Sad but true: One cannot live on cereal alone. And even if you can, eventually you’re going to have to make a trip to the grocery store to replenish your stash. Venturing into your local supermarket can be a daunting endeavor—especially if it’s your first time living on your own. When faced with more types of cheese than you knew existed, you may be tempted to make a beeline for the frozen all-in-one dinners.
Food shopping doesn’t have to be an experience you dread, though. If you have some time to get to know your local markets, you might even look forward to stocking your cabinets every week!
**6 Best Food Shopping Tips and Tricks**
1. Have a list. You might think you’ll have no trouble remembering what needs restocking in your cupboards, but you’d be surprised how quickly amnesia sets in once you’re faced with a store full of food. You’ll be halfway home and realize that you’re carrying a box of linguine…but you forgot to throw a can of sauce in the cart. Jotting down what you absolutely need to buy will help jog your memory, and you can always improvise if something catches your eye mid-shopping trip.
2. Start from the outside and work your way in. Miss Manners knew her stuff—that age-old etiquette adage holds true for grocery shopping, too. By and large, stores will stock their produce, fresh meats, bread, and dairy products on the perimeter aisles of the store. Starting in these borderlands can help you stock up on the (nutritious) essentials before you navigate the middle aisles.
3. Be flexible. Especially if you’re on a budget, flexibility is key. You might have strawberries on your list, but your grocery store could have a massive sale on pears this week. Unless your great-aunt is going to be in town and has demanded her favorite strawberry shortcake, swap the pricier fruit out for a more affordable one. The great thing about fresh produce is that different varieties will go on sale as they come into season—it’s like the universe is insisting you switch up your boring dietary routine!
4. Be fickle. There may only be one grocery store within walking or driving distance of where you live, but oftentimes bigger cities will have several clustered in a given area. If you’re price-conscious, take note of which stores offer better prices! On occasion, I’ll buy produce from one store, eggs and meat from a second, and milk from a third. Depending on each week’s sales, your best buy may not always be from the same store.
5. Don’t be too good for store brand. You might have been raised a diehard Quaker girl, but when pennies are pinched, opting for your grocery store’s rolled oats might help keep your budget from seeing red. You can often find a store brand for almost any item, from frozen vegetables to chicken broth, and they’re often much more cost effective. Plus, you won’t even notice the difference after you open the package!
6. Treat yourself. With that said, don’t be too much of a martyr. Everyone needs a creature comfort here and there, and if yours is a big ol’ bag of Oreos, there’s nothing wrong with that! Just make sure that you’ve taken that into account before you get to the store, so you’re not distracted by that giant pyramid of Nutella (hey, maybe it’ll go on sale next week).
Tara Powers is fairly sure she missed her calling as a personal shopper, grocery division. When she’s not trolling the aisles of her local supermarkets in search of the best price for peanut butter, she can be found copyediting manuscripts and/or blogging at Chip Chip Hooray.