you’ll squeeze in some wholegrains!
IS IT A FILLING & HEALTHY FOOD?
If it is, then it’s more likely to keep you feeling satisfied for longer, and that’s handy when you’re trying to lose weight.
Point to ponder
It also pays to ask, “Is this food worthy of me?” You might eat something because you don’t want to waste it, or because it’s there, or because someone else is eating the same thing. But what does that say about your attitude towards what you’re trying to achieve?