For the first half of the 20th century, grocery shopping required stops at several specialty shops: Meat from the butcher, bread from the baker, grains and staples from the general store, etc. In many parts of the world, people still visit booths or merchants who sell only one kind of thing.
Here in the States in the 2nd half of the 20th century, we fell in love with supermarkets. The more stuff we could get in one place, the smarter we felt, to the point where “one-stop shopping” became the slogan of a commerce generation.
As we grow ever more conscious and conscientious about the food we eat, we are relearning how to specialty shop, both for bargains and for our health.
In an attempt to help you figure out what to buy where, here are some tips from the March 2019 Real Simple magazine about smart shopping for the 21st century:
• Dairy (butter, eggs, milk)
• Pantry staples (ketchup, pasta, grains, salad dressing, peanut butter, and other stuff you use in single-meal servings several times a week)
• Basic fruits and veggies
• Be cautious in the bakery and meat sections. Those pre-cut meats and sweet treats have a hefty markup!
BUY THE STORE BRAND, (which is probably made by one of your favorite commercial labels) and JOIN THE LOYALTY CLUB, which saves you money without costing you anything.
• Cleaning stuff (paper towels, sponges, cleaners)
• Long-lasting staples like vinegar, flour, canned goods, pickles
• Meat and fish can be a good buy here, if you have a freezer.
Be honest with yourself and DON’T BUY MORE THAN YOU CAN REALLY, TRULY USE, or the price advantage disappears down the disposal or into the trash.
• Fresh fruits and veggies, at the peak of their flavor and nutritional value
• Honey, jam, salsa, herbs, sometimes even fresh fish
Sometimes it costs more than the grocery store, but you’re getting a much better product and supporting a local vendor or farmer.
• Specialty flour
• Specialty spices or decorative baking items
• Ingredients you’ve never heard of but saw in an intriguing recipe.
• Ethnic items not available from local vendors
Here are my own additions to the list:
Specialty spice shops, for fresher, more flavorful herbs and seasonings. Probably comparably priced to what’s in your supermarket, but oh, what a difference in taste.
Local ethnic grocers. Whether Asian, Latino, Indian, or Mediterranean, you’ll get the best of the ingredients you seek at the best price, along with the best cooking and shopping advice.And you’re supporting a local merchant/entrepreneur.
Coffee roasters or coffee shops that sell real beans, for the taste of real coffee. Yes, it costs more than a can of Folgers. For a reason.
Trader Joe’s for cheese. They have the best prices by far, and a decent selection.
Bakery treats can be fast, easy, and fun to make. Homemade is tastier and WAY cheaper than your grocery store bakery. Poke around in the recipe section of this site!