The 8 Best Grocery Shopping Tips We Learned This Year

published Dec 26, 2021
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If there’s one truth about 2021, it’s that we didn’t grocery shop any less. In fact, with many folks still working from home and minimizing social activities, plenty of us found ourselves spending even more time at the supermarket this year versus last year. With an eye on efficiency and budgeting, we turned to the experts — both grocery pros and financial wizards alike — to become better at the ultimate never-ending chore.

Turns out, there was a lot to learn, including the secrets of supermarket flowers and simple tips for *actually* keeping a budget. Here’s what we learned about grocery shopping in 2021.

1. Track your grocery patterns before making a budget.

You probably already know that a budget will keep you on track and minimize impulse or unnecessary purchases. But before you set a number, take an honest look at what you’re already spending money on. In other words: If your proposed budget doesn’t include room for the specialty coconut water you just won’t live without, it’s not a budget that’s going to work for you. Keep a grocery diary for a few weeks, then sit down with that calculator and crunch the numbers.

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

2. Buy grocery store flowers with unopened or tight buds.

Supermarket flowers often get a bad rap for being short-lived. But the problem is likely with the flowers you’re choosing. While we may be attracted to displays already in full-bloom, it’s in your best financial interest to choose ones that are just beginning to open. They’ll last for days longer, giving you more bang for your, uh, bud.

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3. Sign up for store loyalty cards.

How many deals have we lost out on because we didn’t have a store loyalty card? It’s too much to think about! We vowed never again, and instead signed up for the free memberships at all of our grocery go-tos — even the ones we visit only occasionally. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Go ahead and buy pre-chopped veggies or a salad kit.

Saving money is great. But equally important when grocery shopping is buying a nutritious assortment of food you’ll actually cook with. Veggie-loving cooks and foodies taught us that it’s totally OK to pay a few extra dollars for triple-washed, pre-chopped veggies, or yummy salad kits. If it encourages you to eat more plants, we’re all for it.

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5. Skip some grocery items with the biggest markups.

Okay, controversial tip here. Admittedly, the first item on this list of expensive grocery items is pre-cut produce (See: Tip 4. Awkward.). But the general takeaway is that a few simple swaps can save you money. For example, name-brand cereal and spices cost way more than the generics or store brands. And yep: They often contain the exact same ingredients.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Know that Aldi is king. 

You probably already have a favorite grocery store. But we’ll admit that this mom has got us ready to make the switch. Reasons to check out your local Aldi: its great assortment of gourmet offerings, unbeatable prices, and kid-friendly layout. 

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7. Learn the *rules* to Costco.

According to store employees, there are some major “don’ts” when it comes to shopping at Costco. Some of them are self-explanatory (we hope!), like not talking on your cell in the checkout line. But others are a little more subtle. If you’re stretching your membership by bringing in your whole group text crew, that’s rude and no one likes it. They also taught us the best time to buy rotisserie chickens — probably not what you think — and the worst time to do your grocery shopping.

8. Don’t ask your fishmonger when the fish was delivered.

Instead, inquire about the “time off the knife.” Like apples, fish starts to deteriorate as soon as it’s cut, so for the freshest seafood available, buy fillets that were sliced and portioned in-store, that day.

Did you have any grocery store revelations this year? Share them with us in the comments below.