When things get busy in grocery stores, it's all hands on deck. In my grocery cashiering days, the siren call from Sarge (our nickname for the drill sergeant-like cashier in charge of the intercom system) could be heard through the store and into the corporate offices: ALL CASHIERS AND CARRYOUTS TO THE FRONT, PLEASE. The "please" at the end was code for "everyone." And so I'd go to the registers, bag groceries, and load trunks with paper sacks of specialty cheeses, gluten-free crackers, and Meyer lemons.
Whatever joy I'd had in realizing that my promotional email about cave-aged Gruyere worked would be destroyed when I saw the other inhabitants of shoppers' trunks: paper towels peeked out of Target bags, frozen dinners spilled from a reusable Trader Joe's bag, and cases of Diet Coke donned the iconic "I've been Krogering" sticker.
Our customers knew what I didn't want to believe: When you have time to do it, it pays to shop around. Time, of course, is the key word. Here are five things worth going to another store for. Just don't, you know, think about the price of gas.
Milk and Eggs
The items on everyone's shopping list are what the grocery industry prices low to get you through their doors. (Because once you're there, you might be enticed to buy their pesto pasta salad, pine nuts, peach tarts, and other things not originally on your shopping list, of course.) And before you think it's an evil grocery conspiracy, take a look at every retail experience you've ever had. A bag of vegan marshmallows is way less of an impulse buy than that three-quarter-length-sleeved leopard print cardigan in the back of your closet. Hit your conventional supermarket, big box store or any other store for these everyday items.
If you're cooking tonight: Hit up an Aldi or an Asian market. Both have ripe, ready-to-eat-like-right-now fruits and vegetables available. They might not be super polished, but they'll do the job.
If you're planning for the week: Costco has all the basics, and in big quantities. (Hope you like them apples.)
Meat and Seafood
If you're cooking tonight: Hit up your conventional grocery market and look for those orange "manager's special" stickers. It's The Price Is Right for dinner. (Who knows what's behind that door — chicken? Pork? Beef tips?) This strategy requires flexibility in menu. Or, you can try a local specialty market, which tend to have at least one major meat and seafood item on sale at a time.
If you're planning for the week: Again, Costco is a place to get great pricing, as long as you have a big crowd or freezer.
Spices and Olive Oil
Have a Mediterranean market nearby? Lucky you. This is the place to get pantry basics. Buy peppercorns, cooking oils, and salt in bulk, but only buy what you need when it comes to other spices. Not so lucky? Try Penzeys Spices.
Some states have pricing laws; others don't. For example, in your state, it might be illegal for retailers to price wine and beer below a state minimum, so it would be highly unlikely that one retailer would offer a better price than another. Other states are more lax. Learn your state's laws, and then shop accordingly. In general, the bigger the store, the better the buying power, and the lower the prices.
What items do you shop around for?