"Nothing happens by accident in a supermarket. Everything is designed to sell."
And that, says Consumer Reports retail expert Tod Marks, is the key thing to keep in mind as you go up and down the aisles of your local store. Knowing how to shop is vital.
Supermarkets "are in the real estate business," Marks pointed out to Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen Monday in the first of her three-part series, "Supermarket Secrets."
Koeppen is taking viewers inside grocery stores to save them money -- and time.
Supermarkets, she explained, "are set up very carefully, with the hope that you will spend lots of money, maybe even more than you planned to."
From sweets to meats, Koeppen added, supermarkets have plenty to tantalize the taste buds.
"It's a feast for your eyes as well as your senses," Marks observed to Koeppen as they checked out one store.
So, how do you navigate the aisles without breaking the bank?
Lesson 1: The Supermarket Flyer
The first thing to do when you go to the store is pick up the flyer.
"Absolutely," Marks says. "The flyer is indispensable. It's like your textbook for shopping."
The front page is where stores dangle their hottest specials which, Marks says, "are sold at or below cost just to get you into the store where, hopefully, you'll buy a few more profitable items!"
But just because something is featured in a flyer doesn't mean it's on sale.
"It may not mean it's a great deal at all," Marks says. "It may mean a manufacturer paid advertising dollars toward the mention of that product."
According to Consumer Reports, the mere mention of a product in a store flyer can send sales soaring as much as 500 percent.
Lesson 2: The End of the Aisle -- The "End Cap" -- Is the Single Hottest Selling Spot in the Entire Store
"When you put anything there," Marks says, "sales can go up as much as a third, simply by their placement on an end cap."
But be careful, Koeppen cautioned: Those items aren't always sale items. And it's a good idea to check their freshness dates.
"Because it's such a great selling spot," Marks says, "retailers may actually put something there from time-to-time that's nearing the end of its shelf life."
Lesson 3: Product Placement Is Key
"Prime selling space is right in the center, eye-level if you will," Marks says.
In fact, companies sometimes pay thousands of dollars to have their products placed on the center shelf. And, Koeppen continues, those items tend to be more expensive than the ones found high or low.
"The lower level and the high-on-top level, they're kind of the low-rent districts," Marks notes. "You put commodities there -- things that don't bring in a lot of profits that people are going to buy, no matter what."
Lesson 4: Convenience Will Cost You
How much more are we paying to have our stuff chopped up for us instead of cutting them up ourselves, Koeppen wondered.
"Prices vary all the time
Koeppen noticed that a three pound bag of red apples was just a dollar a pound; hand-picking your own from a bin made them $1.50 a pound; but if you buy the apples already cut up, they're a whopping $5 a pound.
Lesson 5: Saving Money Is in the Bag
"Generally speaking," Marks says, "the better deal is almost always to be had when you buy the bag versus the loose produce."
Potatoes at that store were 50 cents a pound for a 5 pound bag, compared to one dollar a pound for loose potatoes.
That's twice the price. "Savings, again, can really add up buying that bagged produce," Marks says.
Another point: Grocers put milk and eggs in the back of the store because they want you to grab other items as you walk back to get them.