one green planet
one green planet

Supermarkets are basically intended to make you spend more time and money inside. They hide the good stuff on the obscure shelves in the sections no one goes to in order to create foot traffic and try to lure us into buying more stuff we really don’t need. The entrance is littered with flowers to activate our salivary gland and make us more likely to make impulse purchases, the specialty counters are near the entrances when our carts are empty and our optimism is full to tempt us with “signature” style olives and the like, the essentials are located in the back of the store to make us wade through aisles of processed foods and sugary snacks just to buy a loaf of bread, and shelves are organized according to who’s at eye-level. Heck, there have even been studies done showing the influence music can have on a shopper’s experience.

Getting sick of spending unnecessary cash on junk food and processed crap that are going to sit on your shelf for weeks, all the while you’re sitting there wondering, why did I buy this? Try giving some of these tips a try to find healthier alternatives amidst the bazaar known as the supermarket! Happy shopping!

Take a Scouting Trip

You don’t really have to be in camouflage to do this, but it’s up to you. One important step in the process of changing shopping habits is to take a quick trip, at your own pace, and figure out where things are. If you’ve moved to a new city and are about to hit up that scary super-stocked store down the street, go for one specific thing, take your time finding it, and get out. Once inside the store, walk at a leisurely pace and take a mental note how the store is sectioned off. Is the produce on the right or left? Where can you find grains, spices, and healthy snacks? Doing this before a big shopping trip will help you to visualize the store and figure out where the pit falls lie.

Know Where You’re Headed

After your scouting trip, you’ll have a better picture in your head about what’s lurking on those shiny shelves. Knowing what section you’re headed to will help you to keep focus and not fixate on that new brand of pasta you just have to try, when you’re really only there for some rice milk and tofu.  Head to the section you now know (after your handy-dandy scouting trip) and get what you need. You’ll have less frustration than if you were wandering around aimlessly. Which brings me to my next tip…

Don’t Go Up and Down Each Aisle

Somehow in our formative years (ahem, Mom) we learned how to navigate the market. We sat in the carts with our little legs poking out of the front and wandered up and down the aisles at a leisurely pace, looking at the awesome snacks and demanding all of them. Okay, so it’s fun to see what’s new, but this is another method that supermarkets employ. And because most stores follow a right-to-left system and we “drive our carts” on the right side of the aisle as to pass other shoppers, the most purchased or profit raising items can be found on the right-hand side. Think it’s ridiculous? Me, too, but it seems to work.

Look High and Low

Sections are shelved as follows from bottom to top-bulk, obscure, and lower profit yielding products, kid-appealing packaging and foods, “adult” food, and finally healthy all the way at the top. This is to tempt everyone to buy the expensive, name brand products, to ensure kids find something to beg mom and dad for, and that foods that don’t earn the market too much money will be passed over for things that don’t require too much stretching or bending to reach. Often, you’ll find the most value or the least sugary/sodium filled things on the top and bottom shelves. Stretch and bend to get the most bang for your buck (and healthier choices for your kick-butt body)!

Ask Questions

If you’re lost or they’ve moved something since your preliminary scouting trip, don’t be afraid to ask the sales associates for directions. We all know those people who refuse to ask and wind up traversing the store ten times over, all the while tossing stuff into the cart that they didn’t even want, let alone need. Asking the associate will often lead to a quick route through the store, or even an exact aisle number where your goods can be found.

Be Wary of ‘Healthy’ Labels

Chances are, the items at your eye-level that tout that they are “whole-grain” or “healthy choices” are chock full of a lot of other ingredients you probably don’t want to be putting into your body, like excess sugar and sodium. Instead, do some research online first for some truly good-for-you brands and check what markets sell them. This will make your trip faster, easier, and more focused.

Bring Your Own Music

Did you ever notice the nice, pleasant music being played softly over the PA? The music that is played can directly affect how you shop, how much time you spend in the store, and how much you spend. Studies have shown that classical music influences buyers to spend more money on more extravagant purchases, calm and soothing music with a moderate tempo causes people to walk at a slow pace and spend more time relaxing among the Kellogg’s, and fast or upbeat music makes people shop faster and spend less time in the store. A good tip is to bring your own music, stuff those headphones into your ears and march to the beat of your own drum, or the band’s drum…you know, it’s your call. Try some progressive rock or something you work out to so you can keep the rhythm to get what you need and get out.

How do you navigate the grocery store to help you make better choices for your health? Let us know your tips in the comments!

Image source: lyzadanger/Flickr