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Are You a Savvy Shopper

Are you a savvy shopper who knows how to navigate food marketing in the grocery store?

TEXARKANA, Ark. –

Are you a savvy grocery shopper? Do you look over the grocery store ads in the newspaper and online, compare prices and check unit pricing on a particular item? If you aren’t, you may be throwing money away at the grocery store.

Grocery stores have thousands of foods and hundreds of new products monthly on their shelves. How do we know which items are the best purchase for our money?

Let me help you turn into a savvy shopper to help you through the shopping maze.

The first thing we need to understand is marketing strategies for grocery stores. The layout of the grocery store is the result of years of research so you will spend as much time and money possible while in their store. Here are some tactics to watch for.

 Is a “special” really a special. Ads are sent weekly in our email inbox and sometimes, newspaper showing us this week’s special. Many of these products are called “loss leaders”. This means that the store is willing to lose money on this product to get you into the store. The store managers are hoping that while you are there, you will purchase higher priced items. Think about it … how many times have you ran into the grocery for 5 items that were priced extremely low and came out with 30?

 Next, learn the layout of the store. Staples such as bread, meat, milk, vegetables and fruit are usually arranged on the outer walls of the store. The higher priced, more processed foods are arranged in the aisles. It’s no accident that you must walk through an entire store to get milk and bread. The the two most frequently purchased items.

Be wary of displays at the end of isles. Although you may think they are on sale, many times they are not. These products attract your attention and increase sales.

Try to shop without children. High-priced sugary cereal is placed at eye level for children, not you. Usually the best buy is on bagged cereal placed on the lowest shelf. Check the unit price and see if I am correct.

Never shop on an empty stomach. Studies show we buy more when we are hungry. Stores take advantage of this by providing free food samples and wonderful food smells from the bakery.

Shop once a week or less. The more trips you make to the grocery store, the more you will spend.

Compare store brands vs. national brands. Most stores carry both national and store brands. National brands are those nationally advertised in magazines and on TV. In general, national brands cost the most because the expense for the national advertising is part of the cost of the product. Although this isn’t always true.

 Store brands are sold by individual chains and usually are not advertised nationally. Therefore, they are usually less expensive to purchase. However, the nutritional value of both national brands and store brands are generally the same. The next time you go to the grocery store, compare the labels of your favorite national brand with a store brand and see if there is any difference nutritionally.

We can be the savviest shopper out there, but if we fail to make good decisions about nutrition, we really aren’t doing that well. If we find two products that are the same price and the same quality, the information on the nutrition label should be the deciding factor in which product we buy. You should always choose the product with the higher nutritional value.

One point that must be made is to always shop with a list. When we make a list, we don’t need to “remember” what to buy. If we don’t have a list, we may forget and need to go back to the store to get forgotten items, which can lead to buying other items not needed.

Also, when we carry a list, we spend less time in the grocery store and are less tempted to buy “impulse” items. Often, impulse items, such as candy and cookies, are located near the checkout lines in stores.

When writing your shopping list, write down everything you will need to fix the meals and snacks you have planned. Go back over your list and cross out any foods you already have on hand and plan to use. Remember to list any staple foods (such as sugar, flour, etc.). If you need a specific size package or can for a recipe, write the size next to the item on list. Lastly, if an item is advertised at a special price, write that price next to the item on your list.

On your next trip to the grocery store, remember to look for store marketing strategies. The more aware you are of these strategies, the less likely you will be influenced by them. Also, compare products by reading the nutritional labels to get the best buy. And, lastly, always shop with a list to save time and money. By following these guidelines, you can become a savvy shopper.

For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at cdue@uaex.edu, on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.

By Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Due
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609
cdue@uaex.edu

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