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SGIKS: Going to Market

July 27, 2010

I’m a single girl with a Single Girl in Kitchen Situation.
When I want a new dress for an upcoming event, as a single girl, I don’t settle. I have been known to start the shopping experience months in advance deciding on one dress, then another, and finally another the day before I wear it out.

When grocery shopping, as a single girl, I used to go overboard.  Purchasing everything that may fit into my kitchen, into my menu, into my mouth. Adjusting to taking market trips for one was a bit of a challenge early on, but I’ve come up with a list of tips over the last year that has helped me to reach single girl in kitchen situation grocery shopping success.  These tips are helpful no matter if you are shopping for one or a bunch!

Single Girl in Kitchen Situation’s Grocery Shopping Tips

Tip #1: Never go in hungry. You’ve heard it many times before.  Yet somehow, on occasion, we find ourselves entering automatic doors with a hungry tummy.  DON’T DO IT.  Would you go into the Gap naked? No. Because you would end up grabbing the first thing you saw, even it didn’t fit your body type or lifestyle.

Tip #2: List. You probably know to keep a running list of what you need as you need it, but why not keep other lists, too?  A list of things you purchase every trip, expensive items you would buy if on sale, or products you are wanting to try but not yet found.  These lists are semi-permanent and can be kept in your wallet for each trip.

Tip #3: The 80/20 loop. The outside perimeter of the store is filled with the freshest, healthiest ingredients.  Produce, bakery, meat, dairy, and sometimes bulk grains. To assure my diet is filled with 80% of the healthiest, whole foods and not as much packaged stuff I make an effort to spend 80% of my time in the grocery store in the outside loop.  I also try to keep my cart at a ratio of 80% items from the outside loop and 20% from the middle aisles.

Tip #4: Speaking of Carts…. you do not need a huge cart.  The grocery stores near me have a few shopping convenience options; hand held baskets, small double-decker carts, and GINORMIOUS shopping carts.  I usually choose the double-decker cart and only fill the top of the cart.  Choosing the grocery-mobile that best suits the needs of the mouths you feed, whether just your own or a whole group of hungry yappers.

Tip #5: High & Low. Those grocery store managers are tricky bastards.  They know their marketing.  That’s why they put what they want you you to buy at eye level.  When you do make your way into the middle aisles, scan the top and bottom shelves for the best priced items.

Tip #6: Do It Yourself. Forget 100-calorie packs. Convenient snacks are not so convenient for your wallet.  We want food to carry with us on our busy days. We want it to be inexpensive, we want it to be easy, we want it to be tasty, we want it to healthy.  It’s often more simple than we think. An orange is half the price of a 100-calorie snack bag of Doritos. (cha-ching!) Banana peel is the same amount of waste as a candy wrapper (only, bonus, biodegradable.) Not to mention how much you save buying from bulk bins.  Not only do you avoid paying for excess packaging, but you can choose the amount you want to buy (and therefore, not waste) at a time.

Tip #7: Thrifty is the new cheap. Don’t fear the discounts.  Buying in-season produce is a must (corn in August, apples in September.)  Stocking up on what you know will last when it’s on sale is key (long-shelf life groceries on super sale are great pantry fillers.)

Tip #8: Location, location, location. Don’t get in a market rut.  Give discount grocery stores such as Aldi, Price Right, or Safeway a try.  Don’t only visit your standard farmers market, visit small family run stands on the side of the road.  Every so often look for groceries in non-traditional non-grocery stores – I’ve found great products at great prices at TJ Maxx, CVS, and kitchen supply stores.

Tip #9: Connect. E-newsletters from grocery chains share promotional information of upcoming sales and coupons to your inbox.  Twitter accounts of favorite food companies links to discounts and free product samples. Sharing recipes with co-workers and neighbors means shared information on good prices and sightings of rare or new products.

Tip #10: Expect the Splurge. I am a single girl who has been known to have one glass of wine too many.  A time or two I’ve left the bookstore with seven new books. I am well aware that on most occasions I will likely leave the grocery store with at least three items that weren’t on my list, one of which is probably an $8 jar of nut butter, even though I already have six other brands/flavors at home.  Set aside a small amount for a “special splurge” budget.  You’ll thank yourself later.  Possibly while eating cashew butter by the spoonful while sitting on the kitchen counter.

What are your top grocery shopping tips?  Is money no object to you when it comes to food, or do you clip coupons and shop sales?

18 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2010 5:55 pm

    Going into the GAP naked would be interesting but not my idea of fun.

    Another tip I love is if I’m only going in for a few things I don’t even grab any cart or basket. That way I can only hold so much and carry to the check out. I’m less likely to grab things that look interesting and jack up my bill.

    • July 27, 2010 5:59 pm

      Such a great tip! I need to put this into practice at Target as well. although, then i fear i will just end up with something basket like in the check out line. (read: you can never have too many laundry baskets. ahem.)

  2. July 27, 2010 5:56 pm

    these are great !! 🙂 would you go into the Gap naked? hee hee !

    I love the small double decker carts!

  3. July 27, 2010 5:57 pm

    I’m totally distracted from how great this post is by the “Possibly Related Posts: (automatically generated) link to “17 Must-read wedding dress shopping tips””
    Oh Google.

  4. July 27, 2010 6:16 pm

    The Gap analogy just made me laugh. I love it. Love you!

  5. Sis permalink
    July 27, 2010 6:20 pm

    I am attempting coupons in my new home and cooking adventure. I use some a few coupon sites (CouponSuzy is a friend of mine) as well as manufacturer sites. I also set up an email account for ONLY coupons and offers.
    Before I go into a store I organize the coupons by “items I need” and “items I may purchase, depending on the original price.” So far (in the past week and a half) this has worked wonderfully!

  6. July 27, 2010 6:20 pm

    Here is one to think about: quality of experience at the grocery store.

    Do you chose the store that has the least expensive prices, or the one that you enjoy being in more?

    A chain where the prices are generally lower, or a locally owned store?

    A store that is slightly more expensive, but a better experience and more convenient – or the cheaper option that you have to go out of your way for and probably will make you cranky by the end of the trip?

    Those are my shopping dilemmas every week. I tend to choose convenience and a better experience over costs. 🙂

  7. July 27, 2010 6:28 pm

    My fav tip is #3. I’ve just started noticing that!

  8. July 27, 2010 7:32 pm

    Love number four. I REFUSE to grab a cart when I went Target because I know it will be full at the end of the trip. I try not to even grab a basket there!

    I always try to buy generic, unless I know that I’m brand specific to one item. I save a ton of money by shopping at the discount stores. That way I can treat myself to a Whole Foods trip every few weeks.

  9. July 27, 2010 8:26 pm

    This rocks. When I go to the grocery store I only grab a basket, which forces me to keep from purchasing random items on impulse. Sometimes it can be quite the workout lugging that basket around 😀 I definitely shop the perimeter and am aware of those schemey marketers (tips 5 & 6) but I never thought of creating a permanent list. Genius.

  10. July 27, 2010 9:28 pm

    Those are all such smart tips! I use the handbaskets to limit how much I can haul up front, but I’ll admit I often stagger up to the checkout, leaning sideways, lugging an amazing load of stuff *jammed* into the basket.

    But I get an arm workout at least 🙂

    Georgie Fear RD

  11. July 27, 2010 10:40 pm

    These are all awesome tips! I’m married, but I still use most of these.

  12. July 28, 2010 2:17 am

    Great tips!! Making sure to only use the hand held basket has helped me a lot! I also try to go to the store every couple of days because I eat a lot of produce. This way I can more easily plan meals. When I used to go once a week I WAY overestimated how much food I would need.

  13. July 28, 2010 8:14 am

    Ohhh I thought of another tip I use! Look to the unit price of the item you are purchasing. Oftentimes there are different sizes of the products, with the larger one being more expensive. BUT, when you break it down, the larger size ends up being cheaper. The unit cost is typically on the price tag on the rack. So if it is something that you purchase a lot of (for instance, the small jar of oats versus the big jar of oats), go for the larger size!

  14. July 28, 2010 9:29 am

    My TOP grocery tip? Go to the ethnic markets. The Middle Eastern/Korean/Indian/Thai/Chinese markets have so many more options for fruits, veggies, meat cuts and fish. Yeah, they’re lacking a bit in dairy products and cheese, but you can always go back to your regular store.

    And yes, always buy discount. If I can make it, I will. I never buy canned beans, I’ll cook my own. I don’t buy potato chips, I bake my own. That kind of deal. Tastes better and is usually cheaper anyway 🙂

  15. July 28, 2010 9:31 am

    I laughed out loud at your analogy about going into the Gap naked! I made the mistake of going shopping hungry on Monday and walked out of the store with a box of Joe-Joe’s (Trader Joe’s version of an Oreo only much tastier) which are prett much like crack. I felt bad throwing the box away so yesterday I “donated” them to my friend Nik.

  16. Stephanie permalink
    July 28, 2010 12:11 pm

    CVS = Best place for commonly used spices. I get cinnamon, onion powder, black pepper, etcetcetc for $1 each. =)

  17. July 29, 2010 2:09 pm

    This post is meant for me! Thank you!

    And to Cynthia up there: even if I don’t have a cart or a basket, I buy a million things. I pile them on my back and carry them to the register that way. 🙂

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