Grocery Shopping 101

By Francine Fluetsch on May 11, 2014

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You know what I really miss about living at home? Coming home to a freshly stocked fridge. Those were the days, huh? Grocery shopping can be a daunting task, but here are some tips that will hopefully make your experience a little less hectic. You’ll be a pro grocery shopper in no time.

Make a list: You may think you’ll remember what you need when you get to the store, but chances are you are going to forget a few key things, so why not make a list quickly at home. I usually make a list throughout the week on my phone. Whenever I’m zoning out in class, I’ll eventually think about something I have to buy and add it to the list. Right before I go to the store, I check the fridge to make sure I’m not forgetting anything. I still usually will forget something, but for the most part, the list is really handy.

You can even buy those pre-made lists where you just have to put check marks by the things you need. They have ones that are “health conscious” as well, so you’ll be less tempted to scribble “buy ice-cream” onto your list.

Don’t shop while hungry: When you’re hungry, you can convince yourself that you need things in the store that you usually wouldn’t buy. Not only does this bring up the price of your purchase, but it will also leave you regretting buying those cookies that you finished in one night (we’ve all been there). If possible, try and go grocery shopping after you have a happy, full tummy. It will help you focus as well, so you’ll be able to get in there, grab your stuff and get out. Here’s an article on Reuters that verifies this isn’t just a theory.

Splitting the groceries: If you and your roommate(s) decide to split the groceries, it can really cut the cost and allow you to get more things and not have them go bad. My roommate and I have a conjoint list, and separate lists, so we can get things together without making the other person pay for things they don’t like/can’t eat. If you don’t want to split, that’s fine, but it’s definitely something that would be good to consider.

Plan out meals in advance: As the dining halls say here at UC Santa Cruz: “be a taster, not a waster.” Before you go shopping, it would be a good idea to try and plan out the meals you want to make for the week, so you know the ingredients you need to buy. You don’t want anything to go bad because you bought too much. Of course schedules and homework can get in the way and you might not be able to make all the meals you planned for, but it’s a good way to estimate what exactly you’ll need and what would just go to waste.

When planning this out, keep in mind the size of the dish as well. Leftovers mean less cooking (yay!) but too many of the same leftovers equals you throwing a bunch out.

Shop the outer aisles first: The outer aisles of the grocery store are where you want to get most of your things. This is usually where the fresh produce is; the inner aisles are filled with those yummy but not so good for you treats. This is not to say that you can’t go into the inner aisles, it’s just something to keep in mind.

This article by Stepfanie Romine said “Instead of going up and down each aisle, look at the signs in each one. If you need frozen broccoli, don’t venture down the ice cream aisle.”

We all know it’s hard not to grab those Chips Ahoy if we see them, so if you don’t want to be tempted, stick to the groceries you need, and ask for help if you can’t find the aisle.

Think organic: Organic food is a personal preference, and arguably isn’t all that different from non-organic, but I personally love it because it makes me feel good. The fruit seems to taste sweeter, and I feel less guilty about indulging in organic snacks. And since I am an advocate for eating organic, here’s an article about 10 reasons why organic food is better.

When buying eggs, go for the free-ranged ones. This means that the chickens that laid them could run around outside and weren’t stuck in those cruel cages. You may not believe it, but a happy chicken lays better eggs!

This goes the same for milk and all other animal products. The cows that can actually go on the pastures and roam around, and actually eat grass, are going to produce better milk. I also feel better giving my money to those farms since I know they are treating the animals right. It’s a small way to make a difference, and if you don’t care either way, you might as well be helping out some cute little chickens and cows.

Reusable bags: In Santa Cruz, they are now charging people for paper bags (plastic is not even an option), which I think is awesome. This reminds people to bring in their reusable bags to help out the environment. The reusable bags are sturdier anyway, and they make for a great book bag or sleepover bag! They even sell reusable bags that are made to keep groceries cold, so if you have a long walk/drive home, you don’t have to worry about that ice cream that you didn’t want to buy melting.

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