Master the “Market Madness”

13 04 2016



Is the term “grocery shopping” considered profanity in your house? Believe me, I have plenty of clients that consider these dirty words! Grocery shopping can be overwhelming, exhausting, and expensive if you are not prepared with a few strategies. There are many tactics that supermarkets use to get you to buy things you don’t need which can be a burden on your wallet and your health. So, let’s get prepared with some hints to help you master the madness…

  1. Make a list. Plan what you intend to buy before you get there. Go through your pantry, take inventory, and decide what you need. If you know the layout of the store, list things according to the sections they are in so you can make one clean sweep.
  2. Don’t shop on an empty stomach! If you are hungry, you are more likely to buy things you don’t need (and things that may not be so healthy). Have a hearty snack or eat your meal before you go, and you will be less likely to indulge.
  3. Try shopping the perimeter of the store first for your fresh produce, meats/poultry/fish, and dairy. Then hit the center aisles for your whole grains, frozen, canned, and dried fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes, healthy oils, and dried herbs and spices.
  4. Beware the “end cap”. Aisle end caps are usually home to sale and seasonal items that just scream “buy me!”. They are often loaded with nutrient poor, processed foods (think s’mores fixings, cake mixes and frosting, mac and cheese, seasonal cookies, etc.) that are not on your original shopping list. Stick to your list, and walk on by.
  5. Check the shelves. Have you ever noticed the products at eye level? Manufacturers pay a pretty penny to put their products right where you can see them. Notice that the “kid” cereals loaded with sugar and marshmallows, and adorned with cartoon characters are right in front of their faces? That is no accident. Products found at eye level are there because you are more likely to buy them, and they are often more expensive. Remember to look high and low on the shelves for better prices and check labels for better nutritional values.
  6. Bye, bye, bakery. What’s that amazing smell? Why, the bakery of course. Store bakeries often fire up the ovens at the times stores are most crowded, enticing you to come their way. Unfortunately, bakeries can be sketchy to navigate. If you have a great bakery in your store that has a lot of fresh, whole great options, that’s great. If it is like most store bakeries in my town, it is full of sugary sweets and refined grains (i.e. lots of white bread products)—not the fuel my family needs. When in doubt, opt out.
  7. Avoid the lures of the check out aisle. Waiting to check out and can’t resist the candy bars? Keep a healthy snack, like a baggie of nuts and dried fruit, in your purse for just such occasions. Feel free to browse through magazines, check Facebook on your phone, or even use the self check out aisle instead.
  8. Do a final cart check. As you are standing in line, check out your cart. Do you have high octane nutritional fuel in that cart for you and your family? If so, you should see lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and heart healthy fats (think nuts, seeds, oils). If you see mostly soda, chips, cookies, and boxes of mac and cheese, it’s probably time to rethink your shopping strategy. Take a few minutes to balance out your cart—you can always put back what you don’t need!

Are you a shopping pro who is willing to share your expertise? Let us know your best shopping tips!

Cathy head shot

Cathy Shaw RD, LD is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian for the PEIA Weight Management Program





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