Let’s be honest. Food companies and grocery stores are not in the business of providing foods for your good health. They are in the business of making money, and they have many marketing tricks to entice you to buy more of their products. Let’s take an imaginary walk through the grocery store.
Have you noticed?
- Grocery carts have gotten bigger and deeper. This allows you to buy more food at once.
- Food displays at the entrance to the store are often baked goods related to a holiday or event. These smell good and trigger hunger signals.
- Smells and sights throughout the store can test your resolve! Attractive displays catch your eye. Delicious-smelling prepared foods and the bakery items are meant to entice you.
- Samples are there to attract you. You feel obligated to buy the product if you sample it, especially when an employee is standing there.
- Food companies often change up their products, with exciting new flavors and new packaging, making us think we should try them.
- Coupons tend to be for packaged junk foods, not for healthy foods like fruits and veggies. Saving money on junk foods isn’t worth it.
Tricks with location
- Snack foods and sugary drinks are often brightly displayed on the end-caps. This makes it easy to impulse-buy. It also makes us think the items are on sale, even when they’re not.
- Stores display unhealthy choices at the eye level of the person they want to sell to. For example, sugary cereals with lots of colors and characters are displayed at kids’ eye level.
- The healthiest choices are sometimes on the highest or lowest shelves.
- Fresh unprocessed foods tend to be located around the perimeter of the store. Processed foods are more likely to be in the middle aisles.
- Refrigerated items like eggs, milks, and yogurt are in the back of the store. You have to go through the middle of the store to get to them. It’s easy to get distracted by the attractive displays of processed foods.
- Stores put candy bars and soda refrigerators near the checkout counter, when you have decision-fatigue and may be a little hungry after shopping a while. Some stores use lighting to show off the shiny packaging.
The longer you stay, the more you buy
- Stores move items around. They don’t want you to get too comfortable with your routine. If you have to search for a while, you’re more likely to make impulse buys.
- There are countless choices for processed packaged foods as you walk the aisles. This creates decision-fatigue and it’s easy to make unhealthy choices.
- The music being played is often slower mellow music – people tend to keep pace with the music – the slower you walk around, the more likely you are to put more items in the cart.
How to be a savvy shopper
- Before you go, make a weekly meal plan, then make a shopping list. Stick to that list.
- Decide where you will buy the foods on your list, including farmer’s markets, on-line stores, grocery stores, a warehouse club store, food co-op, and specialty stores.
- Wear something warm when you shop. It’s chilly in areas of the store where healthy choices are refrigerated or frozen. Dress warmly enough so that you can stay there and read labels.
- Don’t shop when you’re hungry! Thinking about, seeing, smelling and sampling food starts salivation, digestive juices production, and a rise in insulin. The hungrier you are, the more intense this reaction. Eat a meal or snack before shopping to avoid making impulse purchases.
Being a savvy shopper will help you make conscientious and intentional choices at the grocery store.