Smart Shopping: A Surprising Way to Tell If Meat is Really Fresh

Americans waste more than $2,000 a year by throwing away unused groceries. Are shoppers being duped into buying what they don't need by sneaky tactics employed by supermarkets? On Easy Does It with Ereka Vetrini, consumer spending guru Phil Lempert shares his strategy for smart shopping, including when -- and why -- you should avoid meat markdowns.

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First, shop on Wednesdays as this is the typical day that grocery stores host their sales. When you arrive at the store, Lempert recommends that shoppers avoid the path that supermarkets have set out. Stay clear of the produce department until the end of your trip. "It's full of aromas and colors and it puts us in a great mood, and we're gonna spend more time in the store," says Lempert. "I want you to head to the center of the store where it's got unemotional boxes and jars and cans and so on. And frankly, from a food safety standpoint, that's what you want to put in your cart first anyway. Then you can go to the produce because by now you're desensitized. Then you go to the dairy department, then you'll go to the frozen foods department."

And those food markdowns that look like deals of the century? If the purchase date is too close to the expiration date, walk on by -- especially when it comes to packaged meat.

Lempert points out that pork, chicken, beef and some seafood is often packaged in Styrofoam containers. Underneath the meat is something called a "bladder" and it's used to absorb the moisture from the meat or seafood. Excess juice means that it's likely old and should not be purchased. "If in fact the meat has been sitting in the case for a while," Lempert explains,"this is going to absorb any extra moisture so when you pick up the package you don't see those juices flowing. What I always do is I'll actually press down on the meat or the chicken first, and when I press it down, if there are excess juices, it'll come out."

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