Outsmart the Grocery Store

April 5, 2024

Do you ever feel overwhelmed while grocery shopping? Endless options and sneaky marketing techniques can often cause us to spend more than intended and end up wasting food. Check out the following tips so you can outsmart the grocery store during your next shopping trip!

  1. Create a meal plan and grocery list ahead of time. Plan a couple of meals you want to make in the next week, then create a list of all the ingredients you will need for each meal. Make sure to check what you already have so you don’t double purchase anything! Then, sort your list according to the type of food – this will make shopping easier. This type of planning will save both time and money at the grocery store.
  2. Be aware of how your grocery store is laid out. In many grocery stores, the whole foods (produce, meat, and dairy) are usually along the perimeter of the store, while the processed foods are usually in aisles. Many people make it a goal to only shop along the perimeter of the store to avoid buying too many processed items.
  3. Try store-brand products rather than name brand. Because there are so many options in grocery stores these days, many people gravitate towards brands they recognize. However, store-brand items are usually cheaper than name brand, and often have the same quality.
  4. Check ingredients lists when comparing products. If you’re trying to decide between two similar products, this could be the deciding factor. A good rule of thumb is that shorter ingredients lists are often better options. If the list is short and contains ingredients that you can pronounce and have heard of, this is more likely to be a healthier choice than a lengthy list of chemical names.
  5. Products displayed at the ends of aisles are not always on sale. There is a common misconception that items in special displays are offering some kinds of discount, but this is not always the case. Oftentimes, these products simply don’t match the products in the aisles, or they are attracting impulse purchases for specific events. For example, there may be candy displayed around Halloween or Valentine’s Day, and chips displayed around the Super Bowl.
  6. Avoid impulse purchases. Candy and magazines are often displayed near the registers. Stores are hoping that customers will make impulse purchases because they are standing and waiting right in front of these items. This is why making a grocery list is so helpful – it can keep us from making impulse purchases and save money along the way!
  7. Be aware of where the most expensive products in grocery stores are located on the shelves. Oftentimes, the most expensive products are located at eye-level, whereas cheaper products are lower to the ground, or high up and out of reach for some. Additionally, more expensive kids’ cereals and snacks are at kids’ eye level. When the number of choices feels overwhelming, remember to slow down and compare prices before picking the first option you see.
  8. Check the unit price when comparing items. The unit price allows you to compare the price of two similar items that contain a different amount of food. For example, a bulk bag of rice may have a lower unit price than a small bag and would therefore save you money in the long run even if the overall price is higher.
  9. Be mindful of food waste when buying in bulk. As mentioned above, buying in bulk can often save you money in the long run. However, it’s also important to consider if you’ll be able to finish all the food before it goes bad. For smaller families, focus on buying shelf-stable items in bulk. Bigger families may be able to finish off perishable items before they go bad. Avoiding food waste will also save you money!
  10. Be aware of food marketing tactics. There are many strategies companies may use to try to convince you to buy their product. It is important to be aware of these tactics to make informed decisions. One example is called “green washing.” This is when companies try to make their product seem healthy or natural using colors and images. It is always important to check the ingredient list to confirm if a product will be healthy for your diet.

At the end of the week, review how everything went. Did you have enough food for all the meals you wanted to make? Did you purchase too much and ended up having to throw some food out? Use this assessment to adjust for your next shopping trip.

Grocery shopping can be overwhelming, but we hope these tips help ease some of the stress and help you to save money on your groceries. Happy shopping!

By Sophia Orsinelli

JVC Northwest AmeriCorps Nutrition Educator