29 Things Your Grocer Won’t Tell You
Get smarter about grocery shopping. These tips could change your family shopping—and eating—habits.
If you hate crowds and lines…
..shop at dinnertime (5 to 9 p.m.) or even later. Only 4 percent of shoppers hit the aisles between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. The least crowded day of the week? Wednesday.
Get it while it’s fresh
Go ahead and reach way back for the fresh milk. Everybody does. Here’s the real reason grocery stores put the milk all the way in the back of the store.
Save time…and money
Coupons with a bar code are easy to scan. The other ones take an eternity. But if you’re willing to wait, be our guest.
Wacky produce lovers, be warned
That star fruit has been here a lot longer than the broccoli. Familiar produce turns over more quickly than exotic things. Here’s the truth about why your grocery store sprays the produce.
The more products you see…
…the more you are likely to buy. That’s why the aisles are so long and the milk is usually in the far corner. —Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat.
Like employees with a good attitude?
OSCAR CARRASCOSA MARTINEZ/SHUTTERSTOCK
Shop at chains that are employee-owned, suggest customer-satisfaction surveys. When employees have a stake in the profits, it shows in their attitude. These are the 10 jobs that have the happiest workers.
Don’t be a “grazer”
The “grazers” order food at the deli, eat it as they’re shopping, and get rid of the wrappers before they check out. We also call that stealing.
I’m not just selling groceries…
…I’m selling real estate. Look high and low—literally—for good values from smaller manufacturers who can’t afford to stock their products in the eye-level sweet spot.
We’re marketing to your kids too. That’s why we put the rainbow-colored cereals and other kiddie catnip at their eye level.
Be wary of “specials”
BRIAN A JACKSON/SHUTTERSTOCK
When people see signs with numbers—8 for $10!” or “Limit: 5 per customer”—they buy 30 to 100 percent more than they otherwise might have.
The baby formula is locked up because…
…thieves resell it on the black market. Ditto for the cough and cold medications, smoking-cessation products, razor blades, and batteries. Here’s why you really shouldn’t be blowing on your baby’s food to cool it off.
Watch your wheels
Driving your Ferrari to the Piggly Wiggly and want to avoid shopping-cart dents? Park far, far away.
How much goes to waste
You’ll end up tossing 12 percent of what you buy. Yikes!
What not to buy
Don’t buy anything with more than five ingredients (too processed), with ingredients you can’t pronounce (too processed), with anything artificial (tastes bad), with a cartoon on it (direct marketing to children), or with a health claim (misleading). —Marion Nestle.
The truth about bags
Paper? Plastic? We don’t really care. But asking us to double-bag…that’s just wasteful.
How to find the fresh fruit
LUIS CARLOS TORRES/SHUTTERSTOCK
Dig and reach for the freshest produce. Older merchandise gets pushed to the front of the bin and spread across the top to encourage customers to take it first. Speaking of older merchandise, here’s the gross truth about the apples you’re buying at the supermarket.
This isn’t a social service agency
The purpose of grocery stores is to get you to buy more food, not less. —Marion Nestle Only 14 percent of consumers overall stick to just the items on their shopping list.
Very few people really like the “loyalty card” program, and it’s expensive for us to run.
Don’t start your shopping just as we’re closing. We just want to leave. It’s been a long day.
Don’t get sucked in
Watch out for gimmicks. They are intended to get you into a store more frequently and to keep you away from competitors.
The person who supervises it all has a tough job; they’re just a big babysitter.
Not feeling so thankful
Thanksgiving is our least favorite holiday. This is the worst day of the year to do your Thanksgiving grocery shopping (it’s not what you’re expecting).
Sticky bottles? No, thank you
MARCIO JOSE BASTOS SILVA/SHUTTERSTOCK
Bring back your recyclable cans and bottles, but please rinse them out first. Leaving soda inside is unsanitary, and we find it disgusting.
Know the signs of a store in trouble
They include: stocking fewer perishable items, storing non-perishables in refrigerated cases to make them look full, and “dummying up” shelves with empty boxes. If we were offering the best prices and highest quality, wouldn’t there be more people shopping here?
I’m not getting rich here
After-tax net profit for the grocery industry is less than 2 percent, and by the end of 2013, the Food Marketing Institute, an industry group, predicts annual average wages will be just $18,000. Here’s the truth about what the 15 most common jobs in America pay.
Eyeing the express lane? Use common sense
If you get in the 10 items or less line with 25 items, don’t be surprised if you are asked to leave. If you have 12 items, not many people will care.
That cart’s not so clean
Watch those shopping-cart handles. They’re covered in bacteria, says food-safety consultant Jeff Nelken. Use a sanitary wipe if the store provides them. Finicky shoppers can even patronize supermarkets that send their carts through a cart wash.
Skip the center aisles…
…that’s where you’ll find the junk food, like sodas and snack foods.
Manufacturers are constantly trying to repackage things to make them sound like a better deal,” says David Livingston, a supermarket industry consultant. “Some new peanut butter containers may look the same, but look closely and you’ll see they actually have less peanut butter inside. Ninety-five percent of customers don’t watch this kind of stuff.”
Sources: Maurice Nizzardo, former supermarket executive in Connecticut; David J. Livingston, an industry consultant; Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating; and others.