Steer Your Shopping Cart Toward Smart Choices

January 4, 2017

By Nalleli Martinez, Senior Nutrition Education Coordinator

Navigating a grocery store can be overwhelming, especially if you have a limited budget. With aisles and aisles full of favorite foods and tempting treats, all packaged beautifully, it can be easy to stray from your shopping list and go over budget.

We can help! Our Nutrition Education team has gathered some simple strategies to help you navigate grocery stores and steer clear of techniques that stores use to “nudge” customers into buying more or different items than planned. By being aware of the techniques used by grocery stores to “nudge” us into choosing certain products, you can avoid overspending while making “the healthy choice, the easy choice.”

Follow these simple tips to make sure that you are getting the biggest bang for your buck.

  • Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store: Here you can find the fresh and wholesome options that tie into our daily food group recommendations of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein.
  • Avoid shopping the center aisles: These aisles are usually stocked with prepackaged foods that tend to be highly refined, meaning they have higher amounts of sugar, salt, and fats. Try making these once-in-a-while choices vs. every-day choices.
  • Remember that products are placed strategically: Grocery stores place items at eye-level that they want you to buy most, so they tend to be pricier. You can usually find less expensive options and store brands of the same product placed lower on the shelf. Don’t fret – compare ingredients and you can see that the majority of the time, they are identical.
  • Buy items close to their “expiration” dates: These items tend to be on a separate sale table or shelf. Expiration dates (also called code dates) are recommendations for peak flavor and quality. They are not safety dates. These dates are used by grocery stores to keep product moving, and the products that are rotated out can last a lot longer than their code dates (see attached code date extension flyer). Choosing items that are close to their code date can help you find good food at bargain prices. It has the added bonus of helping reduce food waste.

Our Nutrition Education team shares these same tips in workshops with our pantry participants. It’s all part of our approach to help participants make the healthy choice, the easy choice.

Want more tips like these? Check out our recent blog post, “Six Tips for Shopping on a Budget,” and join our email list.

Coming up – “Healthy Nudges: Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice.”  Nudges aren’t necessarily bad. As a matter of fact, we are working on incorporating healthy nudges into our very own Food Bank shop floor and at our community pantries. By utilizing these techniques that are commonplace at grocery stores, we are encouraging individuals and families to choose seasonal produce and to try new, different food items.