10 Items or Less: Saving Big Bucks at the Grocery Store

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Let the Battle BeginI have lived and breathed the grocery business. My father has worked in the grocery business for 30+ years. I worked in the grocery business for 10 years. I have eaten a lot of food since I was a kid and practically have lived there. I pretty much know the grocery business like everyone including myself should know Wall Street, really really well. That is why you are going to read this article and save big bucks the next time you hit the checkout aisle.

During my time working at grocery stores and then for a grocery company, I learned that trickery is #1 in this business. Not health. Not helping others. Trickery. Trickery was the end all be all of the grocery industry.

A few facts:

  • Grocery companies make only about 1-1.5% profit. If there is any decrease in high priced items, profit falls to under 1%.
  • Kids are golden tickets to the grocery business. In my opinion, I wouldn’t bring my kids to the grocery store if I had any.
  • Like most businesses, product placement brings in high revenue and pushes targeted sales more than marketing.
  • Employees are trained to push you towards more and/or expensive items. (And you thought that 17 year old bagger really cared what kind of cheese you actually wanted)
  • Ice and water are the largest profitable items. Can sometimes be upwards of 90%.
  • All grocery stores ads come out Wednesday and end Tuesday

Those are just a few facts. Obviously, these figures differ nationwide slightly, but for the most part these numbers hold true everywhere. The grocery business provided me the opportunity to pay my way through college as well as live on my own. It definitely helped me out. But that was also before I really cared about helping the consumer instead of tricking them. I have no problem with a profitable business or capitalism. I do have a problem with deliberate trickery that occurs in every square foot of the grocery business.

So, I am here to help you financially survive your next grocery trip. I am going to provide some great tips for learning to get more out of the grocery store for less.

  • Make a list. Simple, huh. I probably threw away 5 customers lists a day. I probably checked out a couple hundred a day. The list people always got what they needed and nothing more. They saved. The people without a list had the overflowing carts. Make a list…pllllllleeeeaaaassse make a list every time.
  • Always eat before hitting the grocery store. The grocery business loves it when you stop by on your way home from work. You are hungry, frustrated and just want what you want. What you usually want is the marked up crap food and you are willing to pay the premium for it. If you are even thinking about going to the store, eat something, anything before heading there. The less hungry you are, the more likely you are to not blow your money on that $2 baguette that cost them $0.10.
  • Hit Produce First. If you go in there knowing what you are going to cook, you can grab those produce items first instead of prepackaged sides that are overpriced and unhealthy. Load your cart with produce and live a healthier life already.
  • Don’t use a shopping cart. Grab a basket. The more space you have to put stuff, the more stuff you grab. You can also unconsciously buy only what you need buy carrying a heavy hand basket. Go with the hand basket and save.
  • Buy Generic. I don’t care what anybody says, generic is the same stuff. You know where the recipes come from for the generic products. Directly from the name brand products. They sell the recipe to them. It literally is the same recipe. Buy generic and you won’t miss out on anything.
  • Resist any purchases near the checkstand. 10% of all grocery sales come from products within 10 feet of the grocery stands. It may not seem like you are buying 10% of your groceries at the checkstand, but trust me, you are. I sat there 8 hours a day seeing people browse and buy stuff from the checkstand area.
  • Be nice. I couldn’t tell you how many times I would go the extra mile to help a nice person. I also couldn’t tell you how many times I was just lazy and didn’t want to look everywhere in the back for that product that was on sale. If you are nice to the store clerks or grocery clerks (pretty much the guys running around restocking stuff during the day), they usually will get that $50 case of water from the back rafters for you.
  • Force yourself to use the 10 items or less line. This doesn’t mean bring 15 items to the 10 items or less line. That really pisses everyone, including the checker, off. Buy only the things you need. To make a meal or two, you shouldn’t need more than 10 items. If you do, you are getting too fancy and not saving money. Force yourself to use the 10 items or less line which will lead you to buying less.

Hey, I know. The grocery business is extremely tough to navigate. Luckily, I know the tricks of the trade and you know some of them now. I suggest thinking prior to, during, and after your grocery experience. The more you do, the more you will save.

LifeEx Action Steps:

  • Never, ever go to the grocery without a list.
  • Make a budget, bring cash. Cash will force you to stick to the budget
  • Read the ads carefully. Sometimes (ALWAYS) there are restrictions that apply.

Have a good one…

David Damron

20 Responses to 10 Items or Less: Saving Big Bucks at the Grocery Store

  1. Hey Dave, all of these tips are really useful? For me, I think not going in hungry is the most effective. It’s also a great way for when you’re watching what you eat. Supermarkets have certain sections where they’re cooking or heating food. It’s hard not to cave in when you’re starving and a long way from home.
    .-= Gordie Rogers´s last blog ..Forgiveness Is Selfish. =-.

    • Dave says:

      You are right Gordie. The hungrier you are going in, the more likely you will buy what you probably don’t need. I know I am guilty of it here and there, but I try to go to the market after eating something even if it is just a banana


  2. Dawn says:

    Great tips…I use most of them….the hungry one gets me sometimes, and I HATE taking my kids to the store…cause no matter how many times I tell them NO before we get there…they always get something

    Thanks for the insider view!
    .-= Dawn´s last blog ..Lost in La La Land =-.

    • Dave says:

      I think teaching your kids that they can’t have or that they don’t need anything is awesome. But I hear your point dead on. I think the marketing and product placement is so tough for kids to understand until they are 10-12 that it is pointless to 1)bring them and 2)try to teach them. It is just too overwhelming and you won’t get far. I am planning on not taking my kids to the store until they are older. Sounds weird, but I am a weird guy.


  3. Kristin says:

    I suck at lists. Heart them. But suck at making them. Especially grocery lists. Cringe.

    It does break my heart a little to hear that 17 year old doesn’t really care what cheese I really want…(it’s just like the serving industry!) doesn’t anybody care what kind of cheese I want???

    Though my problem is more that I keep forgetting to go to the grocery store (that saves the most money!) I will pass on these tips to every grocery store big spender I know. Great tips!
    .-= Kristin´s last blog ..epic fail or epic win? =-.

  4. Srinivas Rao says:

    I love this. Every time I go to Costco with my dad without eating i’m like “damn it, I’m starving, we should have come after dinner.” Great list Dave.
    .-= Srinivas Rao´s last blog ..7 qualities of water that you should emulate in your personal life =-.

  5. Holly says:

    Great tips! One that works for me-leave the spouse, take the baby. We used to shop together but his idea of shopping is strolling through every aisle and throwing whatever looks good in the cart. I now take the baby instead. She’s at a not-very-patient stage so all I have time to do is get what’s on the list and get out!

    • Dave says:

      Hey Holly—

      My girlfriend is the same as your spouse. She had no clue about sales,seasons,and general prices of food. Thankfully, I do the grocery shopping for us these days.

      David Damron

  6. Good tips Dave,

    I am studying Marketing at the moment, and part of my studies was store design for the major players, what i found was that the checkstands are a goldmine, and its not just the checkstands, strategically placed sweets in different ailes are a killer as well, especially when shopping with your kids.
    .-= Greg – LiveItWithLess´s last blog ..Its time to Purge =-.

    • Dave says:

      Hey Greg—

      Isn’t it awesome learning that stuff. It is all subliminal too. When I took marketing classes in college, I was ahead of the game because I had learned so much about it at an earlier age.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts

      David Damron

  7. Ken Kurosawa says:

    It’s good to know being nice pays!
    By the way, I noticed that a supermarket close by tends to leave cases of water bottles outside. I wondered if it was because customers tend to grab those cases as they walk in? I’ve also seen people drive by and steal a bunch. (Maybe it’s just a Socal effect)
    .-= Ken Kurosawa´s last blog ..Discovering Your Motivations | Motivation Series Part 2 =-.

    • Dave says:

      Because cases of water are so profitable for the grocery store, they push it everywhere in the store. You will usually find a water ‘end’ (the end of an aisle) at the entrance or at least on the front ends of the store. They understand that people do steal them here and there but they make up for it. Trust me

      David Damron

  8. Karen says:

    Love the action steps. Interesting stuff about the grocery store… I find that going shopping while hungry is always the best way to buy impulsively! Unless you are at Costco and purposely go for all the free samples :)
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..What If We Are All Just Equally Stupid? =-.

  9. Audrey Hairr says:

    I ran across this article from a retweet and I’m glad I did. Of all the wasted dollars I’ve been spending and to now know the tricks of the trade. Wow! How simple it is. Thank you. It is much appreciated and I will spread the word. Your kindness and generosity will help thousands. I will start following you as well!

    • Dave says:

      Thanks Audrey. I am glad this post was able to help you out. It is suprising how much we all spend on just food. If we could all control that we would be much healthier and wealthier.

      Thanks again for retweeting and following!

      David Damron

  10. Great list! I agree with Holly to leave the spouse if possible. :) He is worse than my kids.

    My biggest saving is using coupon. There are several website that helps you to do it without spending hours cutting coupons. This day you can mostly print out your coupon. Big saving!!
    .-= Amy @ The Q Family´s last blog ..Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites – Asheville Downtown =-.

  11. Duncan says:

    I get to do the shopping most of the time in our house and when I go with a list and properly fed before hand I only get what is on the list.

    When I take my wife and the kids we never stick to list and we always get heaps more than intended.

    Thanks for the great website David.

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