Get Fit by Shopping Smart
Part 1 of 3
Modern supermarkets are amazing places. A typical store carries 30,000 to 40,000 mostly perishable products, carefully arranged to make you want to buy. Music is piped in to relax you, the air is filled with smells that make you hungry and you're surrounded by displays that encourage you to let down your guard.
The grocery store is in business to make a profit and there's nothing wrong with them putting you at ease so you spend more money. That doesn't mean you have to splurge on empty calories. If you're serious about getting healthier food, your job starts at home.
Make a menu. Just writing up a shopping list isn't enough. You need to plan what you're going to eat so you don't fall into unhealthy habits. Keep the menu realistic. If you've never cooked before, don't expect you'll whip up a gourmet meal every night for dinner. Plan simple or frozen meals for when you're in a hurry and more elaborate or cook ahead meals when you've got time. Remember to include snacks for quick pick-me-ups.
Make a list based on the menu. Go through your kitchen and make note of the things you've already got. Only put the items you need on the list. It's a shocking statistic, but according to Timothy W. Jones, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona, Americans throw away nearly half of everything they buy. If you don't need it for your menu plan, don't put it on the list.
Map out your trip. Many stores offer maps showing where things are located. If you can get one, group the things on your list so you get through the store as quickly as possible. Time is important because supermarkets have figured out that every extra minute you spend shopping will cost you another $1.70. The longer you're in the store, the more money you're likely to spend. Don't walk down aisles unless you're going to purchase something in them.
Eat something before you shop. You've probably heard that dozens of times before, but this is why it's so important. Good smells sell. When you walk into a grocery store, you're often surrounded by the aroma of freshly baked bread. That smell can trigger hunger pangs and a desire to buy junk food. If you've eaten, you're more likely to be able to resist that temptation.
Grab reusable shopping bags. You'll have less plastic to throw away when you get home and some stores will even give you credit for each bag of your own you use.
Walk by the specials at the entrance. You're more likely to spend money at the beginning of your trip than at the end. That's why candy, plants, wines and other promotional items crowd the front door. They know your resistance is lower and you're more likely to put them in the cart. Ignore the specials and walk to the things on your list. If you want to check out the sales, do it at the end of your trip while you're waiting in line to check-out.
Shop from the right side of the store and move to your left. The majority of people are right-handed and are inclined to move from left to right. That's why most stores put their most frequently visited departments furthest from the entrance. They often design a right-hand loop pattern that passes you by the specials and high-profit items first. It's the long way through the store.
If you start on the right and move left, you'll get the essentials you need quicker. Remember, the less time you spend in the store, the less likely you'll buy junk food you don't need.
Skip the aisles in the middle of the store. The freshest and healthiest merchandise almost always lies around the edges. They put the fresh stuff there because it's easier to restock the perimeter on a daily or weekly basis. Only venture into the inner aisles when you have specific items on your list to buy.
Next week we'll share more strategies for saving money and buying healthier in specific departments.
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beginning any diet or exercise program.