100 Days to a Happy Housewife 19: To Market

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Thumbnail image for HappyHousewife.jpgMarketing is one thing I was surprised not to find much information on my older housekeeping volumes. Clearly, grocery shopping has been an essential part of a houswife's work for a long time, but most of the books don't have much to say on the subject. I wonder if this is another case of change in mores--grocery shopping used to be a much simpler task, before the age of 100 different brands of everything and mega-stores? That's a theory, anyway.

Some of the newer volumes do address grocery shopping. Good Housekeeping's The Complete Household Handbook, had a whole section entitled "Smart Shopping." It provides the following suggestions for "Negotiating the Market."

*Make a list before your shop and stick to it. A list saves time and also keeps you on track so you avoid buying items you don't need.
*Rather than handwriting a list every time you shop, type up a list on your computer of the staples you buy each week, and run off a stack. Before you head to the store, check off what you need on this weekly list, and handwrite in the extras.
*Avoid shopping when you're hungry and can be tempted to make impulse purchases.
*When you need a single item, buy it and leave the store.
*If you can arrange it, make major shopping trips without small children. (Markets often encourage impulse buying by children by putting sugary cereals and candy at their eye level.
*If you must take your child, bring a toy or book to keep him or her occupied.
*Take note of shelf labeling and unit pricing (price per ounce) if the market practices this policy. If not, consider investing in a pocket calculator to figure the actual unit cost of an item available in several sizes or to compare different sizes and prices of competing brands.
*Check expiration dates, especially of perishables such as dairy products and packaged meats and poultry. Older items are usually up front in a display case.
*Shop for unrefrigerated foods and nonperishables first to minimize potential spoilage Most markets are laid out so that the meat, dairy, and frozen-food sections are at the end and sides of the store, so you can easily shop for these items later.
*Stock up on canned and other nonperishable foods when they're on sale.
*Double-check the cash register at the checkout. Mistakes can be made even with computerized scanning.
*Have groceries packed with like items together. If all frozen items are in one bag, they will keep one another cold on the trip home.

At my house, grocery shopping is pretty much my domain. Neither of us enjoy it, but I take it on because I'm more efficient at it and I hate it less. I do the regular weekly shopping at Trader Joe's, for convenience (it's close), because we love a lot of their stuff, for price, and also because its' a small, easy store to navigate. I am not a fan of the super-mega-grocery store. Generally, I make a trip to TJ's one night a week, and we supplement with the Farmer's Market and occasional trips to Whole Foods.

We keep a running grocery list on a magnetic notepad on our fridge. Before I leave to shop, I take a look around and add anything else I noticed needing to the list. This week's list included:
salsa

tortilla chips
half and half
avocados
butter
OJ
ham
bread
pizza dough
pizza sauce
shredded cheese
pepperoni
frozen pizza
cinnamon bread
tortilla
veggies
greens
lemons
limes
mineral water
milk
trail mix
sour cream
tapenade
chocolate pecan caramel candies
tomatoes

I took the same path I always do through the store: produce, meat, chips/nuts/dried fruits, dairy, frozen food and snacks, jarred and canned items, beverages, checkout. It's a small store--only five or so aisles. I was in, paid, and out in less than 20 minutes.

My receipt shows I bought the following:

1 tomato and spinach frozen pizza
1 white corn tortilla chips
1 mineral water
1 1/2 gallon 2% milk
1 quart half and half
1 8 oz bag shredded mozzarella
1 packaged sliced pepperoni
2 1/2 gallons no pulp orange juice
1 12 oz package shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 package dark chocolate pecan caramel clouds
1 container sour cream
2 pounds salted butter
4 tomatoes
1 bag limes
1 bag lemons
4 ears sweet corn
1 pound sweet applewood smoked ham
1 package chocolate whoopie pies
1 package tempting trail mix
1 package nut trek trail mix
1/2 loaf sourdough deli bread
1 bag baby spinach
1 jar salsa
1 jar olive tapenade
1 package handmade flour tortillas
4 avocados
1 container fresh pizza sauce
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper

Looking at both lists, I see only one thing I was supposed to buy but didn't: cinnamon bread, and they were out of it. Things that I bought that weren't on my list (i.e. impulse purchases) were limited to the whoopie pies, which I'm not proud of, but they were calling my name. Given that, I'd call this a successful trip. I didn't follow all of the advice from the book (no typed up grocery list), but I did follow some. I bagged my own groceries (in reusable bags), and I made a special effort to put like items together. The drive home from the store is less than 10 minutes, so I wasn't really worried about keeping things cool, but it did make the whole lot easier to put away.

What are your shopping tips?

3 Comments

Definitely the taking a list and sticking to it. I've also started keeping a running list of things I notice I need, rather than trying to remember everything half an hour before I leave the house. Also, avoiding the name brand stuff unless there's a noticeable difference in taste/quality.

Well, I'm a huge coupon shopper. Also, our grocery store sales run Wednesday - Thursday, so I have a few days to see who's having the best sales, and I plan the next week's menu based on that. I also tend to shop where I can get double coupons - sometimes the Harris Teeter will even do triple coupons. :) But I do find that the things you've listed do help: having a list, add things as you run out, buy canned goods when they're on sale, don't shop when you're hungry, etc.

I think I'm going to explore our local farmer's markets a bit more now that it's not such a chore to shop with a 3 year old. :)

Grace - I just finished watching Julie & Julia and it reminded me so much of your Happy Housewife series (well, minus the cooking lol). I love this so much...the aprons, the head scarves, and even the cleaning. But most of all, your enthusiasm! Keep it up, girl! I am thoroughly enjoying your blog!

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