How to Grocery Shop Like a Pro

Grocery shopping can be a challenge. The struggle to hit less crowded stores, find the right brands, and figure out your favorite products is real. This article will teach you how to master one of life’s most difficult tasks with just a few mindful grocery essentials.

Grocery shopping for one is a difficult task, but it can be done. There are many ways to save money when grocery shopping. One way is by buying in bulk and planning your meals around what you have on hand. Read more in detail here: how to grocery shop for one.

This essay series is now available as a professionally designed, distraction-free paperback or ebook that you can read at your leisure while offline.

This is the one article that wasn’t initially planned for this series, but we decided to add it after seeing it mentioned numerous times when we asked for suggestions at the start.

I completely see why that was asked. Many duties are assigned to children by their parents as they grow up, but food shopping is traditionally the exclusive responsibility of mom and dad. As a result, when a young guy goes home, he finds himself squinting beneath the bright lights of the neighborhood supermarket, surrounded by hundreds of items. He may feel a bit euphoric on his first expedition as he pushes his very own shopping cart around the store, but his delight soon turns to dismay when he discovers mid-week that after dropping some serious cash at the cashier, he now has nothing to eat.

We’ve included some basic hints below so you can confidently navigate the grocery aisles and get the most bang for your dollars.

Choosing a Shopping Location

Vintage man at grocery store counter paying for food.

Back in the day, you either prepared your own meals or purchased it from the town’s only general shop. When it comes to where we get our food, we now have practically an embarrassment of riches. It may be difficult to navigate through all of those possibilities, so we’ve listed their benefits and drawbacks below, along with a brief overview of each:

Supermarkets of the Past (Safeway, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Kroger)

  • Pros: takes coupons, offers a variety of in-store promotions, has a vast assortment of items, offers fruits and vegetables out of season, and offers discounts to customers with loyalty cards.
  • Cons: fruit is often trucked in from all over the country/world and isn’t as fresh; larger choices may tempt you to purchase items you don’t need; higher pricing than cheap shops.

A classic grocery shop provides convenience by allowing you to buy bacon, toilet paper, and shampoo all in one trip. However, you pay for this convenience by paying more for items that aren’t on sale or for which you don’t have a coupon. However, you may save a lot of money if you shop the promoted in-store deals at regular supermarkets.

Sam’s Club and Costco are examples of warehouse stores.

  • Benefits include grocery and gas savings, as well as a broad choice of merchandise ranging from bags to TVs.
  • Cons: $55 yearly membership cost, limited product selection, you may not need such large amounts of things, and they only accept their own coupons.

Customers may save money in warehouse shops by purchasing items in bulk, such as large pallets of toilet paper or large bottles of soy sauce. It is hotly contested whether the burden of this method and the compulsory yearly membership cost are worth it. It is undeniable that you can save a lot of money on products; bloggers have recorded it. But, before we get into the “cons” indicated above, there are a few things to keep in mind:

 

  1. People believe that every item at a warehouse shop is the best value in town, but this isn’t necessarily true. Even for essentials like shampoo and toilet paper, utilizing a coupon or taking advantage of an announced deal at a grocery store may frequently save you a lot of money.
  2. You may be tempted to purchase stuff you don’t need because of the large choice of products accessible outside of food and paper goods.
  3. If you purchase anything in quantity, you may not be able to finish it before it spoils. This is particularly crucial for the young bachelor, who may not have the space to keep large pallets of belongings and will not be gobbling up goods like a family of six.

In general, I don’t believe a warehouse store membership is good for a young guy just starting out on his own. If you do acquire one, divide it with a buddy (you may share a card if you go together) and limit your purchases to non-perishable items.

Ethnic Grocery Stores are a kind of ethnic grocery store that sells ethnic foods.

  • Pros: unusual items and meat cuts, generally lower costs on vegetables, meat, and spices, and fresher meats and produce.
  • Cons: limited product range; “American” items (such as Oreos) are more costly.

Checking around your local Indian, Asian, or Mexican grocery to see what they have that no other shop in town has may be entertaining. I prefer to go to the supermercado to acquire freshly baked tortillas and a variety of Mexican pastries when I prepare carne asada.

You may have heard the urban rumor that ethnic grocery shops offer cheaper pricing on meat and vegetables because they are not required to adhere to the same safety regulations as other businesses. However, this is a misunderstanding. The reduced pricing are due to the store’s direct procurement of items, which eliminates the intermediary.

Ethnic grocery shops, in my experience, aren’t always as clean as standard grocery stores, but that may not be such a terrible thing!

Grocery Outlet Store (local variations)

  • Pros: substantial product discounts
  • Cons: less fresh food, constantly changing choices, suspect goods

Dented cans, goods that are about to reach or have past their “use by” dates, Christmas-themed cereals in July, items that a typical shop chose not to offer anymore, and so on are all available in an outlet grocery store. On these “second-rate” things, you may find some fantastic prices if you browse carefully. You may become ill from dents in cans and outdated meat and dairy (see below for more information about expiration dates).

Aldi is a different sort of bargain grocery shop to check out if you live in the Eastern half of the nation. While outlet stores discount groceries because they’re “second-rate,” Aldi lowers prices by focusing on a small selection of their own decent-quality house brand, accepting only cash, debt, or EBT cards (no credit cards or checks), stocking the few aisles with products still in boxes and pallets, and requiring you to bring your own grocery bags and “rent” a shopping cart for 25 cents (you get your quarter back when you return the cart).

 

Stores that sell natural, healthy, or organic foods (Whole Foods, local natural food stores)

  • Pros: large range of fresh/natural/organic groceries+unique products+specialty health goods (gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan, vitamins/supplements), bulk items such as grains and spices are less expensive.
  • Cons: Overall, there is a less assortment of items and costs are higher.

While many standard supermarkets have started to provide a variety of natural and organic foods, natural grocery shops have a far larger assortment and are reputable suppliers of grass-fed cattle and free range poultry. At the same time, you’re out of luck if you’re seeking for Cheetos or cream of mushroom soup.

Health grocery shops have greater pricing than typical grocery stores, but you get a more natural product as a result of the higher prices. Spices and cereals, for example, may be cheaper in quantity here.

Markets for Farmers

  • Pros: delicious, fresh food; opportunity to support local farmers.
  • Cons: higher pricing, may only be hosted once a week, and what is provided varies seasonally.

Farmers from the region sell their vegetables, meat, and baked items at weekly farmer’s markets in several cities and towns. It’s a pleasant event to attend (bring a date! ), the food is fresh and tasty, and it’s excellent to support local farmers instead of big corporations. The disadvantage is that the pricing might be rather high.

Farmers from the region sell their vegetables, meat, and baked items at weekly farmer’s markets in several cities and towns. It’s a pleasant event to attend (bring a date! ), the food is fresh and tasty, and it’s excellent to support local farmers instead of big corporations. The disadvantage is that the pricing might be rather high.

So that’s a summary of your primary food shopping alternatives. And, with these options, comes even more: many consumers choose to purchase at many locations. For example, you may set aside money to shop at a natural food store for meats and fruit while shopping at a bargain store for essentials. Alternatively, you might buy at several conventional supermarkets each week depending on which store offers the greatest bargains on the items you need that week. These promoted deals may be found both online and in Sunday newspaper inserts. Some companies, such as Wal-Mart, will match advertised offers from other locations, which might save you time going from store to store.

Of course, for many people, the convenience of purchasing everything they need in one place, such as Wal-Mart, exceeds all other considerations.

There are a few additional things to think about:

  • Will the gas I waste outweigh the savings I make by going to many stores in search of a good deal?
  • Is it vital to me that a shop has a good reputation for how they treat their employees?
  • Will I be tempted to purchase more than I need if I shop at a huge discount store, offsetting the savings? This, in my opinion, is insufficiently examined. Most of my grocery shopping has recently been done at a tiny natural foods store. Not because I had a lot of cash on hand, but because I noticed that I spent roughly the same amount of money buying there as I did at Wal-Mart. When I went to the latter, I invariably ended myself buying junk or packaged meals on the spur of the moment (oh cool, PF Changs in a bag) While the variety is lower at the natural food shop, I buy less packaged food and find it easier to keep to my list, so while the prices are higher, I buy less overall and the bill is about the same.

Shopping for Groceries Like a Pro

Always make a list. Always, always make a shopping list before going to the store to save time and money, and adhere to it faithfully. According to studies conducted by the supermarket sector, 60 to 70 percent of purchases made at the grocery shop are made on the spur of the moment. That’s very much how I’ve felt. When I initially began shopping for myself, I’d simply take stuff that looked nice and fascinating from the displays. This was not healthy for my budget or my waistline.

 

To make your shopping list, follow these steps:

  1. Begin by designing your weekly meal and then making a shopping list with the necessary goods.
  2. Do a fast check on your essentials once you’ve typed the items for your menu. How’s the milk, egg, and bread situation? Do you need any more paper towels or tin foil? How’s it doing with TP? If you know you need something but can’t remember what it is, go through your daily routine in your thoughts (first I brush my teeth, then I floss, then I go in the shower, then I wash my hair – yes shampoo! – that’s what I needed.) Items that are required should be included.
  3. Take your preliminary list and turn it into a master list that will streamline your shopping trip by grouping things that are similar in the store. Here’s an illustration:

Sample grocery food list for shopping at store organizing.

You may prevent going to the far side of the shop and then remembering you forgot something on the other side where you came in by combining things on your list that are located together at the store. To accomplish this, you’ll need to get acquainted with the layout of your grocery store, but the work will be well worth it since it will save you time and effort.

To obtain the greatest value, look at the unit pricing. When determining which product to purchase, look at the unit pricing rather than the entire price. The unit price of a product is the price per pound, ounce, liter, or other unit of measurement.

The unit price is often printed immediately on the shelf label, although it’s generally smaller and less noticeable than the overall price. Here’s a screenshot of Walmart’s pricing tags, with the unit price highlighted:

Grocery store price label unit price pointed out.

If your retailer does not indicate the unit price, you may calculate it by dividing the price by the number of pounds, ounces, or other units in the package. For example, a $5.00 10-pound container of flour has a unit price of $.50 per pound ($5/10 lbs = $.50).

It’s easier to compare pricing of various goods when you break down a product’s price like way. When various brands package the same product in varying amounts, this is very essential. Companies will package and price things in such a manner that you will really purchase the more costly item on a unit pricing basis in order to maximize profits. Consumers, for example, often believe that if they purchase the largest package on the store, they would obtain the lowest unit price. For the most part, this is correct, but it’s always worth double-checking.

A quantity surcharge is applied to certain goods. Grocery retailers often raise the price of items in large-package sizes, increasing the unit price. If a bigger product includes a quantity fee, buying the single serving or smaller box may be the better price. This occurs a lot with cereals, so compare before you go out and purchase the three-pound box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

 

When possible, buy generic brands. Generic items, as we covered in our essay on being a wise shopper, may be hit or miss. Many of them are made in the same facility as the brand-name product, but with a different label. They get a break since they don’t have to spend money on advertising to keep their “brand awareness” up. Other instances, a generic is less expensive because it is not as properly constructed. So just play around with it. I usually start with the generic and only swap if I’m unhappy with it.

Coupons aren’t necessary. This is only my opinion. Many individuals believe that couponing is the bee’s knees and that it is incredibly beneficial. I’ve attempted couponing before, but the benefits were never worth the time and effort. The majority of the coupons in the Sunday paper are for junk food like Dunk-a-roos and Juicy Juice cartons; I seldom used them anyhow. It’s important to realize that food makers aren’t printing coupons to help consumers save money. Coupons are a marketing approach used to get customers to buy something they wouldn’t have bought otherwise. I’ve also found that coupons are often offered for items that are already pricey. Buying the generic brand instead of clipping a coupon for the name brand will save me 15 minutes of my time and the same amount of money. Alternatively, I just choose the brand that is currently on sale at the shop.

vintage man holding bags of groceries smoking cigar.

Shoppers will shop.

Shopping on an empty stomach is not a good idea. Never shop on an empty stomach to save money. According to studies, customers who go to the grocery store hungry wind up spending more money on food. So, if at all feasible, go shopping after a meal. If your schedule doesn’t allow it, at the very least eat a little snack before going to the store.

Know the distinctions between “sell by,” “use by,” and “best by.” Most food goods have dates imprinted on them, which is simple to see. But what exactly is the difference between “sell by” and “use by”? Until I wrote this piece, I had no idea who I was! However, it’s useful information to have on hand since it may help you make purchase judgments, determine if a discount at a supermarket outlet shop is a good value or will make you sick, and avoid wasting perfectly fine food (and money).

  • Bye for now. The “best by” stamp, which is often seen on shelf-stable items, is not a safety rating; rather, it marks the point at which the product will provide the highest quality and taste. The texture and flavor may vary beyond that date, but it is still safe to eat.
  • Sell by the deadline. Meat, dairy, and bread products are typically marked with a “sell by” date. This label instructs the retailer on how long an item should be displayed on the shelves. You should always purchase “sell by” items before the expiration date, but the expiration date is not a safety signal, and the product may still be usable for days or weeks after you get it home and the date has passed if you keep it appropriately.
  • Make use of. The only indication that suggests that the product may not be safe beyond that date is “use by.” Although it is more often used as a “best by” label, since certain items deteriorate quicker than others, always eat a “use by” product on or before the expiration date to be safe. When purchasing a “use-by” item, make sure you have enough time to eat it before the expiration date.

Always reach to the back of a shelf to retrieve a carton of perishables like milk; the shop will place items that are closer to their “sell by” date in front of a shelf or on the top of a stack, while the fresher ones will be at the back or on the bottom.

 

Cook “use by” products on or before the expiration date, and keep “sell-by” perishables at 40 degrees or below, and “best by” goods in a cool, dry cupboard after you get them home.

Consult a “keep it or throw it” database to see how long you may store a “sell by” or “best by” item (or an item without a date) before cooking, eating, or freezing it. You may be surprised by the answers; for example, did you know that eggs can be kept for 3-5 weeks beyond the expiration date on the package? Checking dates might help you avoid wasting a lot of food. (However, always inspect an item’s appearance and give it a whiff for spoiling before eating!)

How to Tell whether a Fruit or Vegetable Is Ripe

Produce selection is difficult. You don’t want to purchase fruits and vegetables that are too ripe (if you buy them and don’t eat them right away, they’ll go bad), but you also don’t want them to be so under-ripe that you’ll have to wait a few days to eat them.

I had no notion how to choose fresh food for the first several years of my adult life. I’d walk to the fruit department and “imitate” what I observed my mother do when I was a kid with her at the grocery store. I’d pick up fruits and veggies to smell and squeeze them. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” I’d think to myself the whole time.

I eventually did some study on what I should be looking for when choosing vegetables after numerous visits of blindly fondling it.

Harvesting Ripe Fruit

  • Take a look. You can determine whether a fruit is ripe simply by glancing at its color, such as apples, bananas, and tomatoes. If you aren’t going to use the fruit for a long, buying it green at the supermarket will give it time to mature at home. Fruits with black marks or bruises, which indicate that they have been damaged, should be avoided.
  • It should be squeezed. The chemicals that keep the cells together in ripe fruit break down and change to water-soluble pectins, making the fruit softer and softer. As a result, a mild squeeze may be used to determine ripeness. The flesh of the apple should be firm yet yield slightly when touched. It’s not ripe if it’s rock hard, and it’s overripe if it’s mushy. Fruits including peaches, pears, plums, avocados, and kiwis may all benefit from the squeeze test. On fruits with thick rinds, such as melons and pineapples, it’s not as effective. You are, however, free to give your pineapple a soft, loving squeeze if you so choose.
  • Take a whiff. Fruity odors are produced by chemical changes in ripening fruits. Smell the fruit’s bloom end (the end opposite of the stem). A soft, pleasant scent is what you’re seeking for. It’s definitely overripe if it smells sour or too fruity.
  • Heap it up. Fruits like watermelons, cantaloupe, and tomatoes are known for their juiciness. Pick up the fruit in your hand and heave it to extract the most juice out of it. The heavier the fruit, the more juicy it will be.

 Picking Ripe Fruit and Vegetables 

 

  • Take a look. Look for veggies with a variety of colors. Dark-colored leafy greens are what you’re looking for. The more flavorful the leaf, the darker it is. It’s normal for lettuce and kale to have some brown patches, but they should be lovely and green overall. If a vegetable seems to be wilted, discard it.
  • It should be squeezed. Vegetables, unlike fruit, should be as firm as possible. Wilted and squishy vegetables aren’t very appealing. Broccoli, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and cauliflower should all feel solid. Lettuce, kale, and cabbage are examples of leafy greens that should snap with a lovely crisp sound.

Check out this helpful guide for additional information on picking veggies.

 

 

Grocery shopping is a chore that many people dread. It can be time-consuming and expensive, but there are ways to make grocery shopping on a budget easier. Reference: how to grocery shop on a budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I buy groceries like a pro?

A: Buying groceries is best done with a list. You should go to the grocery store and start your shopping at the beginning of an aisle, so you know what items work better together.

How do I get better at grocery shopping?

A: If youre using a grocery list, try scheduling it to your calendar or set reminders in order to keep track of what you need and when. You can also make lists with items that are similar together such as breads and meats or vegetables.

What is the smartest way to grocery shop?

A: The most important thing to do before grocery shopping is make a list of what you will need. Making the list ahead of time helps you save money because it prevents impulse buying which can be expensive and waste your food budget. When meal planning, try to have all ingredients for each recipe in one place so that if something goes wrong while cooking, like if someone leaves out garlic or sugar, then they dont miss anything vital and lose their dish entirely!

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