5 Supermarket Shopping Secrets, Revealed

by in Grocery Shopping, Healthy Tips, June 2, 2010

grocery basket

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.

Tip #4: Be Wary of Specials
As we always tell you — moderation, moderation, moderation! That also goes for how many packages you buy. Even if you find a healthy product like yogurt or whole wheat bread on special, think about if you really need to buy 10 for $10. The extras will either end up in the trash or in in the belly of someone who didn’t need those extra calories.  Many times, you can still get a special price without buying all 10 items — investigate before you invest.

Tip #5: Use Your Arms
If you’re running in for a few items, forgo the cart or basket and use your arms. This will help you avoid some last minute indulges you don’t really need.

Other important tips to keep in mind before shopping:

  • Come to the store with a written shopping list and stick to it!
  • Always shop on a full stomach — if you’re hungry, everything in the store will end up in your cart (especially junkie snack foods).
  • Avoid bringing your kids unless you can stick to a firm NO. I always dread checking out when I have my kids with me — all the darn candy is at their eye level. I’ve learned to say no and I stick to my guns.

TELL US: What are your tips for healthy supermarket shopping?

More Healthy Shopping Guides:

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »

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Comments (12)

  1. Casey says:

    I love buying Greek yogurt (Chobani) 10 for $10! But it's usually good for 1 month and I limit myself!

  2. I always bring a list with me to the grocery store. I have my list seperated into different areas of the grocery store and I have found that this list helps me not only buy LOTS of fruits and veggies, but also keeps me from buying junky cookies and sugary cereals!! :)

  3. Martha says:

    I usually start in the fresh produce isle before venturing the rest of the store, I tend to buy more healthy foods just by starting there first.

  4. Linda says:

    I don’t bring my husband with me…unfortunately he has a VERY high metabolism and a HUGE sweet tooth, so when he shops I not only buy high calorie and fattening items, but wind up spending almost twice as much! Sorry, honey, but you stay home!

  5. Pat B says:

    When we go shopping, I send my husband to pick things up for me, like eggs, coffee, soups and things like that, so I don’t have to go down those isles and pick up things I really don’t need. He is a very good shopper who does not pick up everything in sight. It works out very well for us!

  6. Smart Shopper says:

    In this economy, I have a shopping list for everything I buy printed (small font) on 1 page. I "check off" what I need. List changes every few months as we change to healthier. I check 2 flyers and try to buy only sale items at the large corporate supermarket and the other, a local store, which has the best meats. Only clip coupons for things I buy. I do stock up on some sale items such as paper goods, jarred goods, and freezeable items (bread, meats), etc. I cook mostly from scratch and freeze leftovers on my special speed freeze plate in my frig. I ignore most coupons, which are for the highest priced items or junk food. Some store brand foods are great, some are not. Shopping takes time to do it right.

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