When you go to the supermarket, you're going to war. You need to have done your homework on the enemy beforehand and be ready to counter their dirty tricks. A supermarkets number one priority is to make a profit. Not, to ensure you stay healthy by buying the best food. With this in mind, it's a simple process to arm yourself with tactics to ensure you make good educated buying decisions.
The number one thing being just that, education. If you don't know which parts of the store to shop in, how to read a food label, and how to identify the 17,000 new food products that hit shelves every year, then you're in big trouble. It goes without saying that before you shop you have a list and you should have eaten. Shopping freestyle and hungry = overspending on stuff you don't need.
At Results Room our number one Real Food Guideline is to eat one ingredient foods. If you are doing this then you probably hardly ever buy a food product with a nutritional panel or label. Most meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, raw whole-grains, eggs, nuts, seeds, and water don't usually come in cartons with labels stating their contents.
If buying food in a can, packet, or box you'll need to be good at reading.
This panel shows the nutrients contained in the product and their amounts in grams. Often accompanying this is the % Daily Value. This shows the amounts contained as a percentage of the ideal daily intake for an average sized person.
Usually below the nutrient panel is the ingredient list. By law this always lists the ingredients from most included to least. It's important to buy food that has real ingredients that you can identify. If it looks like a chemistry chart or includes anything that you don't recognise it's to be avoided.
Typically the food provided in bulk buying bins are the least affordable way to buy ingredients, unless you only want a very small amount. They are always priced at the per 100g cost making them appear more affordable. As an example raw natural almonds sit around $3.20 per 100g....... or $32 per kg. Compare this to true bulk buying where you purchase 1kg bag at half that price. The supermarket price reflects the flexibility you have to only purchase a small amount.
This is exactly the same way the deli counter works. So unless you really only need a couple of olives or one slice of ham look for a good quality supplier where you can buy a decent quantity at a time.
Words like organic, free range, whole-grain, low fat and all natural are words that make a food producer more profit. Studies have shown that as the number of 'brand promises' on a products pack increase, so does the price they can sell it for...... and we'll happily pay it.
Unfortunately with these words containing huge profit margins for industrial food producers they will do their utmost to 'only just' meet the letter of the law in order to be able to give their product that label. For example, in order to be able to say they're free range they may only have to offer a small outdoor area for livestock to share, and this may get them a tick. While in reality the 1000 animals in the barn next door to this land are too many to graze this open area, and too scared to venture away from the pack and go outside. All the while being raised in this 'standard industrialised farming' way, they are also being fed the very antibiotic and hormone laden grain-feed that has us looking for free range alternatives in the first place.
By not being a lemming and trawling every aisle with the shopping crowd you'll cut your shopping time in half, guaranteed.
3/4's of your shopping should happen around the perimeter with only occasional darting down an aisle to get a specific item from your list.
- End of aisle Promotional Stands.
- these are mostly highly profitable processed foods, and often contain 'bundled offers' encouraging customers to buy many items at once.
- Impulse stands at checkouts.
- go through the self service instead avoiding these completely.
- Walking the entire supermarket route.
- this offers the biggest chance to end up buying poor choice items that you don't really need.
Some final pointers
Check this cool slideshow showing further traps, ticks and gimmincks to be avoided at your local.
Hopefully this hasn't put you off your shopping anymore than the Ugg boot wearing masses would. By using the Real Food Guidelines and taking charge of what you put in your mouth you can beat the supermarket, and come out healthier and with more coin in your pocket.