Grocery shopping 101

I love grocery shopping. To me, it’s a sport as well as an art. I love leisurely navigating the aisles with my cart, going up every aisle (at least once) so to properly analyze and select the components of my next culinary creation. And since my local grocery store installed these laser-like scanners, grocery shopping almost feels more like a fun game of laser tag than the chore that it is often associated with. These scanners are available to store card holders and are used to scan items so that they can go right into the bag. To cash out, you just scan your laser, pay, and go. It's really quite brilliant.

That being said, I absolutely hate grocery shopping on Sundays in the city. It seems that my entire neighborhood waits until Sunday afternoon to head in mobs to the one little Stop and Shop. The problem with that is that the store looks like the aftermath of a bad Nor’easter. Vegetables are so picked over if available at all, random yogurt flavors (the kinds that no one likes) are sparsely scattered throughout the dairy case. And you can forget about having any sort of great meat or bread selection. It just won’t happen on a Sunday.
It is the all of these factors that make me deem Sunday’s not appropriate for me to go food shopping. Instead, I prefer to wait for Monday to do my shopping so that I can happily stroll through each aisle, taking my time and savoring the experience. (Yes, I like grocery shopping that much). The only downfall to this plan of mine is the occasional Monday where Boston is experiencing some serious monsoon weather. Fierce wind gusts are slapping the pouring rain around and the streets have partial flooding. On my way home from work, I literally had to pause to hold on to a tree in the middle of Copley for fear of being blown away. This clearly is no night to do cartwheels down the aisles of my Stop and Shop, no this is a night to stay in and enjoy a Spanish omelet and save my grocery shopping for another day.

Since we are on the subject of grocery shopping, I thought that I might take this opportunity to provide you with some grocery shopping tips that I use to help me on my shopping endeavors. Please note that these are in no particular order.

- Smell all the produce
Seriously. Get in there and get a good whiff. You might get some weird looks but who cares? You know your fruits and veggies will taste the best and that’s all that matters. By giving your produce a good sniff, you’ll be able to tell how fresh it is. If it smells fragrant, fresh and delicious, it probably is.

- Look at where your produce is coming from
Food that travels less will be fresher, tastier and more likely more nutritious. Studies have shown that produce that travels great distances to reach your dinner table experience a decrease in essential vitamins and minerals. Choose produce that was grown more locally. This information is usually provided on the product labels or on the price signs that the store created.
- Buy what's in season
When you buy items that are in season, mean at their peak in growth it will not only be cheaper, but much tastier too. Now is a great time to buy citrus fruit and root vegetables. This is a helpful link to help you distinguish what's in season in your area.

- Check the dates
Be sure to check the "packaged on" dates for all meats, cheeses, breads or anything else perishable. You want to purchase your perishables marked with packaged on dates as close to purchase date as possible. Simply put, the fresher the product, the better off you’ll be. Also, check the expiration dates and make sure that this time frame fits into your culinary agenda.

- Notice the colors
Make sure your produce and other perishables have a nice healthy color to it. Red meat should be a bright red color; chicken should have a nice even pale whitish-pink tone to it. Vegetables should be consistent in color (no unripe marks, bruises or gashes).

- Look for marbling
When buying red meat, (say, for a steak dinner) the most flavorful cut of meat will always have great marbling (which is referring to visible meat versus fat ratio). Great marbling means that the meat will be a nice reddish color with small, but consistent swirls of white (fat) going throughout the cut. The fat, for the most part, cooks down rendering the meat tender and flavorful.

Cost savings tips:

- Go to the grocery store armed with a list. This will keep you organized and on-task. It will also dissuade you from dropping extra items into your cart.
- Don’t go to the grocery store on an empty stomach. An old wives’ tale maybe but at least for me, I know that my grocery bags are a lot heavier on my trip home when I’ve gone shopping on an empty stomach.
- Get deli meats sliced thin. They will stretch further.
- Only buy produce that you plan to use within the next couple of days. You don’t want to be throwing things out because they have gone bad.
- Stock up on items that you constantly use when they are on sale. I’m not talking about buying 5 jars of BBQ sauce because they are $2 each, what city dweller has the space to store that? Instead, if you see an item that you use a lot on sale, buy one or two.
- Pay attention to manager’s specials and store fliers. I like to look them up online before I go to the store. Then I plan my meals around particular items that are on sale.
Happy shopping and stay dry Boston!


Alicia said...

I'm with you on the grocery shopping. I almost always shop on Mondays. And one of my FAVORITE things to do on my lunch break is go to whole foods, browse the aisles and eat the samples.

I had a friend once who said that grocery shopping is my therapist.

Katie said...

I love that line about grocery shopping being your therapist. It's so true, how can you be in a bad mood while grocery shopping?!

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