Grocery Shop Like a Pro
Smart shopping helps you eat healthier and save money. Here’s how to avoid crowds, find the best food and cut costs.
Top tips for saving time and money.
The grocery store takes away a big chunk of your paycheck— and determines the fate of your weeknight dinners. Whether you’re picking up just a few things or stocking up for the week, there are plenty of simple ways to save time and money while at the grocery store. These insider tips will help your shopping go smoothly.
Skip Sunday Afternoons
With shoppers coming home from church, party hosts getting ready for the big game and procrastinators hitting the store before the weekend is over, Sundays are one of the most crowded times at grocery stores. Doing major shopping during peak hours could cause major stress; you’ll need to fight the crowds, endure long lines and have to browse picked-over produce bins. When to go instead? Basically, any other time. Off-hours are typically first thing in the morning, late in the evening and during the week, so plan your shopping time accordingly to save time and pick up the best goods.
Always Shop with a List
You think you’ll remember every item you need once you’re browsing the store, but in the hustle and bustle of shopping there’s bound to be something you forget. Before leaving home, check the pantry and make sure you have things like olive oil, pasta and other staples you might not buy weekly. Sketch out a few dinner ideas so you know what to buy and can cook on the fly after work. Plus, making a list beforehand lets you move more efficiently through the store. (Pro tip: If you organize your list by product type, grouping all dairy items, for example, it’s a breeze to pick up everything you need as you work through the aisles.)
Never Shop Hungry
On top of making it difficult to concentrate, being hungry while grocery shopping can potentially cause you to spend more. Research has proven that shopping for food on an empty stomach is a pricey risk. Hungry shoppers might buy items they don’t need or fill their carts with unhealthy snacks. Instead, try to shop right after meals or take along a healthy snack to enjoy and to help you resist temptation.
Take from the Back of the Shelf
Produce and refrigerated-item stockers follow a first-in, firstout organization, stocking new inventory behind the older inventory. For many items, such as packaged or frozen foods, expiration dates are far off. But for dairy, produce, eggs and other fresh foods, it’s worth reaching to the back to grab the item with the most distant expiration date.
Price Compare Beyond Sales
It’s hard sometimes not to pick up an item when it’s labeled with a brightly colored SALE sticker, but you should always look at other items and prices. Just because an item is on sale doesn’t mean it’s the cheapest option. Look around on the shelf and compare prices. Check for store-brand products, often the most affordable choice available. Your best bet is to check the item’s price per ounce as listed on its shelving label to determine the real cost. You may be surprised at what’s least expensive.
Steer Clear of Midday Shopping
If you’re looking to buy the freshest fruits and veggies, time your shopping trip to coincide with deliveries. Shipments of produce often arrive at local grocers in the morning as the store opens or later in the evening as the store prepares to close. So if you want the newest produce or a wider selection in the store, find out when your store’s shipments arrive and choose those times to shop for the freshest produce.
Grab Meat and Dairy Items Last
When you plan a longer shopping trip, you need to consider what items could lose their cool. On lengthy shopping trips, begin in the produce section and end in the dairy or meat aisles, as those products can spoil if left unchilled for too long. Unload and refrigerate keep-cold items first when you get home.