Making Better Choices at the Grocery Store

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch

Grocery shopping is not at the top of my ‘favorite things to do’ list. There’s a lot of work that goes into going to the grocery store, especially when trying to eat healthier. I have to figure out what I’m going to eat for the week, make a grocery list and check the things that I already have in my pantry, fridge, and freezer. Although this is somewhat time consuming, studies have shown that planning before going to the grocery store can actually help you to eat healthier, spend less money, and reduce the likelihood of buying unnecessary items.

Here are a few tips that can help you stretch your dollars and eat healthier:

  1. Plan! It is so important for us to plan before going to the grocery store. Pick a few new recipes you want to try (especially ones that use summer produce), write down a list of things you don’t have already, and go shop! This may cost you a few hours of your day, but if you plan well enough you won’t have to go the grocery store for the rest of the week.
  2. Get a bigger bang for your buck! Check prices online, in the newspaper, and at the store for sales and coupons. See if any of these items are on your list. When at the grocery store, compare those ads and coupons to similar items. You can do this by looking at the unit price which is located on the sales tag below the produce. In the top left corner, you will see “unit pricing” which is the amount the item cost per ounce, pound, or other unit of measure. Be sure to check if that bigger jar is really saving you any money!
  3. Use more low-cost foods! There are certain foods that are typically cheaper all year long. These include beans, carrots, greens, potatoes, apples, and bananas. Beans are a great source of protein! You can stretch your dollar by substituting this for your animal proteins, or mix in beans and use half the meat.
  4. Don’t be scammed by the marketing techniques! Did you know more expensive items are placed at eye level to entice you to buy them? The same is true for items that are targeted to children. Make sure you check the top and bottom shelves for cheaper prices. The items at the end of the aisle are not always the best value. Many stores display sales items away from similar products. Check the aisle the product is on, and see if it is the healthiest and lowest-cost out of the similar products.
  5. Lastly, stick with a familiar store. Studies have shown that when you shop at a familiar store, you are less likely to walk around and buy unneeded products than when you shop at a store you are not used to. A familiar store leads you to spend less time at the grocery store, and more time saving money!

**Editor’s Note: Sydney Johnson is an Area Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. She can be reach by calling the Sampson County Center at 910-592-7161.