5 Things You Should Be Doing Every Time You Grocery Shop, According to a Whole Foods Manager

published Feb 7, 2022
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reusable grocery bags on the floor in the kitchen filled with groceries
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Grocery store managers do a lot of hard work for little glory. They’re always making sure shelves are stocked. They’re constantly familiarizing themselves with new products. They’re also in charge of staffing and can easily cover any position when a shift is shorthanded. Suffice it to say that these managers know a lot about the grocery store.

I was curious to learn what they knew about grocery shopping. After all, it’s their job to make sure shoppers have the best experience possible in their store. To get the deets, I chatted with Amy Eubanks, Whole Foods Market’s senior team leader for global culinary development. Happily, she shared some insider information about shopping efficiently, scoring deals, and buying the best items. Here are five of her best tips.

Credit: Cambria Bold

1. Shop the perimeter first. (Not just for the reason you think!)

The perimeter of the grocery store is where you’ll mostly encounter fresh foods, but there’s another reason to hit this area first: “You’ll find out what is in season in produce, meat, and seafood,” says Eubanks. That’s right — just like fruit and vegetables, meat and fish can and should be seasonal. Once you’ve stocked up on the fresh stuff, you can head into the center of the store for sauces, dried goods, and seasonings.

2. Talk to the fishmonger.

Speaking of seafood, Eubanks has noticed that shoppers tend to be intimidated by the fish counter. If you are as well, know that this department is easily demystified by striking up a conversation with the worker behind the counter. Not only can they answer any questions you have, but, Eubanks points out, “They will also custom cut and debone your fish, peel your shrimp, and crack your crab at no charge.” (At least, they will at Whole Foods!) Another benefit of getting to know your fishmonger? “They’ll place special orders for you, too.”

Credit: Dana McMahan

3. Check the coffee roast date for freshness or deals.

Eubanks considers coffee to be an essential for every grocery trip, and I agree! But she won’t toss a bag in her cart without first checking the roast date, to make sure the beans are fresh. Sometimes, stores offer discounts on older bags of beans — a real score if you’re planning on using the beans quickly or just don’t care. Personally, I can’t taste the difference between two- and six-week old beans, so I’ll go for the deal every time.

4. Plan to go in the middle of the week, preferably during the early morning hours.

If your schedule allows, plan on doing your major grocery trip in the middle of the week. Eubanks notes that even with the pandemic disrupting our schedules, the majority of shoppers still head to the store on the weekends. She also loves ticking off this errand as soon as the store opens. “You can grab a coffee and explore,” she says.

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5. Organize your list and your cart for speed and ease.

“Writing the list in the order that you shop helps you make sure you check everything off,” explains Eubanks. That means not only grouping similar items together, but also listing them in the order that you’ll encounter them. It’s worth rewriting a haphazard brain dump of items — you’ll save time, and will cut down on zig-zagging back and forth. At checkout, Eubanks also makes it a point to group frozen and cold items together, produce and packaged goods into sections, and shove the heavy items toward the front of the pack (so they can go in the bottom of the bag). Scanners appreciate it and, if you’re in a rush, this will help you, too.

Have you ever worked as a grocery store manger? Do you have a tip to add to the list?