New Mexico Urban Homesteader

Hello, I am A 50 Something, Prepper ;-}; former 60's Flower Child, don't believe in taxpayer subsidized special interest groups (political parties), DO believe in the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1st 10). Long time Independent & Informed Voter. Lover of the outdoors and firm believer that History Teaches - if only we will listen!

(No longer Urban or in NM. Now Rural in the mountains of Maine.)

This blog was started at the request of some dear friends that wish to become Preppers.

“No man who is not willing to help himself has any right to apply to his friends, or to the gods.”

Demosthenes (384–322 BC, Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Great American Supermarket Games- Lighting Game, the Life Style Game, the Freezing Switch-a-roo and Pricing Games

The Lighting Game

Just as our favorite Hollywood star looks better under certain lights, so does our food! Supermarkets actually spotlight foods with different lights to make them seem more appealing, using red lights near the meat section and green lights in the produce section. In most states this practice is a violation of the food code, but it’s difficult to enforce because the health inspector must prove it was done intentionally. If you notice any of these lights in your grocery store, beware!  Inspect your produce and meat under a white light before buying to ensure you’re getting the freshest, healthiest selections possible.

Next time you’re strolling the aisles, pay attention to the sensory sensations your supermarket uses to seduce you: The smell of brewing coffee and donuts, colored lighting around meats and or produce, the colorful signage around the DVDs near the checkout – even the music is designed to make you reach for your wallet. During quiet business hours, supermarkets play slower music, hoping it will cause you to linger and buy more.  On average, these supermarket tricks alone can cause you to spend $50 more per trip. Be sure to walk in with a list – and stick to it!

Yep the layout of the store and the placement of the products results in mega bucks for the corporation’s (not the farmer or rancher of the base ingredients).  How so?  Well take 10 million shoppers a day tacking on an extra $10.00 to their final purchase, which has an end result of a billion dollar a day industry!  Truth is that research indicates that on average we spend an extra $50 per supermarket trip when all these tactics are applied.

The Life Style Game

Taking advantage of our ‘busy lives’ we see produce items that are already cut up and neatly arranged in a disposable serving tray or ready for cooking or salads.  At the meat counter, chicken breasts and beef are cut into chunks and marinated—ready for immediate grilling. There's no denying that these pre-cut foods can make life incredibly easy. And nutritionists agree that if they get people to eat more healthfully, there's nothing wrong with them. But realize that you're also paying a tremendous premium—sometimes up to twice as much as uncut versions of the same food—just so you don't have to bother picking up a knife.
That prepared food you buy from the deli comes off the shelves of the store and many aren’t picking the freshest options. Instead, they’ll choose the foods that are closest to their expiration date, saving themselves money. A better bet: cooking and making it for yourself.

The ‘butcher counter’ could be cheaper! Common meat items like store brand bacon are usually cheaper at the ‘butcher’ counter than prepackaged in the ‘on display’ refrigerated meat area and it’s the same meat. 

The Freezing Switch-a-roo
Did you know that what you think is fresh could be months old?  That’s right, after being kept in a freezer at a distribution center for months to prevent aging, breads are finally thawed to put on display. This is known as “parbaking”.  Similarly, meat and seafood is frozen before reaching the supermarket, but then thawed to look fresh in the market’s freezer or meat/seafood department. The problem here is that this opens a wider door for bacterial exposure and growth. Think twice before stocking up on meat, only to freeze it and be sure to use that bread quickly.

A lot of returns and other items accumulate throughout the store in a given day. The cashiers usually are the ones to put these away when there is down-time. With perishables most clerks would just do the "feel test" if it feels cold then they put it back on the shelf, if it feels warm they will mark it damaged and will not put it back.  What this means is that you could be purchasing perishables that have been defrosted.  The best hint I can tell you is look at the package for signs of possible defrost.

Pricing Games

Supermarkets want you to think that they have across-the-board low prices, which is often not true.  Many stores use a mix of highly advertised items sold at cost, then some at 5% above cost and others at 10%, 15% and 20%.  By keeping it confusing, stores can create the illusion that everything is at a rock bottom price.

Another trick supermarkets play on us is the sale tags. For example when you don't know the general price on an item and then you see it with a sale tag you automatically think you are getting a deal and probably buy it when it is actually the same price. They do this with the name brand products that sit right beside the generic.  So let’s say you buy a single unit of yogurt for .45 cents, then you see a more popular name brand on sale for .10 cents off the regular price which costs .55 cents, so you grab a couple of those thinking you have just scored a deal, though you haven't, the store just got the same amount of money out of you and that's the bottom line.  It’s not what you buy, rather it is how much you spend.

Next take a look at the 2 for 1 concept, etc.  You see an item, whether it be for daily use or a specialty buy and the store has a sale tag stating 10 units for 4 dollars.  This subliminally suggests to us, the consumer, not only to buy this great deal but to buy a quantity of it when you normally buy a couple at a time.   Now take a closer look and remember the yogurt comparison.  The generic brand is on sale at 10 for 4 dollars, while the popular brand offers 10 units at 6 dollars.  So being the smart consumer, you grab 10 of the generic,  only you had budgeted for just the two you normally buy.  So when you planned on spending less than a dollar for some yogurt you ended up spending three times as much.  How much was the unit on sale for again?  If you had stuck to your regular needs of only two you would have saved .10 cents versus spending 4 dollars.

Who can resist an offer like "buy five, get one free," “10 for $10” or "three for $1"?  Apparently, very few of us can.  "Any time you see numbers in a sign, you're likely to buy at least 30 percent more than you may have purchased otherwise. So if you go looking for soup and the sign says 'limit 12 per person,' chances are you’ll purchase several more cans than you intended to buy".  And of course, if you buy more than you need, it's not necessarily a bargain.  Or worse yet, it could lead to over-indulging. "Mindless shopping leads to mindless eating," says Wansink. "Once the stuff is in the house, you'll eat it whether you really want it or not."

Next time you see a sign promoting a “Manger’s Special” it might be helpful to instead imagine it reading, “This food is old and we need to get rid of it.” These lower prices come from the fact that the products on sale have been on the shelf for quite some time. Generally these items should be avoided.  At the very least you need to "look" for the expiration dates on sale items, especially when they are marked down 70% or more and use the product in the next day or two.

The oldest of the pricing games is the use of 9.  Just take a look at all the $.29, 1.89 etc pricing.  Legally the seller of this item can say the product is ‘under 2 dollars’ or ‘for less than 30 cents’.

 The Rewards Card - Is it really? What a lot of people do not know is that when you have a ‘rewards card’ for a store that this card is being used to track your buying habits.  Every time your card is swiped the supermarket keeps a record of what you bought.  They use this information for market research.  If you are interested in more on this topic you can find it at: .  Now this can be good and bad.  On the good side the store can keep stocked with items they see you purchase regularly.  On the bad side, they now have an ‘in’ to your personal eating habits.

Thankfully most stores that use the ‘rewards card’ do actually offer savings, not much, but in this economy every penny counts.

Remember I said that ‘fresh’ has no legal definition in the U.S.?  Good now think about this - Deliveries to supermarkets don’t typically happen on weekends.  Wednesday is usually the day to shop for the freshest food.

According to Progressive Grocer, only 11% of shoppers go to the store on Wednesdays and only 4% of customers shop after 9 p.m. Why does this matter? This means that stuff purchased on Mondays is likely several days old. Wednesday is generally when supermarket shelves are stocked with fresh products and that means we should avoid shopping on Mondays.

Next time I'll cover the Dates Game, Smells, Sights and Cooties and the Non-grocery Product Game


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