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5 things your grocery store won’t tell you

Dietician Maisie Vanriel won Moneyville’s blogging contest and will begin writing twice a week beginning in early July exploring smart food shopping, and things the food industry doesn’t want you to know. She will also be taking part in a 12-week challenge to reduce her family grocery spending.

Canadians can reduce their grocery bill and eat healthier food and they do not need coupons and special deals to do it. As a dietitian, I often teach healthier eating by teaching smarter shopping, because supermarkets have perfected separating you from your money and not always in the healthiest way.

Here are 5 things you may not know about grocery stores:

1. Why produce is misted.

The first thing you see when you enter many grocery stores is a colourful wall of fresh produce, sometimes being misted gently. It screams healthy,  fresh pulled from the soil and still damp with morning dew. That wholesome look will make you “feel”  healthier and more inclined to stay in the store to shop and often has been proven to result in you spending $5 to $8 more per visit.

So next time you go into a grocery store save the produce area for last. Once you enter turn to the right and walk past the cash register, chips, candy and treats. You will miss out on that “‘wholesome” feeling and are less likely to linger because the treats will just remind you of what your waistline does not need. Then pick up your fresh fruits and vegetables and leave!

2. Why milk is at the back.

Most quick trips to the grocery store are for bread, milk and eggs, so marketers place these items at the back of the store hoping you will walk down an aisle and make an impulse buy. Avoid the temptation — just walk around the perimeter, pick up your bread, milk and eggs and leave.

3. Always try lower shelves.

If you must walk down an aisle it is easy to buy healthier foods and save money by choosing the foods you have to bend down or stretch up to reach. The shelf space at eye level is aimed at the average Canadian woman who is 5-foot-5. Since women do most of the grocery shopping manufacturers will pay thousands of dollars per store to own that space.

Take the cracker aisle; the least healthy, most expensive crackers are generally on the eye-level shelves. Choose healthier and less expensive crackers by just bending down or stretching up to reach them.

4. Featured specials aren’t so special.

Be wary of items that are “on special” or “featured” at the front of an aisle. Notice they don’t always say “on sale,” because often times they are not. A “featured” cereal may be exactly the same price as it is in the aisle, just placed in a more prominent spot to increase sales.

5. Watch for “me too” items.

The front of the aisle is also a favourite spot for what I call “me too” items. A more expensive cereal is “accidentally” placed next to the featured cereal, and only when you get to the checkout do you find out it is more expensive. Most shoppers just keep it rather than go back to change it. Next time avoid those featured areas.

It may not seem like much but remember, “look after your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.” It is often the mundane day-to-day activities like grocery shopping where people are most easily parted from their money.

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