Supermarket Tips

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We asked readers for their favorite tips for shopping and shopping tours.

Ginger Lenzmeier, BS:

  • Make an appointment with the manager to visit the store.
  • Have a list of items you would like to feature on your tour. Compare national brands to store brands for nutrition and price.
  • Ask the manager if he or she will provide food samples.
  • For cost comparisons, visit the store before the tour and record the prices of items on your list. One grocer allows me to fill 2 carts (one for store brand, one for the national brand) as we tour, and scan the items through the cash register at the end of the tour to see the cost savings between the two.
  • I give the customers handouts as we go of how to read Nutrition Facts labels and store shelf labels.
  • I give the shoppers a clipboard and pencil when we start to fill out a pre- and postsurvey so I have data on what they already know and what they learned from the tour. I ask them to write down questions as we go so I can answer them after the tour.
  • If I’m working with senior citizens at their apartment complexes, I ride their shuttle bus to the grocery store with them or meet them at the store.
  • Try to keep group numbers to about 10 or fewer. I often bring along a colleague and we each take a group of 5 so as not to congest the aisles.
  • Try to schedule tours in both the mornings and afternoons to accommodate shoppers’ schedules.
  • Send home a grocery list pad with each shopper with your name and phone number on it so participants can call you with further questions.

Shauna Schultz, RD:

  • Head to the produce aisle first; fill the bottom of your cart with at least 3 colors of fruits and 3 colors of veggies.
  • Look for whole grains by reading the ingredient list. Look for whole-wheat or whole-grain flour as the first ingredient.
  • Watch the sugar in yogurt. Look for light, nonfat yogurt, or buy nonfat plain and sweeten naturally with fruit.
  • Plan! Don’t forget your list! Leave your hunger at home!

Linda S. Gossett, MPA, CFCS, and her colleagues:

  • Read the labels on shelves to compare unit prices for dissimilar-sized products, the product labels and the list of ingredients.
  • Look for “100% juice” on the label, the expiration date on the bottom of the baking powder and the use by date on dairy products and other perishables.
  • Substitute store brands for national brands to save money; they are often made by the same manufacturer. During a recent EFNEP training, I organized a can cutting activity of eight foods (using a national brand, store brand and commodity food for each team, with the labels removed). Seven of the commodity foods rated highest in color, flavor, consistent shape and lack of blemishes.
  • In conjunction with a local grocery store, organize a scavenger hunt. Divide the group into teams. Give each team a paper with a list of foods (at least 2 foods) that each team is to find, along with the information to locate on the shelf label and product label unit cost, calories, fat content, sodium, sugars, etc. After the teams have completed the questions in the store aisles, they meet as a group and share their findings with the rest of the larger group. Another option is to include a brief discussion by the store manager as to how the store is laid out, stocking procedures, end caps and pricing of products.
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