Comparison Shopping, Part 2
Know Your Terminology & Ignore Marketing
There are a whole lot of marketing terms that don’t mean what most people think they mean, and it can jack up the grocery bill pretty seriously. Your best defense against the price inflation of meaningless terms is consumer education.
What do I mean? Let’s take eggs as an example.
There are so many kinds of eggs at the store: white, brown, large, extra large, free range, organic, natural, cage-free…I lose track of all the kids of eggs. One of the (many) reasons we don’t buy eggs from the store is because all most none of these terms mean a whole lot, though their prices would make you think otherwise. Size grading is the one area where most consumers are aware of what it really means: eggs are a certain size, and you’re paying for that size.
Certified Organic from a major commercial producer? That’s a bit harder, as it’s all vegetarian feed (hint: chickens aren’t vegetarians; so, while this diet may–or may not–mean that the eggs contain less pesticide residue, in all other respects, they’re eating the exact same diet as non-organic birds and so are not nutritionally superior). Are they worth extra for the possibility that they may contain less pesticide residue? That is up to you. Cage-free and free-range are completely useless terms because their definition is so broad and unregulated. Yet, organic and cage-free double the price of eggs. When I advise clients, I tell them that if they can’t buy local, then organic is the second best choice. Cage-free and free-range are a waste of money. (And, on that note, brown eggs are no different that white eggs.)
This is also true of the term “natural” on products. Ignore it, and don’t bother paying a higher price for that term–it is essentially an unregulated term used by companies to make consumers feel better about paying more.
Buying whole, quality, truly organic and natural foods is not a waste of money; but, purchasing foods that are exactly the same as the much cheaper version on the shelf next to them is a great way to inflate the food budget.