The 11 Dirty Little Secrets Your Grocery Store Is Hiding


True or false? Your local grocer employs a scheming team of experts who work behind the scenes to orchestrate every little detail in a devious effort to squeeze every cent they can out of you.

It’s true. Even your favorite organic food stores are guilty of this. So, how can you beat them at their own game? Here’s what you need to know:

PhotobucketBaked Goods – Not So Fresh


Although there are exceptions, most of what you find in the bakery sections at grocery stores was frozen when it arrived. Sure, the scene they set up can be quite convincing: employees in white chef hats working behind the counter with flour-coated hands. But, if you think you’re getting freshly baked goods, chances are you’re mistaken.

PhotobucketManipulative Placement


The most expensive items and those that aren’t general diet staples are typically placed at eye level because they’re easier for you to reach. Before you insist that such an obvious ploy is an insult to your intelligence, it’s actually proven to be a pretty effective method.

PhotobucketManipulative Placement, Jr.


This last tactic applies to children, as well. Foods that are marketed towards younger age groups are usually found on lower shelves, where kids can easily reach out and grab them.

PhotobucketImpulse Buys


An average of 60- 70% of purchases aren’t on a shopper’s original list, which are what the marketing department refers to as “impulse buys”. Staple items commonly line the perimeters of stores, guiding consumers through aisle upon aisle of goods they don’t need. That includes those displays set up strategically at the ends of aisles. There’s a good reason why manufacturers pay top dollar for this placement.

PhotobucketClever Packaging


Instead of raising prices, many manufacturers reduce the weight of items but don’t change the packaging. In fact, the only difference you’ll notice is stamped in small print at the bottom.

PhotobucketOld Produce


Frozen fruits and vegetables usually contain more vitamins than what you find in the fresh produce section. Why? Flash-freezing preserves the nutrients they contain as well. Plus, they’re not as expensive. If you do buy produce, get it at farmers’ markets or high-volume grocery stores where there is rapid turnover of products. Smaller grocers that are less trafficked often have older produce, meat and dairy.

PhotobucketMore Bulk = Less Cash


Remember when buying in bulk was a great way to save money? The sun has set on those good old days. In many cases, economy-size products actually cost more per unit. So, carry a calculator and do the math yourself. Your grocer isn’t the only one trying to dupe you. Manufacturers of the items you purchase have their hand in these decisions as well.

PhotobucketFood Safety


Food shopping can really work up an appetite, so, when you stroll by the salad bar, you may be tempted to indulge. If your stomach starts growling, keep in mind that these foods are kept out in the open at unsafe temperatures. And, that glass deli case doesn’t provide much more protection, so curb your cravings for pre-made tuna and tapioca pudding. Anybody want some salmonella or E. coli on the side? I didn’t think so.

PhotobucketCheap Fillers


Sugar is added to a lot of products as filler simply because it’s cheap. If you think scanning the ingredients to see where it ranks is an accurate system, guess again. To trick consumers, the manufacturers use different types (sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup) to disguise this fact. So, even if the combination makes up a primary ingredient, they get bumped down on the list separately as a result.

PhotobucketThe Fine Print


There are other ways manufacturers mislead consumers, and grocery stores are all too happy to let you be fooled. For example, if you’re looking for a product made with whole wheat, read the labels very carefully. The only guarantee is if it says “100% whole wheat”. If this phrase is preceded by the word “contains”, put it down and move on.

PhotobucketStore Brands


Are you wary of the quality of store brands? Don’t be. Many of the more expensive versions of these items are made by the same companies. All you’re paying for is the label.

Images: ralphbijker, jslander, lanuiop, RogueSun Media, jeffk, cheeseroc, mattieb, cbertel, Jacob Botter, danorth1, How can I recycle this, Lisa Brewster

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20 thoughts on “The 11 Dirty Little Secrets Your Grocery Store Is Hiding

  1. you’ll avoid quite a few of these issues if you shop at independent stores, and if you don’t, what can you expect?

  2. actually, different types of sugars arent used to fool people into thinking there is less sugar (it all still ends up on the nutrition facts which are seen more anyway) but usually due to the qualities of the ingredient (physical attributes, taste, price, etc)

  3. There is some truth here, however the better specialty stores are very conscious of their customer’s intelligence and does deliver what they promise without any duping, at least substantially reduced.

  4. Pingback: 11 Secrets Your Grocery Store is Hiding From you | The TiffanyLea

  5. Before you complain too much about the “Clever Packaging” item, try the following experiment:

    1) Buy a bag of chips.
    2) Take it home, open it, and grumble about how little is in there.
    3) Dump the entire bag out into a big bowl, or on to a table, or whatever. Mix them up a bit to make sure the chips aren’t too “settled.”
    4) Now dump all the chips back into the bag… that’s how it looked when it was packaged. I think you’ll be surprised at how full the bag is now.

  6. All this and more – in America! Ok, well maybe some (most?) of these apply worldwide.

  7. Someone I follow on Twitter just linked here. Great post. I do want to say to one of the commenters from last year – NAB – however, that looking at the “per ounce” or “per unit” price doesn’t always help. Many many times I’ve been in stores where the same type of product (say, toilet paper) is priced out in different units – some “per ounce”, some “per sheet”, some in other ways – it’s very difficult to compare – it becomes an apples-to-oranges situation.

    Carrying a calculator (which many people have in their cell phones, actually) is a good suggestion.

  8. Hi,

    I’m a writer that wants to use one of the pictures on your website in her book. It looks like you obtained the pic of the woman in the grocery store holding a basket free from another source? Where?



  9. Oh my GOD!!!!

    Before reading this bit of info,I used to get a lot of ideas about buying in bulk….Thanks for the warning….and even the info about the food stalls….definitely i wouldn’t want salmonella or E.Coli in my intestines….

  10. Great post. Many of those grocery store things I knew, but some are good to freshen up on. One other thing I learned a bit ago, they tend to due rolling price changes often. I notice my OJ changes in price a lot, sometimes as much as $1 more from one week to the next (and dropping back down). It’s odd. I think it’s just to “F” with us.


  11. I’ve been noticing a lot of these for a while, however as a cook I have to argue against the salad bar. In many cases the items that are put out can only be left out for a certain period of time at temp (Meaning cold below 40 and hot above 140) If a store is found keeping food out on a line in between those temperatures they can be hit with a violation and if they are a repeat offender lose their license to serve food and even have certain areas shut down or fined. Obviously this won’t stop people from being critical of it so just stick to some basic rules if you want to make something to eat at those spots. Deep containers will allow the product to sit in a colder area under the ice. Look for lids or low cough guards to protect the food. Also look at the serving utensil. If it has dried food on it, it’s been there way too long and the food inside has been there just as long.

  12. Pingback: College Groceries: Food Tips for the Frugal | Money Launch My Kid

  13. Kroger brand diapers are THE BEST DIAPERS MADE!!! I prefer them to all the expensive brands BY FAR!!!! Kroger brands rarely disappoint ….

    Karen’s last blog post..BUSY BOREDOM

  14. I look for small owner operated businesses to buy from. I called the juliet mae spice people and the owner answered the phone. Not only that, she answered my question. Sometimes, quality is value.

  15. I like what Winn Dixie grocery stores have started doing:

    They’re placing a quick calculation of the cents per ounce, gram, or pound that weighted or measured items like oils, produce, and powders (salt, flour, sugar, etc.) cost. You find pretty quickly that there are no clear cut rules for buying; mottos like saving in bulk and using store brands go right out the window.

    In the end too, the only real judge for quality that you have is personal experience. Generic, if it’s slightly different than the brand name, can be even be better in some cases, depending on individual opinion.

  16. Really good read. Always try to see if youre getting the best deal by looking at the “per ounce” price instead of the total, especially if you don’t have a calculator on you

  17. Everyone has dirty secrets why shouldn’t stores or any business be different! Its good to know them that way you have a choice to fall into the trap or not! GREAT post, thanks for sharing!!!!!

    Miguel’s last blog post..True Beauty is NOT Plastic!


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