— Americans are now spending less time eating out, and a lot more time in the grocery store. So before you go shopping, Reader’s Digest shares hidden tricks of the trade that will help you save a lot of money and make your family’s meals healthier:
1. If you hate crowds and lines, shop at dinnertime (5 to 9 p.m.) or even later. Only 4 percent of shoppers hit the aisles between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. Least-crowded day of the week? Wednesday.
2. Go ahead and reach way back for the fresh milk. Everybody does.
3. Coupons with a bar code are easy to scan. The other ones take an eternity. But if you're willing to wait ...
4. That star fruit has been here a lot longer than the broccoli. Familiar produce turns over more quickly than exotic things.
5. "The more products you see, the more you are likely to buy," says Marion Nestle, author of "What to Eat." "That's why the aisles are so long and the milk is usually in the far corner."
6. Like employees with a good attitude? Shop at chains that are employee-owned, suggest customer-satisfaction surveys. When employees have a stake in the profits, it shows in their attitude.
7. The "grazers" order food at the deli, eat it as they're shopping, and get rid of the wrappers before they check out. We also call that stealing.
8. I'm not just selling groceries, I'm selling real estate. Look high and low — literally — for good values from smaller manufacturers who can't afford to stock their products in the eye-level sweet spot.
9. We're marketing to your kids too. That's why we put the rainbow-colored cereals and other kiddie catnip at their eye level.
10. Be wary of "specials." When people see signs with numbers — "8 for $10!" "Limit: 5 per customer" — they buy 30 to 100 percent more than they otherwise might have.
11. The baby formula is locked up because thieves resell it on the black market. Ditto for the cough and cold medications, smoking-cessation products, razor blades, and batteries.
12. Driving your Ferrari to the Piggly Wiggly and want to avoid shopping-cart dents? Park far, far away.
13. You'll end up tossing 12 percent of what you buy.