Photo: Flickr / Sifu Renka
Considering most grocery stores have fresh meat, dairy products and produce lining their perimeter, “shopping the U” sounds like a smart rule of thumb, and one that might help you save. Reduced health bills means more savings, right? Your Money tapped The Grocery Game’s Teri Gault for her take on this advice.
“I hear it all the time, you should go ‘U-shaped shopping,’ but seriously, who does that?” she says. Here, she offers three reasons you might not be getting the best deal by “shopping the perimeter”:
1. The real savings are in the middle. There, we said it. “You save all your money on the inside of the store,” says Gault because every single one of those items goes on sale once every 12 weeks. “That’s just a general rule,” she adds, and as we’ve written before, it’s smarter to shop by sales rather than replenish whatever you’ve run out of. For example, the frozen food aisle is half-off on sale, and often cheaper than fresh produce. “You can make smoothies, put them in soups or casseroles,” says Gault, “you don’t have to pay full price for variety.”
2. You can’t avoid what you eat. Let’s face it: “Everyone buys rice, honey, granola and oatmeal,” says Gault, before adding that there’s more to the middle aisles than unhealthy grub. For example, you’ll find olive oil, herbs and spices, canned tuna and salmon and good old-fashioned beans. The canned goods may be high in sodium, but rinsing them under water can cut their content dramatically and make for some tasty, low-cost meals.
3. Not all foods are healthy along the perimeter. Whipped cream and hummus dip? Salami? Booze? Your health might take a nosedive if you make a habit of skipping the middle aisles, writes dietitian Shelly Rael in the Albuquerque Journal. “The meat section has many healthy options,” she says, but “there are also not-so-healthy options such as the highly marbled meats (high saturated fat), sausages, and sometimes various parts of the cow and pig that I would prefer not to see, let alone mention.”