This might seem like a no-brainer. Hungry? Want food – Go food place – Buy food – Fill belly = Belly happy. But to say there is a lot more doesn’t even begin to describe the most wonderful aggregate of human accomplishment – The Grocery Store!
If you’re like most people you probably visit your neighborhood grocery store about once a week and don’t give it much thought, but with a little bit of knowledge you can save yourself some time and money, extend your life, and maybe even make a political statement.
First, respect where respect is due. The modern grocery store is a relatively recent establishment in terms of our modern society, but it has grown to be a juggernaut in the global economy. The first “Super Market” is often cited as Memphis, Tennessee’s Piggly Wiggly which opened in 1916, but today the retail market value for the grocery store industry in the United States alone is over one trillion dollars every year. That’s right, U.S. consumers only spend more of their hard-earned money on housing and transportation than they do at the grocery store.
So now let’s look at those seemingly small food choices that we make every time we fill up our reusable grocery bags and see what impact those decisions might have on us and the world we live in.
Knowledge is power, and here are some things you need to know if you want to “Grocery Store” like a Pro.
Obviously, coupons can be a huge money saver, but here are a few lesser-known facts that might keep a few dollars in your pocket. And please look for more tips in the books listed below.
- Shop Alone: Avoid shopping with hungry friends or family members, as they may influence you to buy more than you need, or shop online. Many grocery stores offer online shopping and delivery services that can save you time and help you resist impulse buys.
- Make a List: Plan your meals for the week and create a shopping list. Stick to the list to avoid unnecessary purchases, or better yet; plan your meals based on sales. Take advantage of weekly sales by planning your meals around what's discounted that week.
- Look High and Low: The most expensive items are often at eye level. Look high and low on the shelves for better deals and of course, check the clearance Sections. Some stores have clearance sections for items nearing their expiration date or products with damaged packaging.
- Do Some Research: Understanding the layout and pricing strategies of grocery stores can help you budget more effectively. Knowledge of sales cycles, promotions, and pricing structures can maximize your savings.
Personally, I find wandering the food aisles relaxing. I call it retail meditation, but if you are in a hurry or shopping stresses you out, try a few of these tricks for more efficient shopping.
- Time Management: Knowing the layout of your grocery store can significantly reduce your time spent shopping. Efficient navigation through the aisles and sections saves you time and energy.
- Mobile Apps: Many grocery stores offer apps with features such as digital coupons, shopping lists, and personalized recommendations. Knowing how to use these apps can enhance the overall shopping experience.
- Smart Buying: Understanding product shelf life and storage recommendations can help you buy what you need and reduce food waste and unnecessary trips to the store.
- Timing Matters: Shop during off-peak hours to avoid crowds and potentially discover discounted items.
SAVE YOUR LIFE
Okay this is a bold claim and I’m not a doctor, but I think we can all agree that “you are what you eat” and the healthier you eat, the better odds you have on a longer, happier life.
- Shop the Perimeter: Fresh produce, dairy, and meats are typically located around the perimeter of the store. Focus on these areas for healthier options.
- Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. They tend to be fresher and less expensive. There is a lot of great research on eating cyclically. See some of the suggested books below.
- Understanding Labels: It’s time to read the fine print on the labels. Knowledge of product labels and nutritional information empowers you to make informed decisions about the food you purchase and consume.
MAKE A POLITICAL STATEMENT
How much this topic affects the taste of your food will differ vastly from one individual to another, but if you don’t think the consumer choices you make have any impact on the world around you, you’re wrong. The owners, CEOs, and majority shareholders of ALL major grocery stores support political candidates and causes of all shapes and sizes. This information is readily available on their websites and if you are having difficulty locating anything specific, your local librarian would love to help you find the information. You can visit any HCPL branch in person or click on this link, ASK US.
The expression, “Vote with your wallet” means every consumer choice you make has consequences. Here are some more things to think about as you push your cart down the aisle.
- Sustainable Choices: Being aware of the environmental impact of different products and understanding sustainable and ethical practices in the grocery industry can empower you to make environmentally conscious choices.
- Supporting Local Businesses: Knowledge of how your grocery store sources its products allows you to support local farmers and businesses by choosing locally produced items.
- Boycott or Support Specific Brands: If there are companies whose values or practices align with your political stance, consider supporting them. Conversely, you might choose to boycott products or brands that are associated with practices or ideologies you disagree with.
- Prioritize Worker Rights: Choose products from companies that prioritize fair wages, safe working conditions, and workers' rights. Ultimately, make informed choices by staying up-to-date on the political and social implications of various food products.
Hopefully, this article has made you work up an appetite for knowledge. Here are just a few sources for more information at Harris County Public Library.