For most of us, grocery shopping is a mindless activity. This is exactly how the grocers like it. The less actual thought you put into buying food, the more you can be manipulated into spending more money. Supermarkets and food manufacturers will do everything within their power to make your wallet lighter. Anything from using creative labeling to make you think you are buying a "healthy" food, to the placement of milk the furthest from the entrance of the store to make you pass all those foods you had no intention of buying.
Buying bread is a good example. You have a choice of wheat, white-wheat, multi-grain, 12-grain, whole-grain, white, rye, pumpernickel; the list goes on and on. The key is to look for the words "whole grain" somewhere on the label. Another good way to tell is to look for "whole wheat flour" as the first or second ingredient, not "enriched" flour. Don't be fooled by "wheat bread" or "multi-grain bread" made with white flour. These are almost no different than plain white bread in nutrient content.
How many times have you gone to the store for milk and ended up spending $10? You are not alone. Your chances of going to the back of the store and to the register with only milk in your hand are slim to none. That's because years of testing and research have been done on the habits of shoppers. Carts and aisles are much larger now than ever because the bigger our cart, the more we want it to be filled. Samples are given out not to get you to buy that product, but to get your saliva flowing and the hunger sensation to kick in, which results in you buying more. All the expensive items are placed at eye level of the average female while children's foods are placed at their eye level. Notice how all the sugary cereals are placed on the lower half of the shelf. Music is specifically programmed to get you to walk slower and buy more. Most people know the cost of a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread, so these items are usually priced at a loss to the company. They get you in the store where you will buy other, more expensive items that you don't know the "regular" price.
Michael Murphy is a registered dietitian living in Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at (480) 415-8803 or visit www.nutritiontoyou.com.