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Outsmart the Grocery Store's Trickster

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Back to school means back to the grocery store where the time and money you spend are being manipulated on both subtle and blatant levels. Once you know the magician's tricks, you will find that you have only the items you want in your cart and a little more money in your pocket. Know that everything that happens from the moment you walk in the door is designed for your comfort (i.e. to make you feel happy so you slow down and buy more).

Behind the curtain:

• Know what things cost! A sale isn't always a sale if you don't know how much your favourite eggs cost next door. Use online flyers or spend a few minutes with the ones delivered to your door. Is $4.99 per pound a good price for eye of the round or is this sale tag enticing you to believe so? You need a point of reference before you even enter.

• Read coupons carefully! Here's the scenario: you picked up the 16 ounce can of tomatoes you thought the coupon was promoting only to find that it was the 28 ounce can? You find out your error at the register and what do you do? Buy the wrong one anyway that cost more than the brand you usually buy. But do check out coupons and contests!

Choose your store wisely! Store marketers regularly monitor your habits and behaviours while you're in the store. They lay out the store to maximize time spent and items purchase (and renovate "to serve you better" when they spot a dead zone that doesn't get much action). Frequenting one store will mean that you can put your fingers on exactly what you need and be able to compare from week to week how your grocery bill is adding up.

• Take a list! Some online flyers have wonderful email-able lists that can be built and sent to your own mobile (or someone else's!) It helps to have a list that includes all of your items sorted by store aisle. Nothing slows you down more than having to criss cross the store in search of one forgotten tin.

• Don't smell the baked goods! You know that isn't just a mistake, right? I think the smell from the in-store bakery is purposely pumped back in to tickle all of your sense. Ok, so you can't stop smelling but you can prevent it from enticing you by eating before you go. Or pick up a package of chopped fresh veggies and munch on them while you stroll. You didn't get enough veggies today anyway, you may as well make it work for you.

• Don't listen! The music is probably chosen to suit the likely person in the store at a given time. Folksy romance tunes in major chords? Must be Friday night when the young couples or singles are shopping. This helps them feel all mushy and needy so that they seek comfort in the form of food. Do yourself a favour, plug in your headset and listen to something angry to pick up the pace and knock out that sentimental drivel.

• Look up and down, not just straight ahead. The priciest items are set at eye level and the ones enticing the kids are down around your knees. Do look for in-store signs that signal a price reduction (and go back to step one) or house brands that may cost less and be the same darned thing that is in the name brand anyway.

• Halloween is two months away! You will see all the displays for this candy-fest now and you may think "Hmm, if I buy them now, I won't need to go searching later." It's a trick. You will (or some other little gremlin will) eat them now and still need to find them later.

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