Friday, July 31, 2015

Mistakes We Don't Make at the Supermarket

"On average, a family of four spends up to $1,300 a month on the food they consume at home. To make matters worse, most are spending more than they need to because of mistakes they are making when shopping at the supermarket."

The actual article title is "Biggest Supermarket Shopping Mistakes." This kind of story from Kiplinger's plays on our fear that we aren't as smart as we hope, that we don't know how to do our lives correctly. A vast number of so-called "helpful" articles start with the premise that we, the readers, are constantly making mistakes.
What about those mistakes at the supermarket? Apparently, we shop every week without noticing what's on sale that week and stocking up on it. We also don't compare prices, and we don't plan our meals around the perishable items on sale that week.

Uh. No. We do the due diligence. We read the store circulars and we cut out or print out the coupons for products we already use, and yes, we do know what time of the year to buy Bing cherries and sweet corn at the best prices, too. If we're really supermarket mavens, we also know that just about everything in a grocery store goes on sale every six weeks. All we have to do to never buy at full price is stock up enough during a sale to tide us over to the next sale. Works like a charm, plus this way we never run out of toilet paper.

Of late, companies have been pushing different sizes and packages of some staples, paper towels being the best example. Hardly a week does by when some version of Bounty towels isn't on sale. Mega sizes, double sizes, regular sizes, different numbers of rolls per pack, and more. We stock up and then we stock up some more, and the company's hope is that we use the paper towels more rapidly because we have so many in reserve. This is a pretty good guess about how people behave. It's the number one reason to put cash earmarked for savings into a savings account rather than keeping it in the regular checking account or as bills on top of the dresser. The less we feel we have, the more careful we are.

But paper towels are minor. Where the typical American grocery shopper makes mistakes is in buying processed foods that are full of chemical additives, including the number one evil chemical, partially hydrogenated oil. 

Partial hydrogenation keeps oil that's sitting around a factory in big drums for months on end from going rancid. It also keeps cookies soft for weeks on end on the grocery store shelf. But food items move swiftly in a grocery. The hydrogenated oils are in a vast quantity of food products merely for the convenience of the food processor. You don't need to give cheese puffs a nearly immortal shelf life. Those items are put in the store fresh nearly every day of the week, and frankly, most people who buy them consume them almost immediately. The oil is there anyway, and you can look up why it's so bad for people right on Wikipedia.

I love looking at what's in other people's shopping carts, and most of what I see are processed foods, not fresh foods. Only around major holidays do people fill their carts with fresh foods, plus the normal building blocks such as flour, sugar, and chocolate chips. This surely has to do with lack of time to prepare meals from scratch, but everybody ought to read ingredient labels and walk away from those that run long and contain many unpronounceable chemicals. It's supposed to be food we're eating, not man-made chemicals. That's our number one mistake at the grocery store.