Sharpen Your Supermarket Senses

by Heather Campanile on April 2, 2005 · 0 comments

You run in for toilet paper and milk, and leave with enough food to feed a small army.

The good news is, you’re not alone. The bad news is that every time you go to the supermarket, you’re the target of food marketers whose job it is to entice you to buy their products — regardless of your diet or budget.

Ever wonder why you have to maneuver through the whole store JUST for a carton of eggs, or why the bakery smells “call your name” as soon as you step through those automatic doors? They’re all tactics to keep you there longer so you keep spending, says Dr. Kenneth Herbst, assistant professor of Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Here are a few easy ways to save your waistline and your wallet the next time you visit the grocery store:

• Shop the perimeter of the store, where all of the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, whole grains and dairy items are sold. By limiting time on inner isles, you’ll buy less processed food, snacks and goodies.

• Resist the urge to buy snacks in bulk. It may look like a great deal, but do you REALLY need a huge bag of chips? Skip the giant sizes unless you’re throwing a party.

• Pass up foods high in sugar. This can be a major challenge since most are placed at eye level where you (and your kids) can’t miss them. Look on the top and bottom shelves for whole-grain cereals, plain cookies and crackers. Plus, the bending and reaching will add some calorie-burning to your shopping routine!

• Prepared meals can be more expensive and higher in fat and sodium. Stick with rotisserie chicken, a bagged salad and whole grain rolls instead.

• Use coupons wisely. Manufacturers use them to tempt you to make an impulsive purchase, which may not save you money or calories.

• Shop with a list and NEVER go food shopping hungry. You’re twice as likely to buy something you don’t need when your stomach is growling.

Becoming “supermarket savvy” doesn’t happen overnight. So don’t worry if you fall victim to marketing traps. It takes time to become a real shopping pro, but in the meantime, every little bit helps.

For more information on supermarket shopping tips look for The Food Shopping Counter, by Annette B. Natow, Ph.D., and Jo-Ann Heslin, M.A., R.D., in local bookstores or at

Contributed by: Heather Campanile, RD

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