Supermarket Secrets Smart Shoppers Know

Angela Charlton R.D.-N.'s picture
By Angela Charlton... on April 27, 2020

Want to save on money, time and stress at the supermarket?

Most people would say yes even at the best of times—but especially now, when grocery trips have gotten more complicated.

These tips will streamline your shopping trips now, and will still serve you well when we get to better days. 

Read on to learn three things savvy shoppers don’t do—and three things they do!

They Never Go in Without a Game Plan
How many times have you forgotten something on your list because you didn’t walk down that aisle?

And how annoying is it when you have to backtrack across the store multiple times to get what you need?

That’s why smart shoppers organize their grocery list by store sections!

They start with pantry staples like bread, cereals, pasta and canned goods, then make their way to the produce section.

Next comes eggs, meat and dairy, and finally frozen foods to minimize the time these items spend at room temperature.

They Don’t Shop Hungry
We all know that when we get home feeling super-hungry, our healthy dinner plan tends to fly out the window as we scarf down whatever is in front of us, too hungry to even think of cooking.

The same holds true when we shop on an empty stomach.

We’re much more likely to buy items that weren’t on our list (especially the heavily processed and less-than-healthy stuff) because they look extra appealing to our hungry eyes.

Smart shoppers have a healthy snack before they head to the supermarket to avoid temptation and keep their energy up!

smaple Virginia SNAP EBT benefits card in front of fresh produce
If you do not receive SNAP benefits (food stamps), try to plan your shopping for later in the month so recipients can access the staples and fresh foods they need when their cards are reloaded between the first and ninth of each month.

They Don’t Go Overboard on Perishable Items
Who hasn’t gone into the produce section with the best of intentions, filling a cart with fresh greens for the salads we just know we’re going to make for lunch all week?

Then, real life hits and by Friday we’re looking at some very sad-looking leaves wilted at the bottom of our produce crisper.

While eating healthier is always a great goal, smart shoppers save a lot of money by staying realistic about how much fresh food their family can finish in a week.

(And since everyone overbuys from time to time, they also know how to store and freeze fresh foods to keep them as long as possible!)

They Use a Master List
Why write out a grocery list from scratch each week when you typically buy the same things every time?

Smart shoppers keep a “master list” of all the items they always keep on hand.

You can save your grocery master list on your smartphone, or just write it down on paper and keep it on your fridge.   

They Avoid Peak Shopping Times
Peak times at a grocery store usually include:

  • 4-6 p.m. on weekdays
  • Midday on Saturday and Sunday

Smart shoppers get the job done faster by avoiding the busiest times, especially now when stores may be limiting the number of people who can enter at a time.

If you are above a certain age, usually 60-65+, or have a condition that could put you at higher risk from COVID-19, you may want to take advantage of the designated “senior shopping hours” that many stores have currently set aside for you.   

Do-good bonus tip: In Virginia, SNAP benefits (food stamps) are reloaded between the first and ninth day of each month. Many more people than usual are currently using these benefits to feed their families after losing jobs or hours due to COVID-19. If this doesn’t include you, planning your major shopping for later in the month (when possible) can help keep enough staples on the shelves for everyone!

They Keep it Clean
Surfaces that many different people touch each day, like shopping cart handles and self-checkout screens, have always been a potential source of germs—and COVID-19 has made us feel more aware of that lately.

Store employees are working extra hard to clean these items in between customers, but using a provided sanitizing wipe when picking up your cart or basket on the way in is still a good idea.

After they’re done, smart shoppers remember to use hand sanitizer in the car or wash their hands as soon as they get home!
Angela Charlton, R.D.-N., leads our Community Health and Outreach nutrition team and is a regular contributor to Carilion Living. 

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