Sneaky Ways Supermarkets Get You to Spend More


Photo by: gilaxia


If you’re like most folks who are on a food budget, you head to the supermarket with a list in hand. Oftentimes, however, you end up leaving the store with a cart filled with items that you had no intention on bringing home. Supermarkets are in the business of getting you to spend more, and many folks fall into their trappings. Here are 5 ways to help minimize overspending at the market.

Oversized carts

When you hit the grocery store to purchase a few items and are wheeling around a huge cart, adding a few more items may seem harmless. Those large carts filled with only a few items also makes you feel like you aren’t purchasing enough, playing on your feeling of guilt.

Instead: Use a hand-held basket, or many supermarkets now offer smaller sized carts that offer fewer items.

Hidden staples

How many times have you gone to grab milk and eggs and added just a few more items to your cart? To get to many perishable items on your shopping list, you’ll need to walk through other aisles which tend to be filled with snack foods and sugary beverages.

Instead: When walking through aisles filled with junk-type foods, focus only on what you need to buy. Also, make sure you eat before heading to the supermarket, so you don’t make these types of impulsive buys. Lastly, keep your kids at home if they tend to whine and beg for junk foods when you’re running through those middle aisles (my eldest son was one of those kids).


I just attended the Natural Food Expo West, where I saw thousands of new healthy food products, and there have never been so many options for exciting new options. With so many new healthy products hitting stores, you can’t help but want to try them all.

Instead: Choose one or two items a week to try. Choose a smaller sized or individual-size bag to start to check if you actually like it.

Healthier items are tougher to reach

Every time I’m looking for low-sodium canned beans they’re in the most obscure places. I can find all the traditionally canned beans (filled with sodium) and as I almost give up, I find the low or no-added sodium cans I’m looking for. Most folks aren’t as patient, and will grab whatever is within reach.

Instead: Take the time to find supermarkets that sell what you are looking for. Once you familiarize yourself with the placement of the healthier items, you’ll have an easy time finding it enabling you to make better choices.

Shelving chaos

How many times do you know exactly where each item is…and then the supermarket moves things around? The Trader Joe’s by me is famous for pulling this trick once or twice a year. This will make you spend more time in the store re-familiarizing yourself with everything, and hopefully have you picking up a few more items too.

Instead: Each time foods move around, take an extra five minutes to familiarize yourself with the new set up.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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