• Cover shop the Perimeter

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    Grocery Store Rule: Shop the Perimeter?

    One of my least favorite things to do is to grocery shop. That maze of aisles, looking for that elusive product (where are the jars of roasted red peppers?), and the lines. Sometimes it takes my blood pressure soaring. Why isn’t there a rule that every single grocery store, at least the ones in the same chain, have the exact same layout?

    The way the grocery store is set up is very specific along with where products are placed. Did you know that many times the “bargains” are sometimes regular priced items, just featured that day or week?

    Grocery stores have a captive audience. “They” know we have to go there regularly, on average 2-4 times a week!

    Sometimes you will hear the mantra “shop the perimeter” as a strategy for shopping smart. This is based on the idea that a grocery store setup is the same everywhere with the fresh, whole foods being the perimeter of most stores, like produce, fresh meat, dried beans and nuts, and dairy products. Granted, stores vary in their setup and there are exceptions to this sometimes.

    While “shop the perimeter” this is a good guideline, we need to take care with that recommendation for many reasons:

    1. Many stores have the bakery near the front entrance, and part of the perimeter. While there are some healthy items there (whole wheat pita bread?), for the most part, you can skip this part.
    2. The deli area has those meats, cheeses, pre-made salads and other ready-to-eat foods that make some things in life much more convenient, but not the best choice for everyday eating.
    3. The dairy section…low-fat and fat-free milk and yogurt and some cheese? Yes. Whole milk, full-fat yogurt, and whipped cream and dips? Not so much. And in some stores, this is in the middle of the store, not the perimeter.
    4. The meat section has many healthy options: fresh fish, turkey, chicken, lean beef, and lean pork. 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.
    5. Alcohol! Alcohol has its potential benefits, but there are some people who only shop this section, or shop it a bit too much.

    While the purpose of touting “shopping the perimeter” is because the aisles tend to carry the more processed food, but it is important to know that the aisles have great items too!

    1. Cereals! Whole grain and low in added sugar cereals are found here. Oatmeal, cream of wheat and the several ready-to-eat cereals are just fine! It is the sweetened cereals that we need to watch out for.
    2. Oils – olive oil, Canola oil and even the various specialty oils such as peanut and sesame oil.
    3. Herbs and Spices! Flavors and more flavors for your cooking, especially if you are working on reducing your sodium intake. Jarred, minced garlic is my favorite in this area. It saves so much time; we go through about three jars a month.
    4. PEANUT BUTTER. That is all.
    5. Cans, glorious cans: I loved canned foods! Canned beans (black, white, pinto, and garbanzos are very popular in my home), canned fish (tuna, salmon, and sardines, gag), canned fruit like peaches, pineapple, and mandarin oranges, and canned diced tomatoes which I buy by the case. But canned foods are high in sodium and sugar, right? Drain and rinse every single can of beans and drain the fruit to cut sodium and sugar content. If you choose soups and vegetables, choose the lower sodium versions, and rinse your vegetables before cooking.

    This is one of those “rules” of grocery shopping that many people should break and find those great foods in the aisles.

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