How to Outsmart Your Supermarket

Grocery stores are designed to lure you into spending more. Use these savvy grocery store tips to outsmart your supermarket and save even more money on your next trip!

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Grocery stores are designed to lure you into spending more than you originally planned. Which means, even if you try to shop smart, they'll use all sorts of tactics to outsmart you! I say it's time to turn the the tables on the grocery store and outsmart them instead. These nine tips explain exactly how to put more money in your pocket, no matter where you shop! #shoppingtips #groceryshopping #groceryshoppinghacks #moneysavingtips

Let’s talk about the supermarket…the grocery store…the place where you buy food every week. Yeah, that placethe one that constantly bankrupts your grocery budget, because what else can you do? It’s not like we can avoid eating!

And the reality is, you’ve probably done all you can to cut back. You already know what bad grocery shopping habits to kick. You’ve figured out what foods NOT to buy. You’ve even prepped your meal plan for the week and frankly, you’re the queen of reviving old leftovers.

But grocery stores are designed to lure you into spending more than you originally planned. Which means, even if you try to shop smart, they’ll use all sorts of tactics to outsmart you.

I say it’s time to turn the the tables on the grocery store and outsmart them instead. These nine tips explain exactly how to put more money in your pocket, no matter where you shop!

1. Divide produce into a smaller size

I know how easy it is to grab the whole bunch of bananas, a huge bag of grapes, or even a 10/$10 sale on avocados. The bad thing is, sometimes it’s just too much!

The bananas go bad, and even if you have good intentions to make banana bread {or maybe some yummy banana chocolate chip muffins!}, mostly they just end up in the trash. Sure, one banana might not cost a whole lot, but the money adds up over time.

So, my recommendation? Don’t take more fruit or veggies than you have to. In fact, Publix recently let me split a bag of grapes so I only took home what I could actually eat. By doing this, you pay less for the fruit and greatly avoid food waste!


2. Check and compare unit prices

Have you ever really looked at the price tag on the shelf? I mean, really looked?

In most grocery stores, the unit price is included on the tag, which comes in extremely handy when comparison shopping. I do this with all the products I buy, because you never know which size can or jar will be cheaper.

Just the other day I was in the store looking for peanut butter and thought “hey, maybe I can just buy a larger jar and save money!” I was wrong. It was almost double the unit price for the bigger size, reminding me that bigger is not always better.

3. Don’t fall for quantity marketing

Yep, you’ve seen the sales. “Buy 2 get 1 free”. “Buy 1 get 1 half off”. “Buy 10 for $10”. Next time you see one of these advertised, keep in mind that they are marketing ploys. The grocery store just wants you to buy more!

And I can’t really blame them. I mean, it’s good advertising! But as a consumer trying to watch her budget, I’m not going to let it fly.

My recommendation? Read the fine print. Almost always, you don’t have to actually buy the full amount to get the discount. In some stores, “Buy 1 get 1 free” really just means that each item is half price. Or, “10 for $10” means that each item is $1. Don’t waste your money thinking that you have to buy more unnecessary items just to get the sale price!


4. Watch the register

Scanners are not foolproof. Sometimes, an item will come up with the wrong price, or the cashier will scan things more than once. It gets even worse when the sale price comes off at the very end and you have to quickly look through your receipt to make sure everything rang up correctly.

Sneaky, isn’t it?

However, some stores offer an item for free if it rings up wrong, so you really want to hone that eagle eye. Publix is a good example of this and even has a policy called the “Publix Promise.”

One last tip—make sure you watch the cashier’s hands when weighing veggies. The scanner doubles as a scale, so if the cashier has anything else on it when they are ringing up your veggies, those tomatoes could easily double in price!

5. Skip the spices

Unless there is no choice but to buy your spices at the grocery store, don’t do it. Bulk food stores sell them so much cheaper!

One of my favorite places to buy spices is a little shop in Lancaster County. It’s completely run by the Amish and doesn’t even have electricity. You still have to check unit prices, but generally you can get bigger quantities for $2.00 or less.

Another place to check is a big box store like Sam’s Club or Costco. They don’t offer every spice, but usually have the most common ones.


6. Buy a whole chicken

We eat a TON of chicken at our house. Some of our favorite recipes are Chicken Veggie Stir-Fry and Creamy Chicken Bundles, just to name a few! So to save money, I often buy the whole chicken over breasts or thighs.

Here’s the thing—when you are buy chicken that’s already cut and processed, you are paying someone else to do all the work for you, which means the price goes up. Buy the whole chicken and split up your own parts instead.

Personally, I love cooking the whole chicken so I can freeze small pieces for casseroles. I also use the bones to make and freeze my own broth!

7. Purchase select items at the drugstore

Okay, this one might sound crazy because we often don’t think of going to the drugstore to buy groceries. But items like milk and eggs are often a lot cheaper at the drugstore! 

These “loss leaders” are designed to entice you into the store, so you *hopefully* buy expensive toiletry items while you’re there. Don’t fall for this scheme. Just purchase what you need and ignore the rest.

Sometimes Walgreens will even offer coupons on baking supplies, which you can then pair with manufacturer coupons for even lower prices. It definitely pays to check the drugstore before heading over the grocery!

8. Don’t fill your cart all the way

Anyone have a tendency to go into the store and buy a bunch of food that wasn’t on the list to being with? Um, hello box of limited edition cereal that’s stuffed in the back of the pantry because it tasted horrible. 

Part of this is because you grabbed a cart instead of a basket. And sometimes you have to, especially if you have a huge list, or kiddos that like to sit inside. But when you have the option, grab a small basket instead.

Joseph is always ragging on me for stuffing everything I need into a small basket, but when I have a huge cart, I’m more likely to fill it with extra food. This simple switch really keeps my own grocery bill low!


9. Check sales at multiple stores

This is something I’m very guilty of—settling for the first sale price I see. Don’t do this. If you see a really good sale at one store, chances are a competing store will have the same sale running…and often at a cheaper price!

You can always check sale prices online, or through newspaper ads, but I prefer to use my favorite coupon bloggers instead. Right now, I open Krazy Coupon Lady and True Couponing in a separate browser window, then proceed to make my list.

It really doesn’t take that long, and you end up saving a ton of money!


I know this post is already long, but I just have one more tip to share! Use my favorite savings app, Ibotta. This app is unique in that it allows you to earn cash back on generic brand items and produce!

Of course, there’s brand name foods listed as well, but I can almost guarantee I’ll get cash back on every shopping trip.

You can sign up for Ibotta and get $10 cash when you redeem your first rebate. Or, you can see my full Ibotta app review {and video tutorial} HERE.


Well, that’s it! By following these nine tips {+ a bonus!}, you can drastically reduce your costs at the grocery store. Remember, don’t let the supermarket pull one over on you…outsmart them before they outsmart you!

Want more? I’ve compiled a list of more than 60 resources that are all about how to earn, save, and manage money better. Best part is – they are free! Check them out here.

What grocery shopping tips would you add to this list?

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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  1. You forgot the most important tip***Don’t go food shopping when you are hungry!!!!!

    Second-If shopping for one weeks worth of food for a family of 4 a basket just won’t do. Most of the time people need a cart for family grocery shopping.

    Baskets are for the shopping -you know 10 items or less to get you through to the next shopping trip. If I had to use a basket to shop for my family of four, it would take me hours.

    I always break grape stems smaller never had a problem doing that. But bulk fruit you are right never buy bulk fruit, accept my family would be able to eat 10 avocados before they go bad.

    It take us all time to get used to how to shop After 28 years of shopping for 2-4 people, I got the hang of it. Some of your tips are really good!

  2. I really like the idea of splitting the produce into smaller portions. I have thought about that with bananas, but never with grapes, apples, oranges etc. I feel like I waste so much produce. I will start using this tip! Thank you!

    1. I went years before I realized that it was OK to not buy the whole bag of grapes! Every time I saw spoiled produce I felt like I was throwing cash away. 🙁

  3. These tips are awesome! My sister has an amish market where she lives so whenever I need more spices she sends them to me in exchange for clipped coupons. It’s a great system and I get the benefit of discounted spices!

    1. I’m so jealous of your sister! I used to live about 3 hours outside of Lancaster, PA. Every year my mom, grandmother, and I would make a trip down to buy from the Amish stores.

  4. Your tip on buying spices at Costco is golden. You get so much more for a fraction of the price. My tip is to go in Costco without a cart. That way I can only get to the register with what I can carry in my hands. It works great when I’m just running in to get salad and a rotisserie chicken. Costco is way too alluring for me!

    Before I learned to budget well, I carried cash at the grocery store. That way I had to keep up and couldn’t overspend. There are some aisles I don’t go down. Our Kroger is starting to carry high end hair products like Pureology and it’s just better if I don’t even look!

    1. Shopping without a cart is such a great tip!! My husband kids me a little when we go in and I say that we don’t need a cart. I think it’s because on more than one occasion he’s ended up walking around juggling a gallon of milk, eggs, 3 boxes of cereal, etc. 🙂

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