5 Supermarket Shopping Secrets, Revealed


By: , – Toby Amidor, Food Network’s Healthy Eats
  :  28 comments   :  23,093 Views

With so many choices (and temptations!), shopping at the supermarket can make your head spin. We’ll give you the inside scoop and  get you on your way to becoming a smarter shopper.

Tip #1: Shop the Perimeter
All the fresh foods — fruits, veggies, dairy and meats — are around the perimeter of the store. The milk aisle is typically placed in the far end of the store so you’ll have to walk through aisles of highly packaged processed foods to get there. And the more we see, the more we buy. If you work the outside of the store, you’ll end up filling your cart with healthier (and less-processed) choices. 

Tip #2: Avoid Crowds
I absolutely hate lines — I always end up being stressed about how long I will have to wait on line and don’t fully concentrate on what I’m purchasing. Hitting the market early in the morning or around dinnertime (5 p.m.  to 9 p.m.) or later will give you free reign of the store. This is especially true on Wednesdays, which are usually the least-crowded day of the week.

Tip #3: Look High and Low
Products may look like they’re randomly placed on shelves, but the arrangement is actually very strategic.  Those at eye levels are usually from larger companies that have money to stock their products in the perfect place. Take a minute a look on higher and lower shelves — you’ll find some smaller companies, some of which sell healthier (and less expensive) products.

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More from Food Network:What’s your best supermarket shopping secret?

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  • 28
    Always use a list and don't buy anything not on it. - 7/15/2012   3:51:10 PM
    don't go when hungry and don't buy the coupon items if you normally would not buy them anyway. - 7/15/2012   3:26:04 PM
    I make out a menu for two weeks at a time and make our a grocery list buying only those items I need for the menu for that week. I find I have less waste that way. I also wrtie on the top of my list every week, "You can't eat what you don't buy!" It helps me avoid buying impulse things. - 7/15/2012   1:04:30 PM
  • SPARKLE1951
    this has been verry helpful i will take shoping earl morning or late evening,as for the comment about senors day i always remeber i or you will hopely we will be one some day. - 7/15/2012   9:26:02 AM
  • 24
    It sounds so simple and basic, but I always go with a list. I do all of my shopping at home, in my head, so that I can see what I need and what I don't need.

    Everything on my list has an amount so that I don't have to return to the store if I didn't get enough, and the list is organized by department. This way, I spend the least amount of time in the store. - 7/15/2012   9:20:11 AM
    My favorite time to shop is 9 am Sunday. People are still in bed or reading their papers or at church and the store is mostly empty. The only problem I run into is if I go too early and the produce hasn't been restocked. And I agree: shop alone! Unless I'm just grabbing a few things midweek I leave the kid home. No husband either, because he wanders off. - 7/14/2012   12:50:31 AM
  • 22
    Agree on everything except the times to go shopping. It's notoriously busy at grocery stores from 5-7 with people getting off work and doing their last minute dinner shopping. I work from home so I have a little more freedom to pick when I go. Around 10am or 2pm is the best time I have found.

    Oh and always look at the unit price rather than the sale price to really determine your deals!

    Finally, don't bring that person who notoriously ups your prices and your bad food decisions (if you can help it of course! I'm not suggesting leaving your 3 year old in the car or something crazy). For me that person is my husband as he sways me to get this or that and throws things in the cart I know we could do without. - 7/13/2012   8:48:38 AM
  • 21
    The first time I did an all perimeter of the store shopping trip, I noted it in my private journal as a NSV! And took a photo. - 7/13/2012   8:25:11 AM
  • 20
    I was at Path Mark the other day. There was temptation everywhere. There was this very long aisle of nothing but delicious junk food. I was tempted to grab one of the junk foods and buy it. My mouth was drooling, but I resisted the temptation. Even though the food was calling my name. Darn those delicious, attractive and yummy treats. :0) - 7/13/2012   7:46:30 AM
  • 19
    My shopping list is an excel spreadsheet with all the items I usually buy, laid out like the store plan. I also try to avoid shopping with my husband as he usually buys unhealthy items or things we don't need. - 7/12/2012   9:09:47 PM
  • 18
    Similar to that third one (look high and low), look past the bright colors and flashy words. Packaging is made to draw attention, hoping you'll pick up what appeals first rather than looking for what you really want.

    Oh, and for anyone with portion issues, look at the label before buying - at serving size and number of servings. Bottles and containers are often marketed as having 20% more for the same price. Great bargain? Seems like, but if you'll eat or drink that 20% more as if it is part of the original serving amount just because it is there ... what have you really saved? - 7/12/2012   4:02:36 PM
  • 17
    For the most part the perimeter is better at the store we frequent then the isles. Good tips. I agree with not going when you are hungry. - 7/12/2012   3:43:03 PM
  • 16
    I never go to the store without a list and always shop the permeter. Look carefully at the produce isle because sometimes they have a special of the day and it just might be what you can use. I also close my eyes when I have to walk past the bakery which hits you first when you walk in. - 7/12/2012   3:31:10 PM
  • 15
    I shop late in the day of the last day of the sale week. A lot of the sale items are in short supply then - so I take all that is left, and after I check out, I get a rain check so I can buy a LOT more at the sale price after the sale is over. I also search for (and ask for) broken packages, end-of-shelf-life products (which the manager can mark WAY down because they can't sell it in a few hours.) I ONLY buy what is on sale; I run a lot of manufacturer websites for things I really need (like egg whites.) If they don't have any online coupons, I e-mail them and ask for some. You'd be AMAZED at how many companies will send you coupons if you ask! On my average trip to the store, I pay 30-40% of the retail for what I buy! Yes, I shop the perimeter - but I have to venture inside for cans of tuna, rice cakes, and a few other things I have coupons for,or that are on BIG sale reductions! Frozen veggies are as good as fresh (sometimes better, actually healthier ) and they last way longer! When they're on sale, I can get a package of frozen vegetables - variety - for about $1 - and that will always be at least 4 servings. I hate to shop because of how expensive it is, so I learned how to cut every corner that exists, and then some. - 7/12/2012   3:18:37 PM
  • 14
    Fresh foods and meats are the best option - but all the prepackaged stuff looks so good and easy to make. I find the end caps most difficult to avoid - usually on sale and they make it look good! - 7/12/2012   1:02:04 PM
  • 13
    The perimeter of the store works a bit...but I have to dive into the aisles for toilet paper, toiletries, cleaning soaps, the few canned goods I like to keep for emergencies, nuts, nut butters, beans, rice, a few gluten free products, ...I just don't see how you avoid the center aisles...there is stuff in there you need. - 7/12/2012   10:15:35 AM
    Great tips! - 7/12/2012   10:03:47 AM
  • 11
    Wednesday is the worst day to go to my grocery store - it's Seniors day. All senior citizens get a discount that day and the store is crowded. All the other suggestions work pretty well. - 7/12/2012   9:56:27 AM
  • 10
    The Tightwad Mother would say to bring only CASH, so you can't spent more than you have made a budget to spend. I certainly stock up on items when I know they are much cheaper, such as peanut butter at $2.50 a jar, over $3.40. - 7/12/2012   7:48:10 AM
  • 9
    I often arrive to the store hungry and I have a strategy. As soon as I walk in I head to the produce section and grab a bag of ready-to-eat veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or snow peas), move on to the dairy section and grab a low-fat cheese stick, and then over to the drink area where I grab two waters. I consume these while I am in the store so I am not tempted by being hungry. I live 65 miles away from the nearest store and am usually in there for 2 hours so if I am hungry I collapse! - 7/12/2012   7:01:48 AM
  • 8
    If you have a store nearby that's 24 hours (we have Woodman's in Oak Creek WI) you can do your shopping at 4 or 5 in the morning, when it's mostly just you and the stocking/cleaning people. It's great. - 7/12/2012   3:57:44 AM
  • 7
    Yes, the above stragedy about shopping the perimeter of the store is not, really, smart shopping, anymore. Quite a few stores have caught onto this practice; just like they caught onto people going to the back of products, to get to the latest date, on a product. Now, a lot of stores are stacking a bunch of processed, high calorie foods, at the end of aisles (and, usually, advertising some kind of sale, like buy two, get one free). As for products, whose shelf life expires earlier, some stores are placing them to the back, and the latest to the front; or they mix them up with each other. Therefore, make sure that you compare the dates, marked on them. As for not falling victim to unhealthy foods, it is up to you the customer to develop whatever works for you, to stop yourself. One suggestion, make a shopping list BEFORE you leave home) and, not at the last minute; add to the list throughout the week, when you become aware of what you NEED (NOT WHAT YOU WANT) ... if it is not on your list, DO NOT BUY IT! Become a smart shopper ... outwit the stores, and their strategies! STAY STRONG! - 7/11/2012   10:03:02 PM
  • 6
    I think some stores are getting wise to the "shop the perimeter" concept though. At my store, doing a circle around the outside - starting to the right (as store psychologists know most of us do ) will take you to Produce, Meat, Dairy, (so far so good...) Gourmet Coffee beans, Wine, and the Deli, with a killer Cheese section(with samples almost daily) followed by an even more killer bakery counter.
    I need to start turning to the LEFT, and get past the bakery/cheese while I'm still strong! - 7/11/2012   7:04:36 PM
  • 5
    Since my family's grown up and gone, a buy-one-get-one-free offer on a huge roast or whole chicken made me feel left out, since it's just not practical for me to buy two huge hunks of meat! Hallelujah, praise the meat market manager: all you've got to do is ask him, and he'll adjust the price of ONE roast down to half price: kind of a "buy half a package, get half a package" concept. The key is asking politely! - 7/11/2012   5:48:12 PM
  • 4
    I shop after my Zumba class when I'm feeling very positive, and motivated, so I don't feel tempted by the calorie laden snacks. - 7/11/2012   5:31:06 PM
  • 3
    Never shop when you are hungry!! I always end up buying stuff that I want and not what I need! - 7/11/2012   4:32:00 PM
  • 2
    It has taken a little time, but the more I shop ..the more I learn that my best food is in theproduce section. It is a blast to spend more and shop that wonderfully, fragrant and colorful area! - 7/11/2012   3:06:18 PM
  • 1
    Hmmm, I actually learned a little something today... - 7/11/2012   2:17:59 PM

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