Buying smart

Buying in Bulk Without Eating in Bulk

I’m going to be presumptuous and positively pushy this week and make your New Year’s resolution for you. How is that for bossy? Your goal in 2012 is to waste less money on food and find a healthy waist along the way. It can be done. If you’ve spent thousands of dollars on diets in the past, this concept will be a relief to your wallet. Welcome to the year of “buying in bulk without eating in bulk.”
During the first few months of the Goff weight loss plan, my husband and I tossed some big food mistakes into the shopping cart. Our motives were pure. We knew that we needed to lower our portion sizes and the food industry was all too willing to help. One-hundred calorie packs and individually wrapped servings did the heavy lifting for us. The portion control was built right in.
When I was tempted to go back for seconds, I had to get up, walk into the kitchen and physically open another package. It required effort and a conscious decision to continue eating. That “think time” saved me from more than a few bad choices. I was eating less food and losing weight. And even with all the good news coming from my scale, the monthly message from my checking account wasn’t as happy. Shouldn’t less food = less money? Not necessarily.
I was paying a high price for built-in portion control. This is a shameful thing to admit (as a shopper with two decades of experience and 20/20 vision), but I had no idea what a unit price was. I thought it was information used for inventory control or maybe what the item costs in Canada? The only number I tracked was the big number on the price tag – the one my cashier would charge me to buy the food.
Don’t feel ignorant if you’ve never noticed the unit pricing at your local supermarket. Some smaller, rural stores may not post this information or perhaps it’s tough to see the fine print. After the whole Canada thing, I’m in no position to mock you. Stick with me and you will be an expert. We’re going to take a crash course in unit pricing because it is a must for smart grocery shopping.
Instead of the old-school method of putting the price for food directly on the package, the vast majority of supermarkets now use a horizontal tag placed on the shelf under the item. The extra real estate gives grocery stores the room to provide the actual price as well as the unit price. This second number off to the side is often a smaller font size or printed with a lighter ink color. Bring a magnifying glass if necessary, but read the unit price.
Whatever store you choose, the goal is to save as much money as possible when shopping the interior aisles. Not only are you being a good steward of your finances (noble in and of itself), but you are going to need that extra money. Roll your shopping cart along the walls of the supermarket and take a look around. This outer circle is where the good stuff is found and it isn’t cheap.
Foods along the wall tend to be less “messed with” by human hands than the bags and boxes found in the center of the store. Supermarkets often place fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products in the outer circle. When we eat the right portion sizes, these items are generally healthier for us than the processed items in the aisles. Unfortunately, these body-powering foods are rarely on sale and going organic could cost you even more. I believe it is worth the investment.
If you want carrots from a local greenhouse that specializes in raising vegetables to the melodies of Debussy, no problem. You’ve shopped unit pricing in the center of the grocery store and have money in the budget for “classical carrots.” Interested in baking a free range/no hormone chicken that received weekly pedicures on the farm? Weird, but okay. You’ve found the best unit price on bread, peanut butter and bran flakes.
Next week, we’re going to look at how to treat these bargains once you get them in your kitchen. There is some danger, here. Oversized packages can quickly lead to oversized portions without the right tools for putting away the groceries. I’ll have some tips to keep you safe! Do some smart supermarket shopping this week and God Bless.

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