Sunday, March 8, 2009
The 11 Dirty Little Secrets Your Grocery Store Is Hiding
True or false? Your local grocer employs a scheming team of experts who work behind the scenes to orchestrate every little detail in a devious effort to squeeze every cent they can out of you.
It’s true. Even your favorite organic food stores are guilty of this. So, how can you beat them at their own game? Here’s what you need to know:
Baked Goods - Not So Fresh
Although there are exceptions, most of what you find in the bakery sections at grocery stores was frozen when it arrived. Sure, the scene they set up can be quite convincing: employees in white chef hats working behind the counter with flour-coated hands. But, if you think you’re getting freshly baked goods, chances are you’re mistaken.
The most expensive items and those that aren’t general diet staples are typically placed at eye level because they’re easier for you to reach. Before you insist that such an obvious ploy is an insult to your intelligence, it’s actually proven to be a pretty effective method.
Manipulative Placement, Jr.
This last tactic applies to children, as well. Foods that are marketed towards younger age groups are usually found on lower shelves, where kids can easily reach out and grab them.
An average of 60- 70% of purchases aren’t on a shopper’s original list, which are what the marketing department refers to as “impulse buys”. Staple items commonly line the perimeters of stores, guiding consumers through aisle upon aisle of goods they don’t need. That includes those displays set up strategically at the ends of aisles. There’s a good reason why manufacturers pay top dollar for this placement.
Instead of raising prices, many manufacturers reduce the weight of items but don’t change the packaging. In fact, the only difference you’ll notice is stamped in small print at the bottom.
Frozen fruits and vegetables usually contain more vitamins than what you find in the fresh produce section. Why? Flash-freezing preserves the nutrients they contain as well. Plus, they’re not as expensive. If you do buy produce, get it at farmers’ markets or high-volume grocery stores where there is rapid turnover of products. Smaller grocers that are less trafficked often have older produce, meat and dairy.
More Bulk = Less Cash
Remember when buying in bulk was a great way to save money? The sun has set on those good old days. In many cases, economy-size products actually cost more per unit. So, carry a calculator and do the math yourself. Your grocer isn’t the only one trying to dupe you. Manufacturers of the items you purchase have their hand in these decisions as well.
Food shopping can really work up an appetite, so, when you stroll by the salad bar, you may be tempted to indulge. If your stomach starts growling, keep in mind that these foods are kept out in the open at unsafe temperatures. And, that glass deli case doesn’t provide much more protection, so curb your cravings for pre-made tuna and tapioca pudding. Anybody want some salmonella or E. coli on the side? I didn’t think so.
Sugar is added to a lot of products as filler simply because it’s cheap. If you think scanning the ingredients to see where it ranks is an accurate system, guess again. To trick consumers, the manufacturers use different types (sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup) to disguise this fact. So, even if the combination makes up a primary ingredient, they get bumped down on the list separately as a result.
The Fine Print
There are other ways manufacturers mislead consumers, and grocery stores are all too happy to let you be fooled. For example, if you’re looking for a product made with whole wheat, read the labels very carefully. The only guarantee is if it says “100% whole wheat”. If this phrase is preceded by the word “contains”, put it down and move on.
Are you wary of the quality of store brands? Don’t be. Many of the more expensive versions of these items are made by the same companies. All you’re paying for is the label.
Posted by First Grade at 10:16 PM