7 Mistakes everyone makes at the grocery store
The key to mastering your grocery store domain? Knowing the common mistakes that are made, even amongst the best of us, when navigating the supermarket aisles.
Not making a list
We’ve all been there — sailing through the supermarket aisles, all willy-nilly without a proper list of the items we’re after. And what have we learned? It’s a sure-fire way to come home with items we don’t need, and it doubles the grocery bill. Before heading to the store, examine your fridge and cupboards, jot down the essentials you’ve run low on, and make some plans for meals that use things you already have on hand (especially the produce you still have in your veggie drawer). Don’t forget to check toilet paper and cleaning supplies!
Not double-checking your receipts
Incorrect charges on your receipt are far more likely to happen than you realize — especially if you haven’t been checking your receipt as you leave the store. Common errors include items scanned twice, sale prices not being reflected, and coupons not scanning properly. Take the extra minute or two to peruse your receipt before you leave the parking lot. When you spot an error, go straight to the customer service desk, not your original cashier. If it’s a coupon issue, bring the item associated with the coupon with you to show you bought the correct brand and item. Yes, you’ll be that person. You’re just doing what’s right.
Falling for marketing ploys
Supermarkets have all sorts of sinister tricks up their sleeves in getting you to depart with even more of your hard-earned money. The first one we all know and love is the end cap, the display at the end of an aisle that’s dressed up to showcase a great sale on a featured item. Problem is, the item often isn’t really on sale. The second trick is all too familiar to parents: the manipulative placement of items. Notice how the cereal boxes with your kids’ favourite cartoon characters are placed at their eye level. This trick carries over into other aisles as well, so stick to your list! Last but not least is the “limited quantity available” trick. When the store circular says the packages of frozen pizza are strictly limited to four per person, it’s not out of consideration to their customers. They’re outright playing with your mind. Only buy it if you need it.
Forgetting to check expiration dates
This one may seem like grocery shopping 101, but if you’re in a hurry, crammed into a busy store, or have the kids in tow, it might be easy to grab one of your essentials, neglecting to check if the expiration date has come and gone. It may even surprise you to learn that there are no rules preventing a store from selling expired food — the information about suggested “sell-by” dates is entirely at the manufacturer’s discretion. In some cases, this can score you a great deal, particularly on meats or pre-packed produce that you plan to use or freeze that same day. You might even get a discount if you spot an item that expires today and hasn’t already been reduced. Some items also tend to be fine past their recommended expiration. I prefer older eggs for making hard-boiled eggs, and my sour cream always seems to be fine to use long after it’s “expired.”
Not knowing which produce is in season
I will admit to being guilty of ignoring which produce is in season when I’m at the supermarket. If I want raspberries, then I want raspberries! But I do know that sticking to a cartful of fresh, seasonal produce is a great way to save some money. I also know that fresh, seasonal produce is going to taste better than fruits and veggies that have been stored, refrigerated, and shipped over long distances, not to mention the extra dose of pesticides and fungicides they may get to prepare them for their gas-guzzling journey. Aim to get familiar with the proper seasons for your favourite produce, and try some new ones you may not have tried before.
Going when the store is too busy
I realize that not everyone has the luxury of picking and choosing the time of day they can make it to the shop. I do believe we would all agree, however, that weekends, particularly Sundays, can be a time when normally peaceful neighbours will be far more likely to smack into your behind with a shopping cart if you dare linger too long as you move through the coffee aisle. Other times to avoid are lunchtime, whenever children in your town get out of school, and rush hour. I find it right when the store opens and later at night to be ideal hours to get the best out of my shopping experience. The one drawback? Hot specialty items, like hot pies, may not be ready yet or may be sold out for the day.
Forgetting your reusable bags
There’s a good reason my husband refers to me as his “tree-hugging’ hippie wife.” Yes, I am that person who brings my own bags to the grocery store, and I have no shame. Plastic grocery bags litter our nation’s storm water drains and our planet’s oceans. They aren’t easily recycled, contribute to flooding, and endanger wildlife. Buying plastic bags every time you go shopping ads up and you can save a lot of money by just reusing the same plastic bags. Leave a stack of neatly folded reusable bags permanently in your trunk and feel good about doing your part to save the world.