Nutrition Articles

7 Secrets to Outsmart Your Supermarket

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

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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 have learned to shop the outside shelves, when shopping. I do down to check out items, usually the outside shelves work for me. Today I needed to go shop just for meat, proud of myself, I just bought meat and nothing else. - 1/11/2016 4:46:35 PM
  • I quit clipping coupons when I realized the best ones were for the worst foods, and they started requiring multiple items. - 1/10/2016 1:49:07 PM
  • DANDYLINES
    My first principle in shopping: you can't eat it if you do not buy it. We managed 95% of the time not to buy it.
    My BIL sold to grocery stores chains for years. He taught me all the tricks of the trade years ago. We now go with a list and almost always stick to it. The only normal exception is when I find a bargain on good foods that I was not planning on getting. I do not ever go down the snack aisles.
    I do allow myself also to experiment with a new salad oil or vinegar right now or maybe a tasty sauce for meat.
    I have learned to read the labels and look for my :no-nos" like high fructuous corn syrup. It takes practice but it works. - 1/8/2016 10:07:57 AM
  • MS_GODDESS
    I've been blessed with a great amount of will power (for the most part), but if I have to stop at the store on my way home from work, I usually have to do battle against the smell of fried chicken! But at least I'm prepared for it - which I think is a big part of winning the war! Then I can just run in for what I came for and head out again. No wandering around the aisles tempting myself. - 1/7/2016 10:28:59 AM
  • When you live a 30 miles from the major grocery stores you usually never leave home without a list and an idea of what you are going to make for the week. When a trip to the store includes an hour of driving time planning is important. Once a week is plenty for me.
    Also the tip to stay on the outside perimeter of the store keeps you in the fresh items area and less likely to buy premade items. - 1/7/2016 9:57:33 AM
  • It's no accident that, in my supermarket, the closest route to the produce leads through the bakery. Last time I went with a list, stuck to it, and was amazed to notice that about 90% of the displays were high calorie, low nutrient foods. - 1/7/2016 9:45:20 AM
  • I plan and use a list, but I also know what's healthy and what's not, I also know a good deal when I see it.
    If the green bean casserole ingredients are on the end cap I pick up a couple of cans of green beans cheap. They'll last a year.
    This week after the holidays, canned pumpkin was half price.. that is a great healthy food for soups, or pancakes. If you're smart about it and have room you can save money in the long run and have healthy meals.

    - 1/4/2016 11:46:44 PM
  • Is it on your list? Yes - get it. No - don't get it. Simple as that, really. Don't blame the supermarket because you can't exercise a little willpower and take personal responsibility for your choices.

    Also, the tiny little nibble of something that you get as a free sample is not going to hurt you or throw you off the wagon... And who actually buys anything they've had a sample of? I think I have like, once, maybe? - 1/4/2016 7:05:44 AM
  • If I go to the grocery store with a list, I seem to see and choose many other things along the way. When I go with thoughts, but not a list, of what I want to buy, I'm usually only looking for those items, and ignore the end of aisle and checkout items. For me, a case of not being so well organized has helped in that I don't buy things I had no intention of buying, although I often have to return to some aisles more than once. But I view this as a good thing as I'm not getting unnecessary snacks, thereby eating healthier, and I end up walking a lot more. So I salute these grocery stores in being consistent in how they arrange the aisles and perimeters. - 12/14/2015 11:39:43 PM
  • It's a good article, a sure help guide. - 11/6/2015 9:51:56 PM
  • JOALLIE
    great article.
    - 10/2/2015 11:55:48 AM
  • CEVIZAGACE
    The cheap supermarkets in my neighborhood each give out weekly pamphlets (digitally) for what's on offer, so I can make my lists accordingly. If I can I go shopping early in the morning, when there are no long queues; the waiting always seems to be amidst the tempting sweets, chips or beverages. - 6/27/2015 8:52:10 AM
  • I shop produce, meat, dairy on the edges of the store. I venture into the canned goods rarely these days for coffee, canned chilies (the green peppers for TexMex) and baking supplies for my own bread which I make from scratch to avoid preservatives for my family. Generally, I don't go over budget. - 5/5/2015 11:34:24 AM
  • Oh those enticing aromas from the bakery department really make me want those pastries and rolls! This is why my shopping cart cannot go there--- I avoid that department- period. I steer clear of the bakery zone! - 2/27/2015 3:14:18 PM
  • LEXJAMI79
    I don't agree with you Ethel! Of course we put bad food in our carts. It's us not the store doing it. I agree with you on that.

    I don't agree with healthy food not being tasty. I've made just as much delicious and tasty "health food" as I have junk food. I'll tell you what, the healthy stuff tastes a heck of a lot better. Does it taste like the candy and baked goods from the store, of course not. It's also not full of the carbs, calories and fats those have. You are entitled to your opinion but mine if my healthy snacks and foods taste just as good as the store made junk anyday! - 2/13/2015 11:38:05 AM

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