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Shop Smart at the Grocery Store

woman with magnifying glass reading nutrition label
We can be the savviest shopper, but if we fail to make good decisions about nutrition, we really didn't win.


We all like to think we are a savvy shopper when it comes to getting the best deal, but are we really? Grocery stores have thousands of foods and new products monthly on their shelves. How do we know which items are the best purchase for our money?

Learn how to become a savvy shopper to help you through the shopping maze. 

Grocery stores are marketing machines. The layout of the grocery store is the result of years of research to ensure that you will spend as much time and money as possible while in their store. Why do you think dairy is usually at the back of the store?

Is this week’s “special” found in the week’s ads, really a special? Many of these products are called loss leaders, meaning the store is willing to lose money on the product to get you into the store. They are hoping that while you are there, you will purchase higher priced items.

Learn the layout of the store. Staples such as bread, meat, milk, vegetables and fruit are usually arranged on the outer walls of the store. The higher priced, processed foods are arranged in the middle aisles. It’s no accident that you must walk through an entire store to get milk and bread.  These are the two most frequently purchased items.

Be wary of end displays. They may or may not be on sale and are there to attract your attention and increase sales.

Never shop on an empty stomach. Studies show we buy more junk food when we are hungry. Stores capitalize on this by providing free food samples and that wonderful aroma of baked goods from the bakery.

Compare store brands vs. national brands. National brands are those advertised in magazines and on TV. In general, national brands cost more because the expense for the national advertising is part of the cost of the product.

Store brands are sold by individual chains and usually are not advertised nationally. Therefore, they are usually less expensive to purchase. However, the nutritional value of both national brands and store brands are usually about the same.

Many individuals use coupons, either printed or on our phones, hoping to save money. Coupons can either save us money or cost us money. Compare the item offered on the coupon against store brands. Use coupons only for products you already use unless the coupon is for a free item. 

We can be the savviest shopper, but if we fail to make good decisions about nutrition, we really didn’t win. If we find two products that are the same price and the same quality, the information on the nutrition label should be the deciding factor in which to buy. Always choose the product with the higher nutritional value.

Always shop with a list so you do not forget anything, causing the need to go back to the store, which can lead to buying other items not needed. Plus we spend less time in the store and are less tempted to buy impulse items.

On your shopping list, write down all the foods you need for planned meals and snacks. Go back over your list and cross out any foods you already have on hand and plan to use.  If you need a specific size package or can for a recipe, write the size next to the item on the can. Lastly, if an item is advertised at a special price, write that price next to the item on your list.

On your next trip to the grocery store, look for store marketing strategies. The more aware you are of these strategies, the less likely you will be influenced by them. Also, compare products by reading the nutritional labels to get the best buy. And lastly, always shop with a list to save time and money.

For more information on savvy shopping tips, contact me at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture in the Miller County Courthouse, call 870-779-3609, e-mail me at  Follow me on facebook at MillerCountyFCS or twitter @MillerCountyFCS.

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


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