Hacking the Grocery Store

Anything that thrives in business is built that way for a reason.  A grocery store is no different.  Whether it be Albertson’s, Safeway, Kroger, or any other, the main design is the same.  The store is composed of two sections, an outside “perishables” loop and an inner grouping of “canned and boxed” goods in the form of aisles.  This design has held for a long time due to its success.  The outer loop of perishables consists of items that offer a considerably lower margin to the grocer.  These items are commodity level items; meats, cheeses, fruits, and veggies.  There is nothing particular to the branding here.  This outer loop is continuous and is meant by the grocer to be able to be traversed quickly.

Why is that?  It’s so you, the shopper can move onto their more lucrative offerings within the aisles.  This is the referred to inner loop.  Due the arrangement of food items within aisles, it takes considerably longer to browse for items.  This method is an excellent advertising opportunity for the grocer as the shopper is essentially a captive audience within these aisles.

In addition, the shopping journey ends with similar methods of advertisement on the way towards the register.  In some instances, there may be a maze of aisles in order to get the checkout portion.

A local grocery store and it's maze towards the register.

A local grocery store and it’s maze towards the register hidden in the upper right portion

The impact of a grocery store layout may now be apparent to your control over your pocketbook, but how about your diet?  This standard layout design is also detrimental to healthy eating habits.  The reasoning is that all of the healthy whole foods are on that outer loop, the loop that is built to be only shortly visited on the way to the aisles.  Again, the aisles are focused on boxed, canned, and processed foods, which should take a second seat to traditional whole foods.

Here’s the grocery store hack:  It takes discipline to overcome conditioning.  Sticking to a list helps, but adopting a new approach will prove its effectiveness shortly.  Try this:  Only shop the outer sections of a store.  Try your best to build a complete meal plan off of this alone.  If you find that there are other items that you need from the inner aisles, get them from the other store in town, only after you have exhausted your options as prescribed above.  This changes your conditioning patterns.  Most prices are close enough anyways.  The savings in adjusting behavior patterns will be greater than a slight difference in prices.

Low sugar diet to shed the pounds

My taste in foods has changed considerably since going on a reduced sugar diet 8 months ago. I wasn’t out of shape or anything, nor was I overweight. However, I did feel slower as far as running goes. What really geared me towards a low sugar diet was an associate who showed me Sanjay Gupta’s work on how high sugar foods is bad for our health and how it gets stored as inner belly fat. There are other side effects that can develop over time.

Here’s the diet. Limit added sugar intake as much as possible within reason. By added sugar, I mean sugars that occur outside of fruits, veggies, and other whole foods. The American Heart association recommends a daily maximum added sugar intake of 24 grams for women and 32 grams for men. For those who drink soda and other sugary drinks, this is bad news. The standard can of soda has 44 grams of sugar (range of 40-48 grams), and is considered a serving size. That’s strange, given the fact that any bag of sugar lists the serving size as 4 grams (1 tsp). Does that mean a can of soda is really 11 servings of sugar? I bet so. Personally, I target 10 grams of sugar a day. Some days are more, many are less. Its not as hard as I initially thought, but it does involve tradeoffs. Though soda, American style candy bars (Snickers, Milky Way, M&M’s are off limits). Here’s some treats that tend not to break the rules in moderation.

Walker’s Shortbread Cookies: Serving size 1 cookie, 3 grams sugar, very whole ingredients

Lindt 85% dark chocolate bar: A personal favorite, with 5 grams of sugar per serving size of 4 squares, which I normally eat 1 square at a time (1.25 grams).

Slice of homemade pumpkin pie (reduce the sugar here, it will work, trust me): 8 grams

Some dessert breads are OK, but watch out as many normal breads are loaded with sugar

Lastly, I have found good success in the international food aisles for healthy treats.

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