Many of us remember the good ol’ days when a hundred dollars filled two grocery carts with food for three weeks for a family of seven. We also remember the excitement of discovering new food items as product offerings grew from, e.g. a few basic breakfast cereals to a plethora of hot and cold flavors; classic recipe ingredients to pre-made, ready-to- eat, fresh and frozen choices. We were living the dream! Or so it seemed…
Today our nation is plagued with an overabundance of disease such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, cancer, anxiety, and stress, all linking back to many of our, “evolved societal luxuries,” including the massive array of food we purchase in grocery stores. Rather than enjoy the process of shopping, we are now often plagued with guilt and worry as we ponder which of the foods are most healthy versus which have the most pesticides, GMOs, preservatives, and other physically detrimental qualities per regulated and approved food industry standards. Worse yet, the food is more expensive than ever before.
The good news? There is a solution. The old saying, “Education is king,” is proved most definitely when applied to the art of shopping for groceries. Here are some ‘that makes sense’ tips as well as ‘are you kidding me?!’ insights that demonstrate how manipulative the subliminal and not-so- subliminal grocery store sales tactics are, increasing our desire to learn and know even more – as soon as possible! – to avoid buying what we shouldn’t – and don’t want to – buy.
Let’s begin with how stores are mapped out:
- The vegetable and fruit sections – typically to the right of the entrance – welcome us with calm, warm lighting, and spray mists that highlight and illuminate the bright and beautiful colors and scents of nature. This ‘lure’ tactic comforts us, thereby increasing the amount of time we’ll stay in the store, prompting more purchases than we’d planned simply because our initial experience off the street is so tantalizing and inviting.
- The freezer and refrigerated items are kept far away from the main entrance to keep us from becoming cold and irritable upon initial entry, preventing the inclination to leave rather than stay.
- The most popular necessities like milk and eggs are placed far away from the front of the store, to ensure customers are enticed by the many food items they see along their paths to the back; for the same reason, salt and sugar are placed on the lower shelves in the middle aisles.
- “Special Offers” are placed at the end of each aisle to promote impulsive purchases.
- High sugar content foods – as well as those filled with lots of detrimental chemicals, empty calories, and preservatives – are mostly found on the inside aisles; to shop for healthier, mostly natural foods, meats, fish, and dairy products, keep to the three perimeter walls, shopping in the middle aisles only for the specifics you absolutely need.
- Grocery stores cater to the whim and desire of young children by placing toys and other child-friendly promotional items at the level a child can see and reach when riding in the grocery cart, typically in front of food items like cereal needing to be sold sooner rather than later.
- Items geared for female customer, such as wine, are made most visible at 5’4” – items most visible at 5’7” are to entice male customers, e.g. Gatorade.
- “Buy one, get one free,” translates to 50% off products about to expire.
Samples of cautionary, food specifics:
- Cost compare the ‘less expensive’ products to similar ‘more expensive’ items by determining how much the item actually is per ounce; often, the less expensive foods are actually more expensive ounce to ounce.
- Avoid canned foods for many reasons including low level food quality, leaking aluminum, preservatives, under-regulated imported foods; and extremely harmful, toxic, plastic contaminants (BPA).
- Fact: Plastic contaminants are released from the lining inside cans, causing a wide variety of diseases including hormone imbalance, hypertension, aggression, obesity, cancer, and heart disease.
- Avoid processed, packaged foods including those in boxes and in the freezer section. Processed foods are stripped of nutrients, filled with additives, sweeteners, salts, artificial flavors, factory- created fats, colorings, chemicals that alter texture, and preservatives, all posing the greatest risk for our health; e.g. Non-dairy creamer is so toxic it can be ignited as explosive fuel!
- Fact: Americans spend most of their grocery dollar on processed and packaged foods; and Americans are more unhealthy and medicated than ever before.
- Read ingredient labels; if unable to discern what the ingredient is – e.g. not a food item – avoid the product.
- Fact: The first ingredient is the primary ingredient, typically at least 50% of the product; for many foods, the first ingredient is sugar.
- Fact: We as a society are addicted to sugar because of the amount of sugar in our food.
- White sugar is bleached, as are white pasta and white flour. Eating them is eating bleach.
- Sweeteners in pink, yellow, or blue packets are filled with cancer causing chemicals. The healthy choice is sugar in the raw.
- Fact: Sweeteners with “Nutra” in the name subliminally suggest they are nutritious and natural; the extreme opposite is true.
- Some decaffeinated coffees are processed with formaldehyde, a human carcinogen / cause of cancer, often used to disinfect surfaces and equipment in biological and medical settings – and, yes, it is the main ingredient of embalming fluid to preserve dead bodies.
- Children’s cereals are filled with toxins, some even with an antifreeze component.
- Fact: $1.8 billion is spent by the food industry annually to entice children to want their products; $264 million is spent promoting breakfast cereal, containing 85% more sugar than cereal of adults.
- Fact: The rate of obesity and childhood diabetes has skyrocketed, with great fear of the younger generation dying before their parents.
- MSG, known to cause obesity and allergic reactions, is hidden in many foods and is in more than 40 different ingredients such as corn starch, corn syrup, rice syrup, brown rice syrup, milk powder, reduced fat milk…and anything enriched, vitamin enriched, and pasteurized…the list goes on.
A few tips to remember before shopping:
- Begin by making your grocery list at home; then bring cash or a debit card to avoid over purchasing and over spending.
- Eat before entering the store to have a, “full tummy,” to prevent ‘that looks yummy!’ shopping.
- Shop on Tuesday – most stores restock Tuesday, less people shop Tuesday.
- Avoid bringing children to refrain from purchasing food items marketed towards children.
And one more reflection to ponder when walking through the store:
- For every $1 the U.S. government spends to promote healthy food, the food industry spends $5 to promote everything they’re selling, including lots of unhealthy food that is causing massive disease of our society.
As with any challenge in life, a positive can-do attitude is what reaps the rewards of success and greatest feelings of accomplishment. You can take on the challenge of grocery shopping with the excitement of yesteryear by being educated about how to best shop to feel the best. Read books, ask questions, look online, share the discovery of truths with your children as you work together to uncover the lies.
The more you learn, the more empowered and healthy you’ll be. Shop away!
Maurice Saliba is a highly recognized motivational speaker and trainer. He has been featured on many well-known programs about how to stay healthy and beat disease in its tracks. After 30 years of owning health and personal training studios, Maurice Saliba founded Hope 80/20 knowing that he needed to create a large-scale solution for the health burdens of our communities and corporations.