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Nutrition Articles

7 Secrets to Outsmart Your Supermarket

Look Past the Super Marketing to Protect Your Wallet and Your Waistline


Show Seasonal Spirit Who's Boss
Memorial Day (Super Bowl Sunday, Thanksgiving, or really, any other holiday) is right around the corner and you can bet your buttons the local grocer won’t let you forget it! Decorations, party favors and supplies are mixed in with fat- and sugar-laden desserts and snacks, all in one convenient center aisle display. Grocery stores play on your holiday spirit, enticing you to pick up extra goodies on a whim! These add-ons amp up your bill at the check out and can add loads of calories to your stash very quickly. Battle plan: Plan your celebration, complete with healthy snacks and recipes, and stick to it. Ditch the “we just might need” mentality. Simplicity is best (and healthiest) during these times of year!

Boycott the Bakery
The smell of fresh bread, cinnamon rolls and apple pie is wafting through the baked goods area as you’re picking up your whole-grain bread this week. Your senses are begging you to bring some home; it just smells too good! Many grocery stores strategically plan their baking times during the busiest hour of the day. It has been proved that shoppers pick up more items when the luscious smells are present in the store. Battle plan: You've heard this one before. Never shop on an empty stomach. Shopping after a meal can help stave off cravings and keep you focused on the task at hand. Think about the delicious meals you are shopping for and don't let distraction get the best of you. If you must, send in the troops to grab your items and avoid any too-tempting aisles altogether!

Bust by Bargains
You see the signs: 5 for $10! Buy two get one FREE! 2 for the price of 1! These "bargains" can seem like a great idea , but consider the product you’re saving on. If it’s on your list of super-healthy, nutritious foods, go for it! You’ve helped your health AND your pocketbook. However, consider the product—healthfulness should trump a bargain every time. Do you really need five rolls of cookie dough or a free box of pastries? It's not likely. Battle plan: If you’re only getting it because it’s on sale, you probably don’t need it. The same rule goes for non-food items like toiletries, cleaning products and household items. No excuses here.

Free Yourself from Free Samples
When you see little carts set up with mini toasters and microwaves handing out bits and pieces of goodies, you’ve entered the realm of free samples. This tactic is widely implemented by grocers to increase products sales because it works wonderfully. Free sample stations are great ways to demonstrate the versatility of certain products, but how often are the featured foods healthful or nutrient-dense? How often are they full of vitamins, minerals, lean protein, healthy fats and fiber? How often do they feature whole, unprocessed foods that are naturally good for you? The products grocers generally hand out to promote sales are convenience items, ones that shouldn’t be on your shopping list if you're trying to eat healthier. Battle plan: If the product is free of trans fats, made with whole grains or free of added sweeteners, enjoy a little nibble. Use your label-reading skills to determine if it’s a healthful item you can pick up during your next grocery trip. Look at the amount of protein, calories, fiber, added sugars, salt, and types of fats to assess how healthful the food might be.
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About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

Member Comments

    I'm not going to blame the store, good tasting things fall into my shopping cart because I WANT them there, it isn't the "clever marketing" really. Let's face it, so much of so called "healthy food" isn't that wonderful or extra tasty, that is why we eat the things we eat that are not so healthy. If healthy food tasted great and satisfied, we wouldn't need to be constantly nagged to eat it, as has been done for decades, to no real avail... face the truth of the matter. Do as best as you can, but don't blame the stores. - 1/30/2015 1:04:03 PM
  • I, too, have been doing this for awhile now. We have only one grocery store in my town and it's a big box. They spent five months remodeling the whole place and moved everything totally around. I'm sure they did that because they conducted the study you spoke about! Even though I had my list in hand, it took forever to find everything on that list. It forced me to look at everything they had in the store! Their mission was accomplished, I'm sure! Now that the remodeling is over, I'm still trying to figure out where things are. It's taking less time but it still forces me to look at things not on my list! Good thing I'm not all that tempted by the splashy displays and not into impulsive buying. I started a plan over a year ago to go over my grocery list two or three times before going to the store to make sure it only has what I need. I have found my grocery bill going down and less is going to waste! - 1/25/2015 9:09:27 AM
  • I've been doing this for awhile now and I love it. I hate going in the store, especially the big box. I save more time at a smaller grocery store, in and out quickly, after gathering my list. I stick to it too, because anymore will normally go to waste. If I don't have a plan for it, it most likely won't get used. I definitely see a drop in our the grocery bill weekly. - 1/25/2015 8:49:35 AM
  • Very good read. I hate shopping. Following this advice article will even shorten my time in the store! YEAH!!! - 11/1/2014 9:06:01 AM
  • JICAMA19
    I will never leave home without my shopping list. - 8/13/2014 8:41:14 PM
  • All really good suggestions. - 7/23/2014 6:31:23 AM
  • WBROWN205
    Aldi is where I shop and mostly use their own brands, and with a double your money back guarantee, I feel economically wise shopping here - 7/22/2014 10:55:43 AM
  • My mantras: "Buy what you USE, not what you need". and "A purchase made in anticipation of use is not an impulse purchase." PLUS all the good tips in the article and comments. - 11/21/2013 9:41:25 AM
  • I am always amazed at how Americans can't turn down anything free. Free samples are their weakness. When I'm in the grocery store and someone asks me if I want a free sample, saying "No thank you" makes their brain nearly explode from confusion.

    - 11/21/2013 9:33:00 AM
  • Great article! I use several of these tips, especially DO NOT SHOP WITH AN EMPTY STOMACH! For whatever reason, the few times I do so, I magically go about $20 over budget.

    End caps and the check-outs are a killer for me usually, but I've gotten better. Last week, I was able to say NO to both pumpkin-spice cookies and hot-chocolate cake mix. I felt like a total boss walking out of the store with my budget intact. - 11/21/2013 8:59:14 AM
  • I agree with AZURE-SKY. I go early in the morning and I go in the week. I don't like shopping on the week - 7/3/2013 8:30:27 AM
  • yep if you are really needing to or good about saving money that helps. keeps me from over spending on extra stuff i dont want/need like 90% of the time. i learn more and more as i gain experiences what store has better prices for which items i need. im glad im not extremely poor but i definitely dont need to waste money on extraneous items not on my list. also ive noticed with fresh stuff or certain veggies they are cheapest in their non packaged form. i love getting my carrots/kale/garl
    ic etc usually all under a dollar depending on how much i want :) - 6/5/2013 2:47:21 AM
    One way to avoid the samples is to not go on the busy shopping days (Saturday or Sunday) or if you can't avoid those days, go early in the day and you won't find them. - 6/4/2013 11:56:59 AM
  • one way i plan ahead, is getting all the fliers, sales papers and checking who has the best bargain on certain items, making a list and going on a full tummy....i do not buy party favors, etc, the dolled up paper plates and napkins, a trip to the dollar tree, everything for a dollar if i am in need of anything like that.
    stock up on fruits and veggies at the road side market or farmers markets, that way you arent tempted by the bakery and bread items that are placed along the aisles as you make your way to the produce section in most groceries.. i fell for tricks like these, but, i ended up with stuff i would never use and threw away, my family was the worst to cook enough cookout food for 35 people, when there was only 8 maybe 12 ppl there to eat.
    go in with list in hand, full tummy, and wear your blinders, dont look to the left or the right, focus straight ahead - 6/3/2013 5:04:58 PM
  • Im not sure where Esperi is shopping, but I see this in every supermarket I go to in Spain (Ive lived here for 13 years now). Anyhow, you cant blame supermarkets for their marketing tactics. They are, after all, running a business and there to make as much profit as possible. I think theyre actually very clever. We just need to shop smart and stay focussed! - 6/2/2013 4:58:33 AM

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