March is National Nutrition Month. What a great time to take a look at your food shopping skills. The Family Nutrition Program of Mississippi State University Extension Service has lots of information to help you make the most of your family's food dollars. Information sheet 1761, which is available at any Extension Service Office, has great tips on marketing tactics grocery stores use.
∙ Bright colors and pretty packages make you notice food items.
∙ Words like "Special," "New," and "Improved" may make you look at a package and buy it.
∙ Is a "special" really a special or is a "sale" really a sale? Newspaper ads show weekly sale prices. And ads listing store specials may be placed for the customer to pick up when they walk into the store. The store managers are hoping people will stay in the store long enough to buy higher priced items.
∙ Look for "loss leaders" - items sold below cost to attract customers into a store. A loss leader is typically placed at the back of a supermarket or store, so customers must walk past other higher priced goods. Is a "minimum" purchase required? Stores depend on profits on higher priced goods to make up for the loss on "loss leaders." An example would be a supermarket selling sugar or milk at less than cost to draw customers to that supermarket.
∙ Learn the layout of the store. Many stores have a printed diagram of the store's layout. Ask for one at your store. If it does not have one, perhaps you can make your own diagram. Staples, such as bread, meat, milk, vegetables, and fruit, are usually arranged around the outer walls of the store. The higher priced foods are stocked in the aisles. Why do you think you have to walk all the way through the store to get milk and bread? These are the two most frequently purchased items.
∙ The grocery store manager knows that the longer we stay in the store, the more groceries we buy. Consumers spend about one dollar for every minute they are in the store. That is one very important reason to bring a shopping list and follow it as closely as possible.
∙ Displays at the end of the aisles also encourage spending. Products advertised "on special" in these display areas of the store may or may not be specials at all. Be sure to compare prices, brands, and sizes before you buy. End-of-aisle displays and bins attract attention and increase sales, whether or not the prices are reduced.
∙ Notice how shelves are arranged. The more expensive name brand items are usually placed at eye level. Look up or down to find similar, less costly items. Generic foods may be near the bottom.
∙ If possible, shop without children. The cereal aisle is arranged with the expensive and high-sugar cereal at the eye level of children, not the shopper. The bagged cereal placed on the lowest shelf usually is the best buy on cereals. Candy and toys also are placed at a child's eye level in the store. Ø If you shop with children, help them learn to be good shoppers.
∙ Beware of the deli and bakery sections of a grocery store. These areas make the most profit for the store.
∙ Buy sale items that aren't on your list if you have enough money and you will be able to use them before they spoil.
∙ Do not shop for food when you are hungry! We buy more when we are hungry. Free food samples can make you buy, too. Haven't you noticed the wonderful smells from the bakery?
∙ Shop once a week or less. The more trips you make to the store, the more you spend. Stores are less crowded in the middle of the week.
For more information, contact: Nancy A. Freeman, County Director Harrison County Extension Service (228) 865-4227