Grocery shopping is a task that we must do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t practice some control over each excursion to the market. There are dozens of ways you can shop smarter before, during and after your trip to the market. Here are our favourite tips to help you save and still get all your grocery store staples.
Money saving apps
Favado (Free) — Compare prices across local stores. It even notifies you when prices drop on your favourite items.
mySupermarket (Free) — Use this app to get the best savings at your go-to grocery store. Choose the store you frequent the most to access exclusive deals. mySupermarket also has a “swap and save” feature to help you figure out if that sale price is really the best deal per unit!
Apples2Oranges (Free) — Two similar products, two different prices, two different weights. How do you know which one is the best deal? Apples2Oranges helps you compare products so you know if you’re truly getting a deal.
Olio (Free) — Olio’s goal is to minimise food waste, provide discounts and even offer free food! Businesses list foods that are near their expiration date and are being sold for bargain prices. Request a pick-up time and you’re set!
Vouchercodes.co.uk (Free) — Great for general savings at over 2,500 UK retailers (and restaurants!), Vouchercodes.co.uk provides discounts for a variety of products that can be accessed through the app or with printable vouchers.
Prepare a list before you go and do not stray from it. Walk through each room of your house to check inventory on things like cotton balls, bin liners and other household needs to help cut down on purchases you make because you’re unsure what you need.
If it is a store you visit often, visualize your path and do not let distractions sink in. If you really need to help yourself focus, bring headphones to listen to some upbeat music and keep moving.
Avoid going to the store for one item. Not only is it a waste of petrol and money, but you’re stuck with the temptation to fill your mostly-empty basket.
Plan a weekly budget and cut corners where possible to eliminate frivolous spending on things you don’t truly need.
How to Pick Produce
Bananas — Avoid any bananas with brown spots. Bananas ripen quickly, so choose a bunch that is slightly green.
Pineapple — Do you prefer it tart or sweet and soft? Unlike most fruit, pineapple does not ripen off the plant, so the more green it is, the more tart it will be. You can always smell the base for confirmation — it should smell like pineapple. If it doesn’t, it’s underripe. Also avoid pineapples with dried or dying leaves.
Watermelon — Melons or other large fruit and vegetables are ready when you knock their outer rind and hear a hollow sound.
Kiwis — These hairy little fruits are very similar to avocado — look for kiwis that are firm with a slight give.
Tomatoes — Tomatoes can be delicate, so avoid squeezing them. Instead, look at the colour. It should be bright and even.
Corncob — Look to the husk for this one. If it is green and fresh (not dull green or yellow and dry), the corn is ripe. You can also tell the corn is ready when the silks stick to the kernels.
Strawberries — The simplest way of telling it’s fresh? The scent. Strawberries are not very deceptive and smell just the way they’ll taste. Gauge their ripeness by their smell.
When in doubt, choose a fruit with the least bruising and one that doesn’t easily get smashed when you press on it.
Grocery tricks to be aware of
Scan the entire shelf from top to bottom. Grocery stores put the priciest items at eye level to catch your attention first.
Have you ever caught yourself walking at a slower pace through a market? That’s because many retailers will play music with slower rhythms so your gait decelerates and you spend more time in the store.
Have you ever noticed that the brightest and most alluring sections of the store are typically the first thing you encounter? That’s on purpose. Colourful produce and sweet smelling fruits inspire you to make more purchases.
When shopping with a cart, we tend to unconsciously buy more to fill it. In a recent study, it was discovered that increased cart sizes correlate to an increase in how much customers bought — 19% more to be exact!1
If you’ve ever thought about buying more of the product you need simply because it’s discounted for a certain quantity, you are in the majority of people who spend extra for no reason. Multi-buy deals increase our weekly spending by £13 per week on average.1 If you end up over-stocking your pantry or refrigerator, it may spoil and you’re left with wasted food (and money).
Do not purchase anything from the checkout line. If it was so important, they would have put it in another aisle for everyone to find. The markets are just preying on your impulsiveness – don’t give in!
Give yourself a time limit to avoid too much moseying around. It will help keep you focused.
Preserve Your Food to Shop Less
Bananas — Wrap the connecting portion in plastic wrap. Your bananas will last 3 – 5 days longer.
Milk — Freeze milk that’s about to expire into ice cubes. Use them in your iced coffee or tea. Make it a dessert by crumbling cookies in first before you freeze it.
Berries — Mix one part white or apple cider vinegar with ten parts water. Rinse your berries with the solution. Denser berries like strawberries can last up to two weeks, where softer berries (raspberries, blackberries, etc.) will last a week or so.
Avocado — Whether you saved a half of an avocado or mashed it into guacamole, don’t let oxidation ruin what you have left. Spray your avocado with cooking spray or lime juice to preserve it.
Hard Cheese — Rub butter or margarine around the edges of Parmesan or Romano cheese to minimise how quickly it will dry out.
Lettuce — Store any type of leafy vegetable with a dry paper towel. It will absorb excess moisture and keep your lettuce crispy longer.
Celery and Broccoli — Wrap dense greens in aluminum foil before storing them in the refrigerator. It will extend their crispy freshness up to four weeks!
Tomatoes — Store unripe tomatoes stem-side down in a paper bag (not the plastic bags from the grocery store — they trap ethylene gases). If your tomatoes are already ripe, keep them at room temperature and away from sunlight.
Mushrooms — Plastic bags tend to increase moisture and, as a result, encourage mushrooms to grow mildew and rot faster. Store them in a paper bag in a cool, dry place.
When in doubt, follow this chart to store your fruit and veggies for optimal preservation.
Optimal Storage for Produce
“One rotten apple can spoil the bunch” is not just an old idiom. A piece of spoiled fruit or vegetable can literally spoil the rest of the bunch, so remove it from the salvageable ones as soon as you can.
Make banana bread or other baked goods with overripe bananas. If you’re not in the mood for a banana-based baked good now, peel the banana and freeze for use later.
Buying in bulk tends to be cheaper over time, especially when it comes to meat. Sort the extra portions you don’t need right away into freezer-safe bags and freeze. Add in your favourite marinade for a quick and tasty dinner.
1Crouch, M. (February 2014). 50 supermarket tricks you still fall for | Reader’s Digest. Retrieved 20 June 2016, from http://www.rd.com/health/healthy-eating/supermarket-tricks/