Playing Hide-and-Seek with Grocery Deals

When it comes to finding the best deals, is your grocery store playing hide-and-seek with you? The answer is probably. Whether it’s a gentle nudge to psychologically guide you to the product they want you to buy, a dirty game of trickery, or even accidentally making it inconvenient to buy the best deal, it happens all the time. After all, a supermarket is there to make a profit, while you’re there to get the best price on the products you need and want.

Playing Hide-and-Seek with Grocery Deals

Follow these methods to find the best grocery deals no matter where they’re hiding:

Always look up and down.

The products that sell best are placed at eye level (or at children’s eye level, especially in the cereal aisle), so this is where the most popular—and the most expensive—products are located. Don’t forget to look at high and low shelves to compare prices before you buy.

Don’t stop at the end cap.

The end of an aisle of shelving is known as the end cap, and this is where supermarkets place promotions, especially those products that are currently “on sale” in the weekly ad. You may be tempted to grab the deal and go, but go into the aisle and compare the item on sale to the alternatives. Often times, the store brand will be less expensive, or a different size (usually larger, but not always) will cost less per unit. Also, just because an item is “on sale” doesn’t mean that you’re getting its lowest price. If you track prices, you’ll know when it’s the best deal and can even predict which week it will happen.

Always check the price, especially when it’s on sale.

Perhaps the 16-oz package of shredded cheese is on sale, but it’s mixed in with the 8-oz packages which are not. Sometimes the discounted ground beef packages are located next to identical packages of ground beef which are full price. Make sure you’re picking up the lowest cost item by selecting the right size, number of packages, and packaging for the deal you want. I remember last spring my wife bought a box of matzo (that’s unleavened bread typically eaten during Passover) that was on sale, but it rang up at full price. As always, she checked her receipt before leaving the store and noticed the problem, so she took it to customer service. The matzo on sale was marked kosher for Passover and located in the seasonal aisle, while the nearly identical box of matzo from the regular aisle was full price. She was able to switch them and get the discount.

Check prices on complementary products as well.

Often times stores will showcase the items on sale and will display them with complementary products, such as cocktail sauce with shrimp or frosting with cake mix. The partnered merchandise may be the most expensive item in its category, so before you conveniently toss it into the cart with your sale item, go looking for alternatives to check the best price.

Beware of product categories in multiple locations.

It should be easy to compare prices on all the products in a category simply by looking up and down the shelf and checking unit prices. But sometimes grocery stores will spread products over multiple locations, making it difficult to compare. For example, my local supermarket offers nuts in three different locations: the produce area, the snack aisle, and the baking aisle. If I want to buy some walnuts for a recipe, I have to check (and remember) prices in all 3 locations before I know which is the best deal.


Sometimes it’s a bit of extra work to hunt down the best deals, but if you’re consistently smart in your shopping, it can make quite a difference in your grocery budget. Make sure you come out a winner in this game of hide-and-seek.

What ways has your grocery store played games with you?

Image courtesy of Ambro on (with changes)


  1. JB

    Great article Gary!
    I find it interesting that on the internet, all companies try to attract customers with the lowest prices and other great deals. This is because they know you can leave their website with just one click.
    On the other hand, when you enter in a grocery store, you have already made the choice to buy whatever you need in that place (people very rarely walk out of a grocery store empty handed). So the stores can afford to put the most expensive (or higher-margin) items in front of your eyes while hiding the best deals.

    1. So true, JB. Just today I was shopping at the supermarket and planned to pick up a “free” 8-oz bag of spinach which they offer to get customers in the door (and as you say, once you’re in the door, you’re not likely to leave empty-handed). I saw the sign for the offer and looked at the bags underneath and they were all 9-oz bags. It took me several minutes of looking to find the 8-oz bags tucked away on the top shelf in the back, barely visible to the consumer. I wonder how many 9-oz full-price bags they sold that way.

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