Food & Recipes / Nutrition

Be a Savvy Supermarket Shopper

Be a Savvy Supermarket Shopper

When we shop at the supermarket, nearly half of what we buy is on impulse. We end up spending more than we intend to…and, well, most of us are more likely to be tempted by candy bars or pre-made dinners than spinach or lean ground turkey. Here’s how you can spend less and eat healthier.

  1. Make a list—and stick to it.
    Supermarkets often put non-sale items on aisle ends to make them seem like a great deal. Or stores may put two items on a display together, but only one of the items is actually on sale. If you make a list of what you need for a week’s worth of meals, you’ll be better able to resist display items, and avoid extra supermarket trips mid-week.
  2. Don’t shop on an empty stomach.
    When you’re hungry, the sight and smell of foods makes you more likely to buy prepackaged foods to eat as soon as you get home (or into the car). Supermarkets use the smell of freshly baked bread or cookies to whet your appetite and strategically place “ready-to-go” meals near the entrance of the store. And, of course, there’s also the soda and candy at the registers.
  3. Look up and down.
    Pricier foods are placed at eye level, because you’re more likely to see and purchase them. Food manufacturers often pay for this placement. Generic and lower cost items are usually above or below eye level. The only exception is that products designed to appeal to kids are at their eye level.
  4. Move faster.
    The longer you’re in the store, the more likely you are to buy items you don’t need. The music in supermarkets is typically slow, and shoppers unconsciously respond to the music by slowing their pace. Also, avoid buying a cup of coffee or a bagel from an in-store coffee shop—those shops are designed to stretch out your shopping experience.
  5. Shop the perimeter.
    The staples that you came in to purchase—fresh produce, dairy, meats, and bread—are found around the perimeter of the store. The design ensures that you pass by the middle aisles, where most of the processed food is located. If you need some items in the middle of the store, it’s best to go down the specific aisle to get what you need.
  6. Compare unit prices.
    Because products come in different varieties and sizes, it can be difficult to compare apples to apples. One way to comparison shop is to use unit prices. Look at the price of bagged potatoes versus loose potatoes, or chopped celery versus whole celery. And while economy sizes or discounted items may be appealing, only buy what you’ll definitely use before the food goes bad.

Beyond the supermarket

Supermarkets often advertise low prices on popular products to drive people to their store. But lower prices on certain foods don’t translate to lower prices on all foods. Often the loss supermarkets take on foods such as butter and milk drive up the prices of other, non-staple items. You may be able to find better food deals outside of the supermarket on items such as fresh produce and meats.