Thursday, April 6, 2017

Six Grocery Shopping Solutions!

Or Making It Easy to get to the Table (Part 4)

I stood looking at the freezer section that held orange juice concentrates. There were probably five different brands each of which had three, four, or five variations, and two or three different sizes. Did I want regular, extra pulp, no pulp, calcium added, or no sugar added? How much did I want: six, twelve, or sixteen ounces? And which brand would produce the most orange juice for the least price while not adding sugar?

While I just stood there feeling dazed and staring, an older woman (since I was in my late twenties this could mean someone in their sixties, but my mind remembers a woman in at least her seventies) came and stood by me for a moment. Finally she looked at me and commented, "There are just too many choices, aren't there."

While I nodded in agreement, I thought if you only knew. If you only knew...

I had just arrived in the states after six years in Lima, Peru, where the grocery store had four aisles and most of them had one item--one kind, one brand, fixed government prices. There could be a whole aisle of corn flakes (not recommended as they hadn't perfected that science yet), or a row of dried beans, or a row of grainy chocolate used to make hot chocolate. There might be some chickens (whole with heads and feet stuffed inside), some beef (which required a pressure cooker to get it tender enough to chew), and some eggs (attached feathers free). If you wanted orange juice you bought a kilo or two of juice oranges and strengthened your arms by hand juicing them--full pulp, no sugar, no added calcium.

You'll be happy to know things have improved there since the 80s. I have to admit, though, that I envied those who had such "easy" grocery shopping in the states.

Now I live in the states, and it seems like every time I go to the grocery store there is something new to consider: organic? roasted? fresh? in water or olive oil? with extra vitamin C? omega-3 enriched? low fat? low carb? splenda or stevia sweetened?

When I think I know exactly what I like, the company changes their packaging or the store rearranges their merchandise. It's all designed to keep me in the store longer and spend more money. If the grocery store takes too much time or is too frustrating, we're not going to buy the food we need to have at home to make a family meal and that together time goes out the window in favor of everyone grabbing their own, fast food in the car, or eating too many calories and spending too much money eating out, just to eat.

So I have six simple suggestions to make your grocery shopping easier. This isn't how to have the lowest bill possible, there are plenty of others who can tell you how to do that. This is making it easy so you can spend your time getting your family together around your table.

  1. Have at least twelve different meals your family enjoys and you find easy to make. This is your go to list when you are deciding what you need to buy. Choose five of these, one new, or different recipe, and plan for leftover/dinner out/potluck at church/snack supper for the other meal. Go through each recipe and check your cupboard to figure out what you need to buy.
  2. Make a grocery list. Never shop without a list. You just forget too many things. (Never mind that I am capable of forgetting things that are on my list in my hand!)
  3. Know your store. While stores will change their products around from time to time, the same types of food stuffs generally stay near each other. Organize your list in the order you go around the store. I shop mostly at Aldi's so it's easy to zip through there with my ordered list.Extra credit: print out a list of the things you often buy in the order you find them in your store. Then you only need to circle what you need.
  4. Know your likes. If you cannot stand the store brand of ketchup, then just know you are going to buy Brand X and don't worry about price comparison. If the store brand is usually the cheapest and you like it, don't stand there trying to calculate which one is one cent less per ounce than the other. Learn if you like your orange juice with extra pulp or not and grab what you like.
    This darling little shopper is the son of friends of ours.
  5. Don't shop when you are hungry or have to go to the bathroom. Take care of those needs or  your brain will stop functioning and you'll be backtracking all over the store and forget to buy the coffee, without which you will die.
  6. Talk to someone while standing in line. Yup, your line is always the slowest, so enjoy it. Make an upbeat comment to someone else in line, even if it's about the weather. The other day a lady told me that she used to eat those chocolate-covered gooey-inside cookies with her dad, now long passed, and it was all she could do to not buy a box and eat the whole thing. Today the man in front of me had placed a strong empty box inside his cloth grocery bag, when I said, "What a good idea!" He told me it holds the bag open for him making it easy to pack the groceries. Both times, I was through the line before I knew it and on my way home to put the food away, ready to make another family meal.

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  1. I lived nearly a decade in China where shopping is like you described. Upon my return, a trip to Walmart could make me crazy.

  2. Yep, I find knowing what we like, what we need and where it is in the store are huge time savers.



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