Hacking the Grocery Store

Anything that thrives in business is built that way for a reason.  A grocery store is no different.  Whether it be Albertson’s, Safeway, Kroger, or any other, the main design is the same.  The store is composed of two sections, an outside “perishables” loop and an inner grouping of “canned and boxed” goods in the form of aisles.  This design has held for a long time due to its success.  The outer loop of perishables consists of items that offer a considerably lower margin to the grocer.  These items are commodity level items; meats, cheeses, fruits, and veggies.  There is nothing particular to the branding here.  This outer loop is continuous and is meant by the grocer to be able to be traversed quickly.

Why is that?  It’s so you, the shopper can move onto their more lucrative offerings within the aisles.  This is the referred to inner loop.  Due the arrangement of food items within aisles, it takes considerably longer to browse for items.  This method is an excellent advertising opportunity for the grocer as the shopper is essentially a captive audience within these aisles.

In addition, the shopping journey ends with similar methods of advertisement on the way towards the register.  In some instances, there may be a maze of aisles in order to get the checkout portion.

A local grocery store and it's maze towards the register.

A local grocery store and it’s maze towards the register hidden in the upper right portion

The impact of a grocery store layout may now be apparent to your control over your pocketbook, but how about your diet?  This standard layout design is also detrimental to healthy eating habits.  The reasoning is that all of the healthy whole foods are on that outer loop, the loop that is built to be only shortly visited on the way to the aisles.  Again, the aisles are focused on boxed, canned, and processed foods, which should take a second seat to traditional whole foods.

Here’s the grocery store hack:  It takes discipline to overcome conditioning.  Sticking to a list helps, but adopting a new approach will prove its effectiveness shortly.  Try this:  Only shop the outer sections of a store.  Try your best to build a complete meal plan off of this alone.  If you find that there are other items that you need from the inner aisles, get them from the other store in town, only after you have exhausted your options as prescribed above.  This changes your conditioning patterns.  Most prices are close enough anyways.  The savings in adjusting behavior patterns will be greater than a slight difference in prices.

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