What Your Grocer Won't Tell You
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Supermarket Scoop1 of 13
By Womans Day
‘Tis the season for food shopping, and we spoke with experts to get the inside scoop on everything from smart saving strategies to spotting the freshest goods. Read on to discover all the things you probably didn't know about your favorite food store.
There's No Ideal Time to Shop2 of 13
"Supermarkets used to get food deliveries once or twice a week, but now most stores are getting shipments every day," says food trends, safety and consumer shopping expert Phil Lempert. "The idea that certain items are going to be fresher on certain days doesn't hold true anymore."
But Mornings are Best3 of 13
He does, however, note that no matter what day you shop, the morning is an ideal time to find the freshest produce and dairy products. Stock is replenished from the previous day first thing in the morning (besides, the milk case has only been covered in a refrigeration blanket overnight).
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Beware the Tiny Fruit Display4 of 13
Dan Glickberg, vice president of Fairway Market says, "Our stores have massive produce displays, and we're able to have them because we sell through our products quickly. If you see smaller setups, the store most likely doesn't go through its produce as quickly" — which means, of course, that it's been sitting on that display for longer.
Superstores Aren’t Cheaper5 of 13
According to Teri Gault, author of Shop Smart, Save More, everyday low-pricing stores like Walmart, Winn-Dixie and Food Lion won't necessarily serve up the best deals. "Higher-end supermarkets like A&P or Wegmans often offer sale prices that, if you use coupons wisely, will dip lower than those at everyday low-pricing stores."
Wash Your Hands6 of 13
According to Andy Kielbania, chief scientist at BioNeutral Group, Inc., the push handles on shopping carts are a prime area for bacteria. "People who are sick will almost certainly have illness-breeding germs on their hands," he warns. "And the moisture and body oils on the shopping cart handle create an inviting place for germs to grow."
Be Cautious of Exotic Fruit7 of 13
According to Lempert, the average produce department now has almost 400 different items. "Obviously, apples, oranges and bananas sell a lot faster than, say, a cherimoya," he says. "Typically, the standard fruits and veggies are going to move faster, which means they'll be replenished more quickly."
Do the Smell Test8 of 13
If you're picking up a more unusual item, take the time to smell it, feel it and, when in doubt, ask the produce manager questions, because there's a chance it's been sitting out for longer than usual.
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Don't Go By Price Tags9 of 13
Instead, check out the cost-per-unit label on the shelf, which will reveal the true value of each product, advises Gault. "People always assume they'll save the most if they buy the biggest size," she says. "But if you look at the cost per unit, often the middle size will offer the best value."
Don't Be Fooled by Fancy Displays10 of 13
"People believe that because the items are piled high and beautifully arranged, there's a deal happening," says Lempert. But there's only a sale about half of the time, so be sure to read the signs carefully before you start loading the goods into your shopping cart.
Be Nice11 of 13
"My dad always used to tease my mom that she was having an affair with the butcher because she always got such good deals on meat," says Gault. "But she taught me that it really pays to make friends with him." A good relationship with the people who work at your grocery store — especially the butcher or employees who work in the bakery — can score you deals.
Never Hurts to Ask12 of 13
Gault says she's had the bakery mark down pies with the next day's sell-by date on them just by asking. But keep in mind that independent or independently owned stores are the most likely to cut you deals like this.
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Choose the Freezer13 of 13
A lot of fish comes to the U.S. from overseas, so it's already been frozen or stored on ice by the time it’s landed in your grocery store's fish section, says Lempert. He recommends checking the display signs for the words "previously frozen," and if you see that, you may as well purchase a version from the freezer section.