Tips for your next trip to the grocery store

Many of the items in a grocery store are strategically packaged and placed so that shoppers don’t make the best buying decisions. Having a plan when shopping for the family’s food can help shoppers make better nutritional and economic choices. Remember the following simple tips.

Grocery stores appeal to your senses to get you to spend more money.  Colorful floral arrangements, perfectly arranged produce, and other visually appealing displays may greet shoppers at store entrances.  Fresh baked bread or cookie smells entice shoppers to visit the bakery; other cooked food smells draw them to the deli.  Food samples are sometimes offered in stores to get shoppers to make unplanned purchases.  Soothing music is piped throughout grocery stores to relax customers and get them to spend time browsing.  (More rousing music may be played if a store is busy and wants shoppers to shop quickly.)  Of course allowing shoppers to handle the merchandise is a direct appeal to the sense of touch, which increases the chances of a purchase.

Preview store sales flyers to find out which items are on sale. Stock up on items that are consumed on a regular basis while they’re at the lowest price. Canned foods, frozen foods, and non-perishable items can be purchased and stored until they’re needed.

A list can help a shopper stay focused. A shopper with a list is less likely to spend money on impulse buys. Preparing a list before going to the grocery store is also a good way to make sure all the items necessary for a particular recipe or meal are purchased.

Shop the perimeter of the store for the healthiest, least processed foods. Most grocery stores are designed so that the meat department, seafood department, produce department, and fresh dairy items are along the side and back walls. The foods in the middle of the store, the ones that aren’t refrigerated, are the ones that contain more preservatives.

Shop the bottom shelves. Stores take advantage of lazy shoppers by placing the most expensive brands at eye level. Name brand product manufacturers often demand the best, most visible placement on store shelves. They can do this because they’re often the ones that make stores the most money.

Avoid convenience sizes and individual sizes. Shoppers pay a premium for buying items like pre-sliced fruit. Snack crackers, chips, and dried fruit costs more per serving if manufacturers package those items into single serving sizes.

Avoid grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Grocery stores use tricks like free food samples to tempt shoppers to buy items that they never intended to buy. Resist buying over priced items positioned near the check-out register or the front of the store. Single serving sized drinks and candy bars are a good example of how stores take advantage of impulse shoppers. Single serving sized items located near the register can cost as much as the same items in larger sizes located on store aisles.

Avoid buying non-grocery items from the grocery store. Items like toothpaste, batteries, and hair care products might be available at the grocery store, but they tend to be less expensive at stores like Walmart and Target. Shoppers will more than likely over pay for items like school supplies and lawn care products if they purchase them from a grocery store.

Never place raw meat, produce, or dairy items in the baby seat of a shopping cart. Babies and young children often occupy those seats wearing only a diaper. That can result in dangerous bacteria and germs being left behind on that part of the cart. Grocery carts are covered with germs. A University of Arizona study found that when 85 shopping carts were examined, 72% turned out to have a marker for fecal bacteria.

Bring an insulated cooler bag to transport frozen and refrigerated items home. The moment refrigerated items leave the store they’re starting to lose their freshness. An insulated cooler bag can help preserve the freshness of cold items and keep frozen foods frozen.


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