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The Less You Know The More You Spend!

Updated on June 4, 2016

Being a smart shopper

A smart shopper in today’s economy with increasing consumer costs and manufacturer quantity and quality reductions needs to be more aware then ever of what to look for when going to the Supermarket.

Once you become mindful of product information, the come-ons, the tricks, and the psychological attempts to separate you from your money you’ll be less inclined to be taken in and have a more satisfying shopping experience.

We all want and need food, that’s a given but do we buy what we want or do we buy what the Supermarket wants us to buy.

Read what's on the label

Never take a product off the shelf and put it in your basket without reading all the information that’s printed on the label.

Even if you have purchased the product before and found it to your liking unknown to you something in it or about it may have changed.

Many times “New and Improved,” or “20% more” labels are boldly displayed in obvious places on the packaging. Beware because unless they are qualified they are meaningless. If a package states 20% more to have any meaning it must be compared to something, in other words, 20% more than what?

Check the ingredients: They are listed in quantity order. See if what is claimed as an ingredient is there and in sufficient quantity. In some cases to reduce costs ingredients such as oils are mixed with other oils of lesser quality which of course may affect the taste. The packaging may state that information in such a way as to make you think the oil or other ingredient is pure. Check closely for artificial flavorings which you may or may not find acceptable.

Check the net weight: The weight of the actual contents less any liquids is called the net weight. If you have purchased the item before is it still the same net weight or has the quantity been reduced to save costs? Has the price increased or decreased? Did you compare the net weight to similar products? Do you get more by choosing a different product? Is the quality better or worse? The only way to evaluate a different brand is to try it. Store brands are usually less expensive but in some cases the quality is lacking.

Check the unit pricing: Along with the net weight the unit pricing can tell you how much per pound or whatever measure is being used as a reference, you are paying. Sometimes an item’s price may have decreased but upon closer inspection you find that the net weight has been reduced. In effect you may still be paying the same price or possible more. It’s important to know how much per unit of reference you are paying.

Check the expiration date: When you buy something always check the expiration date. Look for the can, jar, or box that has the furthest expiration date you can find. Look at the inner items on the shelf or to the rear of the display when buying milk, bread or bakery items. Sometimes a shopper will just take the first thing they grab and drop it in their basket. It pays to spend a little time to make sure you are getting the freshest merchandise.

It's what's inside that counts

The psychology of packaging and placement is to induce you to buy what the Supermarkets and the Manufacturers want to sell. Often when viewing items on a supermarket shelf consumers are emotionally impacted by their design, color, and position on the shelf. Subliminally, the senses respond to the size and shape of the package, the image of the item on the outside of the package, and the selection of the typeface used to display its slogan and/or description and any claim of improvement to the product itself.

Don’t let brightly colored packages featuring catchy slogans make you stop and consider buying a product. Most times what you see is not what you get. Do not let the enhanced image depicting the actual item on the inside of the package or how you feel when viewing the package influence your decision to buy it in any way. It really has nothing to do with what’s inside and its only intent is to induce you buy the product. It is not a fair representation of what the package contains.

Also be aware of the positioning of the products on the shelf; that is, upper, lower, or eye level which is considered best requiring the least amount of effort to view, all you have to do is turn your head.

Where's the beef?

When considering meat products meat classification labeling is not required by law. The labeling classification is voluntary. If it appears on the package it is done so as a selling point only. If beef is U.S.D.A Prime or U.S.D.A. Choice most times that fact will be made known to the consumer. If the only label that appears on the package is U.S.D.A. Inspected, which is not a classification and only put there to make you think otherwise, you can be assured that the quality of the meat is sub-standard. More than likely it is U.S.D.A Select or Standard which are tough, chewy, low quality cuts of meat.

Also be aware that there are sub-classifications within each quality grade which is based upon its Marbling Score. Marbling, within the muscle fat, is the distribution of that fat within the non-fat areas of the meat. The degree of marbling is the principal aspect when determining the quality grade of beef.

If there is no classification printed on the label buying it is a gamble. Remember, there is a reason for everything that's done. Disregard phrases such as “Tender and Flavorful” which are relative terms and have little meaning, once again it is only there to psychologically hasten your decision to make a purchase.

If you are buying packaged meat combinations such as Beef, Pork, and Veal, be aware that until recently the package contained: beef in the middle, pork on one side and veal on the other. Most Supermarkets have now restyled the packaging with beef in the middle and pork mixed with veal on either side.

It's obvious that the quantity of veal has been drastically reduced to an amount just enough to legally label the packaging as containing veal. You could ask the meat person behind the counter to prepare a package for you containing three separate quantities of Beef, Pork and Veal as an alternative to the original packaging.

Look closely at advertisements in Supermarket circulars

Some advertising circulars may place sale items near other items using bright and exciting colors with distracting advertising slogans meant to quickly draw the consumer’s attention from product to product. Quick glances at ambiguously placed prices may lead to misinterpretation of the actual cost.

Buy one Get one FREE items never have a price shown. There is no way short of going to the market, which is what they want, of knowing what the price of each item will be.

Right now ads such as 10 for $10.00 or 3 for $5.00 or 6 for $8.96 are being used to confuse and bait the consumer. The logic behind these ads is obvious. If something is sold as a unit, say 3 for $5.00 there is a better chance of prospective purchasers buying more than they need. If you want 1 item, buy 1 item you are still paying the same per item cost. Do not feel compelled to buy whatever unit of quantity they offer.

Fresher is better

If you can buy your produce from a farm market or a small produce store do so.

Supermarkets receive their produce and food by truck from their warehouses. On rare occasion they may receive and display local produce for sale but there is no way to know how long the non-local produce they sell has been at their storage facility leaving their freshness in question.

A smarter solution is to purchase your produce at a local farm stand or vegetable market. In most cases the prices you pay for your produce will be cheaper saving you money while giving you the freshness you deserve.

If you take the time to follow the suggestions above you will be a more informed shopper eating fresher and better quality foods while getting the most for your money.

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