Nutrition Column – Tips to Help You Become More Supermarket Savvy

With over 30,000 items available in the supermarket today, trying to shop for nutrition, price and convenience at the same time can be challenging. By educating yourself and planning ahead, you can make your trips to the supermarket more economical and less time-consuming. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Write out a shopping list and stick to it. Using a list not only reminds you of what you need, it can help deter you from buying items you don’t need.
  • Try to avoid shopping when you’re hungry. Hungry shoppers are more likely to buy impulse items such as snack and dessert foods.
  • Only clip coupons for items you will use. Just because you have a coupon for an item doesn’t mean it’s the best buy.
  • Try to shop only once or twice a week. Avoiding extra trips to the supermarket will help curb impulse buying, saving you money as well as time.
  • Look at the weekly supermarket ads distributed in your local newspaper. Plan your menu around the items on sale.
  • Read the food labels. The information on food labels can help you determine which products give you the most nutrition for your food dollar.
  • Look at unit price shelf labels to compare across brands and across sizes within brands. Often the larger size is less expensive per ounce or unit of product, but not always, so it pays to compare. Even if the economy size is cheaper, it may be more costly per serving if you aren’t able to use it before it spoils.
  • Look at the "sell by" date on perishable goods. Don’t buy a product if the "sell by" date has passed.
  • Buy fresh produce in season. Take extra advantage of fruits and vegetables when they are in season, as the prices generally are lower.
  • Stock up on nonperishable and canned foods when they’re on sale. If you have the storage space and will use the product within a year, this can be a great money-saving tip.
  • Don’t buy cans that are damaged, dented or swollen. These are red flags that the item may be infected with the bacteria that cause botulism.
  • Compare the prices of national brands to store brands. Often, store brands cost less because they don’t have the same promotional costs.
  • Take into consideration the cost for convenience. Prepared and precooked foods tend to cost more, but occasionally the time savings and convenience are worth it.
  • Pay attention at the checkout. Make sure the prices rung up at the checkout counter match the shelf label, especially for sale items.
  • Take groceries home immediately and put them away quickly. If you have an errand to run on the way home, bring a cooler where you can store perishable foods. Once home, get your groceries safely stored in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible. Coming next week: An aisle-by-aisle shopping guide to help you fill your cart with nutritious foods appropriate for your needs.