How To Grocery Shop Like A Pro

Perhaps you just moved out. Or maybe you’ve been living off of fast food and gas station grub for the past month to avoid the grocery shopping process. Either way, this is your handbook to shopping like a seasoned veteran.

Bring a list. Don’t lie to yourself. A mental note won’t cut it. You’ll forget the most crucial items you need and realize it as soon as you return home from the store. Try posting a list on your refrigerator, and updating it as you run low or out of items.

Browse through the ads in advance, forming a game plan. A little preparation never hurts. If you can enter the store with an idea of what you want, and knowledge of which products are on sale — you’re in good shape.

The golden rule. Surely you’ve heard this before, but, never go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. Everything will look delightful and you’ll overspend considerably. Which brings me to another important guideline; set a budget. There’s nothing worse than getting a total at the register that’s way larger than you anticipated.

Shop really early or really late. Mornings are full of the elderly, and late nights are full of weirdos, but the key is that there’s very few of them. Going in the daytime means sharing the store with the masses. They’ll block aisles carelessly, and go through the express lane knowing damn well that they have over 10 items.

Be thorough. Check your eggs for cracks and fruits for soft spots. It’s a bummer to discover damaged goods when they’re already home with you.

Buy the things that don’t magically appear. When I first moved out on my own, I was shocked by the amount of products that you never think to buy, like ketchup, mustard, spices, tape, scissors, cooking utensils, etc. All those years of parents replacing condiments, toiletries and random items can make a person oblivious to the fact that they don’t replenish themselves, or materialize in your handy drawer.

If a savings card is available, get one. Numerous stores offer special cards that provide discounts on sale products. You may be in a hurry, but it’s well worth 30 seconds of your time to acquire one for the long run.

Experiment with generic products. For the most part, these decisions will depend on your own taste buds and opinions. Some people don’t mind that store-brand cereal gets soggy quicker, or the generic lotions doesn’t moisturize well — they can buy the cheaper versions. For those who need particularly soft skin and crunchy cereal, marque names are a must. Careful though; some products such as batteries aren’t worth the logo. Yes, Energizer lasts a little longer than the no-names, but they cost so much more that they still aren’t as good of a deal.

Use coupons. They may seem annoying and time consuming… because they are — but if you want to save some coin, take advantage of them.

DON’T make eye contact with the racks in the checkout section. If you do not want to waste money, look straight ahead when checking out. If not, you’ll spot the candy. It’s buy two, get one free — and a Snickers bar sounds delish right about now. Hell, they’re only 79 cents apiece, why not just do it? Or, those Godforsaken gossip magazines grab your attention. The “Best Celebrity Beach Bodies of 2012” is virtually impossible to resist, plus exclusive rumors about Will and Jada’s marriage? Yeah, why not cave and buy one?

Learn proper etiquette. Also known as common decency. If you have a shopping cart crammed full of groceries, and the person behind you has a single pack of gum, be generous and let them go first. Surely you can allow them to get their 20 second transaction out of the way, before beginning your much longer one. TC Mark

image – ShutterStock


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  • Ben Lebovitz (@lebovitzben)

    eeeeh, dodge the whole thing and order online. Slightly more expensive, but the price difference is made up with one meal where you didn’t get to the store.

    • Guest

      I actually find that shopping online for your groceries is cheaper than in-store because you are less inclined to compulsively purchase items that you see as you peruse the store.

    • sfowlie

      Sorry but not everyone lives in NYC.

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  • siren_mermaid

    *aisle. c’mon.

    • sir woebegone

      so sad

  • Borisa

    I particularly love the part about the things that dont magically appear. I am just moving out and this guide was really helpful.

  • FC

    the condiments, so true.

  • shewastheyoungamerican

    Also, when it comes to produce – always hand-select and buy in bulk. Grocery stores up-charge so much for the pre-packaged stuff.

  • Jessica

    Also, if you are living on your own and cooking for one: be very thoughtful about how much produce you are actually going to go through before it turns black, and buy frozen versions of veggies you won’t use more than occasionally.

  • paige

    I somehow got into the habit of grocery shopping at 11pm and it is the greatest! No lines, they restock in the middle of the night so you almost always find what you’re looking for, and the night clerk at my grocery store has a hook for a hand. Just the best.

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  • Grocery Worker

    As a grocery store worker, I highly advise you do not shop within the last hour before a store closes. It’s a huge bummer for everyone worker as we wait for you to finish your shopping so we can finish and go home to our own friends and families. At the very least, don’t bother people at the service deli or meat department within that last hour because they’re just trying to finish cleaning everything so that they don’t have to stay for an hour longer than anyone else does.
    My best recommendation is that you go first thing in the morning, preferably before 11:00AM or between 2:00PM and the last hour before closing time. Everyone will be a lot more apt to help you with any concerns, questions, or special requests you have. The morning is best though when everything will have been stocked from the night before.
    Also, when someone asks you if you need help in a grocery store, always reply with a “No thanks”, but don’t simply ignore them. We will remember you, we will “run-out” of whatever you were looking for, and we won’t want to help you in the future. Last note, don’t be a sample whore in the deli section and not buy anything. At least be honest and say, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t like the 12 things you just let me taste. Thank you though.” It won’t make us feel like we just wasted 20 minutes not selling anything.

  • duana

    And, for the love of all that is holy, be kind to all of the employees you encounter!

  • Yasu

    you forgot: don’t go shopping hungry.

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