Supermarket Savvy

Become a better informed shopper
In some ways, today’s consumers are better informed than ever than ever. Foods from all over the world are widely available, constantly broadening our culinary horizons. Yet we are facing more nutrition-related problems than ever before.

In this “communication age,” we find ourselves constantly bombarded with bad news. That makes us feel increasingly uncertain about what is good for our bodies. Almost daily we receive warnings about food contamination, outbreaks of diseases, recalls, revised nutritional recommendations and so on. As a result, many of us get so confused that they stop paying attention altogether. Here are some tips for making more informed choices when you are grocery shopping.

Healthy Eating Begins
In the Grocery Store

Learn to navigate the aisles
Most supermarkets have similar layouts. Fresh food products, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, milk, juices and eggs are commonly located in the peripheral areas of the store. That way they can be more easily replenished by staff during business hours without blocking access. In the corner sections, you often find a bakery and a deli where customers can stand in line without getting in the way of other shoppers. The aisles are filled with frozen, canned, and packaged foods as well as beverages and condiments. Vendors compete for good shelf space and positioning, preferably the middle sections where they hope that your eyes goes first. This has usually little to do with product quality, with the exception of wine and hard liquor, where the pricey bottles go on the top shelf and the cheaper ones on the bottom. Items for kids, like candy and cereals, are often stored on lower shelves for obvious reasons.

Stick to your shopping list
Supermarkets love customers who shop spontaneously. That’s what the glittery displays are all about. They make you buy much more than you had in mind when you came in the store. You can save a lot of time and money by sticking to a shopping list.

Make specific meal plans and get only ingredients for those. Choose your purchases sensibly. Your cooking can be more efficient by using leftovers creatively in soups, salads, stews and casseroles.

Check your list for nutritional balance. Your main focus should be on whole grains and vegetables, plus fresh fruit for fiber and important vitamins and minerals. If your diet is mainly or strictly vegetarian, be sure you get a sufficient supply of complete protein. You can consult with the nutritional guidelines issued by the U.S. Government, a.k.a. Food Guide Pyramid or MyPyramid to determine which items are needed in greater quantities than others.

Don’t fall for sales gimmicks
The temptation to “overshop” can rapidly increase when items are on sale. Don’t purchase too much on impulse. Contrary to what it says in the advertisement, you don’t save more money by buying more, even at reduced prices. Perishable foods go on sale for no other reason than to sell them fast before they spoil. When you shop for produce, keep in mind that freshness is more important than saving a few cents.

Beware of the “nag factor”
Another issue of concern is how to deal with children in the store. Young ones can easily be manipulated into wanting items that are not necessarily beneficial to them. Even though kids may nag and plead, parents need to be firm. In the early stages of a child’s development, it matters greatly that important nutritional needs are met, especially in periods of intensive growth. As the parent, you are in charge of shopping decisions, even if you sometimes give cause for disappointment and resentment. Consider explaining your choices and let your children add reasonable requests. Then stick to the plan.

Don’t come hungry
Last but not least, don’t shop when you are hungry. You are likely to buy more than you really need. Supermarkets are all about “selling up” when it comes to quantities. If necessary, note on your list the exact amounts of the food items you want and don’t exceed them.

Read before you buy
Don’t forget to read the Nutrition Facts labels when you buy packaged and processed foods. Look out for calorie- and fat content per serving and try to avoid or limit sodium, trans fats, artificial coloring and preservatives.

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