Part One of a three-part series

VegetablesThe hubster and I recently completed a local move and got acquainted with the lay of the grocery land in our new community. If you haven’t moved in the past few years, it’s likely that you go to the same grocery stores or farmers’ markets on auto-pilot. Perhaps you dash into the usual grocery store with list in-hand, grab what you need, and head out. Or perhaps you stroll in, browse, buy a variety of things that you may or may not use right away (or ever), and stroll out. If you’re new to a community or if you just want to change up your food shopping routine, it’s not easy to know where to start. Not to worry! In some places in the land of groceries, road maps are even provided (more on that later). So this week, grab a notepad and pen and consider some fresh ideas about your food shopping experience as we discovery the land of groceries together!

Today, we’re focusing on getting to know your options, one grocery shopping trip at a time.

1. Identify which stores, farmers’ markets, and wholesale clubs are in your neck of the woods and determine where you’ll shop on a regular basis. In many parts of the United States, multiple food purveyors abound and customers can choose where to buy meat, produce, bread, and the like. Some individuals prefer to do one-stop shopping at the local chain supermarket. Muzak is definitely one of the draws. That, and the BOGO sales. Others prefer to also support local businesses and farmers’ markets. A few years ago, the hubster discovered a dream of a place – a year-round indoor farmers’ market-type store that plays classical music and features locally grown, affordable produce and an amazing selection of breads, cheeses, and flowers. Naturally, that’s where we buy all of our produce. Even with the move, we can still shop there! You’ll be sure to find the places that work well for you and your family.

2. Once you’ve identified where to shop for food, get to know the lay-outs of each store or market. If you don’t have a lot of time in your schedule to hunt for that bottle of horseradish, this tip could save you plenty of time over the course of a year. Of course, some products get moved occasionally, but generally speaking, most stores tend to keep items in the same general place. If you’re shopping at a grocery chain store, you’ll often find a product map at the store entrance with the aisles listed for designated items. Can’t find it? Just ask the friendly associate behind the customer service desk.

3. Identify which brands can be found at your stores of choice. If your preferred grocer doesn’t sell a certain product that you buy regularly, ask the manager to consider stocking it.

4. Just like on your commute, it’s helpful to know your favorite grocery store’s traffic patterns. This is a cinch! Join forces with a friend or neighbor for a month by going to said store on different days and at different times when you might usually be available to grocery shop. Take note of when the aisles are busiest and when selecting food items is a breeze. These trial runs can inform when you schedule future grocery routines, making them footloose and stress-free.

5. Get to know the all-important self-checkout system (if one exists), or make friends with a store clerk who tends to be on duty whenever you shop. It’s okay to make a clerk’s day by offering a kind word, a friendly smile, and a comment of gratitude. These interactions will likely brighten your day, too.

Tip: If you’re shopping with children, considering using the candy and tabloid-free checkout line. This could avoid some awkward moments should your pint-size grocery store companion be dismayed at the tabloid pictures stacked at their eye level.

Have tips on this topic? Tell us about them!

* Photo by Mette Finderup