Tips: Grocery Store Shopping

by on April 15, 2016 » Add the first comment.
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groc-bagGetting the Best Price

  • Pick up newspaper – look for Loss Leaders – These are the items that the store will take a loss on, to get you into that aisle, where frequently other prices have been increased.
  • Cheese . Cheddar is cheddar . It is a regulated label, so go ahead and buy the less expensive stuff
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a taste
  • Buy in bulk when possible
  • Freeze left over bread . Bread crumbs, croutons, bread pudding, etc.
  • Buy artisinal fresh-baked breads near the end of the day . They are usually marked down
  • If you are going to eat something THAT NIGHT, don’t be afraid to buy things that are on the last day of sale.  They are still perfectly good.
  • A lot of stores have SENIOR DAY.  Don’t be too proud to go on that day.  With a $100 grocery bill, if you go on Senior Day you could save up to $20.

Selecting Vegetables and Fruit

  • Cantaloupe: Sniff the bottom.  It should smell like ripe cantaloupe.
  • Avocados: When selecting an avocado, if you are planning on eating it right away, get one from which the stem falls off easily, but is still somewhat green underneath.  If the underneath has turned brown they are overripe.  If the stem does not come off, it is good to sit on your counter for a few days until it ripens. CLICK HERE for Avocado Tips and Tricks.
  • Watermelons:  You’ve heard of people flicking melons with their finger.  They are listening for a hollow sound.  As the sugars mature, the chemistry changes and they start to sound hollow rather than solid.
  • Shake the water off your veggies and you could save up to a quarter just in water weight.
  • Artichoke should be tight and compact.  If the tips have started to open, it means that they are losing their moisture and flavor and will be tougher
  • Garlic should be heavy for its size, and should absolutely not have tiny sprouts of green on them.
  • Grapefruit should be heavy for its size
  • Peaches, nectarines and plums should have a slight give to it – should not be too firm or too soft.
  • Bananas should have a few brown dots on the skin, indicating that they are at the peak of ripeness.  Too much brown would indicate that they are overripe and are great for banana bread.

Pharmacy Tips

  • Try dark chocolate for cough suppression
  • Black tea has tannins . Use them for baggy eyes
  • Fish oil . Look for EPA and DHA  . Omega 3 fatty acids help headaches
  • Keep steri strips handy for knife cuts, rather than standard band-aids
  • Some stores give fuel points.  Even though a prescription might be a bit more expensive, consider the hidden benefits.

Get cold things last – take a cooler

  • Get cold things like milk, eggs, cheese, meat and ice cream last, so that they don’t start to spoil before you even get them home.  Better yet, take a small cooler.  First stop will be the deli, where you can put some ice into your cooler.

Things that fall through the cracks

  • Ice reminder: Why do they put the ice machine AFTER the checkout line.  I frequently forget ice until I have finished checking out.  To help you remember, write a note card and laminate it in plastic.  Put it in your cart with your other groceries.  The clerk will see your sign that says something like “Don’t forget the ice.”  and life is good once again.

Organize your list

  • If you make a shopping list (which you should) put dairy together, fruits and vegetables together, as well as cereals, meats, canned food, etc.  It will make your shopping trip much more efficient.

Sandwich toppings

  • For jelly/jam sandwiches, use fruit preserves rather than spreadable fruit.  Actual preserves have a bit less fruit in them, but have a better texture and balance of sweetness than the spreadable fruits, which are flavored with miscellaneous fruit juices.

Buying Damaged Goods

  • You can buy older bananas for a discount.  If you are making banana bread, rather than buying fresh bananas and letting them age, ask for the discount.
  • If you are making marinara, ask for a discount on bruised tomatoes.  They won’t sell as sandwich tomatoes, and they are usually glad to get rid of the damaged product.
  • The same goes for a head of lettuce or a melon.  If a piece of it is damaged, ask for half off.  The soft spot frequently means that it is at the peak of ripeness, and as long as you are eating it that night, it will be delicious.
  • Dented cans are another source of good savings, but if the top lid is puffed out at all, turn it in to the manager.  You will keep someone from getting sick that doesn’t know better.

Buying Ground Meats

  • You can usually ask your butcher to grind your meat for you.  That way, you know you are getting 100% meat without fillers.  The exception to this could be chicken or turkey.  Because of the potential for contamination, small butcher shops may grind chicken only one or two days per week.  Larger shops will have a dedicated grinder.  Call before you go.
  • It is risky to grind your own poultry.  There are special contamination issues that need to be addressed.  Trust me – it is more of a hassle than a benefit.  Let the grocery store deal with the grinding.  Ask them if their chicken is ground by them or by a third-party provider.  If it is them, they can tell you if it is 100% meat, or if it has other chicken parts in it.  You can ask them if they grind chicken on demand, or on a specific day of the week.  If it is the later, you can buy poultry and ask them to grind it for you.
  • Meat Dept . Look for the loss leaders and freeze it.
  • One of the newest scams is buy one get TWO free.  Check out the unit price for one, and compare it to the same item at other stores.  You will be shocked.
  • 80/20 meat is a good meat for grilling and for sausage.  A bit more grease than leaner portions, but a whole lot more flavor.
  • Use a coarse plate grinder for a more robust hamburger.

Buying Quality Meats

  • I think it is safe to say that you have all had a $4 steak from the grocery store, and wondered why it doesn’t taste as great as those that you pay $15 for in a restaurant.
  • The reason is not only atmosphere, it’s quality of product. Here in Arizona, you can go to The Meat Shop to preorder restaurant-quality cuts of meat. Another good source is Hobe Meats at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road; or if you are not in Phoenix visit Omaha Steak Company.
  • A much more convenient option is to buy from Omaha Steaks.  You will pay a bit more than a quality local grocery store, but your meat will arrive at your front door step the day after you order it.
  • YES, they cost you more than what you would pay at the grocery store, but you are worth it. The old adage “You get what you pay for,”  really comes true in this scenario.
  • Sterling Beef is one of the top quality meats available to consumers.  One of the chief factors is the inter-muscular marbling.  Good quality meats will be under 2 years of age.  The grades are:
    • Utility Grade – Good for ground beef.  Cows about 3 years old.   This is good for raw dishes such as carpacio or steak tar tar, because eating raw fat is not something we do often in America.  Usually entirely grass fed.
    • Select – This is good meat, but it is fairly lean, so will not be as fall-apart tender as meat with marbling. 30 months old or less.  (about $5/lb)  Sear and keep center about medium.  Cut against grain for something like fajitas.
    • Choice – Bit more marbling.  A very good choice for home grilling.  (about $8/lb)  A top quality home steak.  Fed its final days on ground corn, so it can be easily digested.
    • Prime – Lots of marbling, lots of fat.  Represents only about 3% of the meat available for purchase.  (about $12/lb)  Seared over very high heat, leaving the center rare to medium rare
    • Wagyu or Kobe Beef – Even more marbling… almost too much for some people. (can be as high as $25/lb or more) Usually slice VERY thin and then seared briefly, not cooked as a steak.
    • There are visual differences:  Check them out BY CLICKING HERE

Buying Fish

  • Fish should be whole and fresh.
  • If you know your butcher, you can just ask for sushi-quality fish, but otherwise buy a whole fish.
  • Eyes should be clear.
  • Gills should be bright red.
  • Fish should never smell fishy or like bleach.
  • Flesh should not be mushy.
  • If you are using meat from a large fish, you can tell it is fresh by the firmness and visual texture of the flesh.
  • It should glisten.
  • Go shopping with a cooler because it will degrade really quickly.

Food Fraud

  • Meat . Have them reweigh meat . Frequently has juice added
  • Veggies . Shake off all excess water
  • Real lemon juice . Look for 100% lemon juice, not just contains real lemon juice.
  • Look at ounces and portion size and number of portions
  • Check Unit price
  • Paper towels . Consider sq ft, square size, etc
  • Cheese counter vs dairy section . Labeling in the dairy section is regulated
  • Peanut butter . Look for a bottom dimple . The same goes for many similar items: if they indent the bottom, they can make the container appear larger, and actually give you less product.  Always look at ounces and unit price
  • EVOO . Look for certification seal CERMET . Don’t get blended olive oil
  • Honey . Look for raw, unfiltered, unheated, unpasturized  Locally produced honey also provides anti-allergens that can help you if you have local allergies.


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