I was shopping this morning and I noticed “Wow, there aren’t so many people in line today!” Of course, it was 8:30 in the morning. Yes, shopping early in the day or later at night is best. I thought it would be helpful to pass along a few grocery shopping hints so you can shop more efficiently.
Let’s start at home. First, make sure you have lists. As I shop at a warehouse store also, I have a separate list for that. There are about 10 staples I regularly shop for here, so as soon as one gets low, it goes on the list. Keep another list for pantry staples and refrigerator items. Make at least a rough meal plan for the week. Things always come up, but at least you will have a general idea of what you plan to cook. You can check sales online for any store, so plan according to what’s on sale. I personally don’t use apps, but there are many where you can store your master shopping list and even your recipes. On some, you can even search for new recipes. Try Epicurious or Cozi.
Know your store. Stores are laid out to make you buy more, not for efficiency. Make your list according to store aisles. Try to grab perishables first, then frozen items last. Don’t be entranced with the endcaps! They’re just the display at the end of the aisles and usually contain impulse buys, not sale items. Always check out the higher and lower shelves. Stores want you to buy higher priced brand items, so they are put at eye level.
Speaking of sale items, always check the unit price. This will be found on the shelf. Learn how to read the shelf tag. It will have “unit price per ounce” or serving. Bulk packaging is not always cheaper. Do stock up when the price is right. Be careful stocking up on sale perishables, especially produce. As far as generic or store brands go, they are hit or miss. Always try the generic first, it may be good! I’m very fond of my stores’ organic brand; it has good savings and is a little healthier.
My family is just my husband and I, so my weekly shopping is not too much. If your family is small also, use the smaller grocery carts. I think the bigger carts just encourage needless purchases. Do pay attention to how you pack your cart. Keep the fresh food up high on the top and meat away on the bottom.
Now we are ready to check out. Choose your lane carefully; I know it seems I never pick the right one. You would think it’s better to choose a line with people that have fewer items. But it’s not! You are better off choosing the lane with fewest people. Even if their carts are full, it will be quicker since there are fewer total transactions. Place your items on the conveyor according to how you want them packed. Place your cold items and heavier items first. Leave bigger and heaviest items on the bottom of the cart, cashiers have handheld scanners for these. Bring your own bags, many stores give you a few cents off and you’ll also help the environment. You’ll also have to take fewer trips into the house, as these bags hold much more.
If you really don’t have time to shop, consider a service like Peapod. They carry everything a regular grocery store carries. Amazon will send staples on your schedule that you set up ahead of time. They will notify you before shipping, so you can always cancel if you don’t need something yet.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO