Thrifty/Nifty: Five easy tips for food shopping

Marking dates on cans and bottles as they come into the pantry helps you keep rotating the older items to the front. Photo by Laura Groch

Marking dates on cans and bottles as they come into the pantry helps you keep rotating the older items to the front. Photo by Laura Groch

We’re well past the holiday hangover, but perhaps still paying the bills for it. I’m thinking we’re overdue for some Thrifty/Nifty tips to help make shopping and managing a kitchen a little easier:

— Look high when you choose  produce, especially when it’s piled high and deep. The stuff at the front, which is within everyone’s reach, is what’s been handled most. Reach farther back, or higher, in the pile to choose a pear or tomato or head of lettuce that hasn’t been bruised and battered by everyone else.

— Remember to look low on store shelves. We naturally scan shelves at eye level, where the premium goods jostle for position. Bottom shelves are often for less expensive brands — and sometimes, close-out items at bargain prices.

— Check receipts before you leave the store. Sounds simple, but I was distracted at the checkout line twice last weekend, neglected to keep my usual eagle eye on the cashier, and was overcharged twice in one day at two separate stores. I had to travel back to one store to rectify a $3 error. My bad (and my gasoline, and my time). Luckily, at the second store, I caught the error before leaving. And I was smarter about it. Stores often post a policy near the checkout counter explaining how they will remedy any mistake. At this store, if the error was more than $5 (it was), the store would not only refund the difference, but would also fork over a $5 gift card. I smiled sweetly at the cashier, politely pointed out the policy, and got my refund (also around $3) plus the $5 gift card. (Shopping with kids? Make this a game: Whoever spots the mistake gets to keep the refund money.)

— Kids can help out in this area, too: Play “Find the Date Stamp” (which is a challenge at times) on boxes, packages, bottles and cans to assure you’re getting the freshest version of whatever you’re choosing. Make it a habit to always check the date on food packages so you know what you’re getting.

— Make your mark. I keep a fine-point indelible marker on a ledge next to my pantry. All incoming cans and boxes get a date written on them — just the month and year — so I can monitor when they came into the house and how long they’ve been in the pantry. Who among us hasn’t pulled something off the shelf and wondered, “When did I buy this?” The “best by” date on the product, though helpful, can’t tell you that. Marking a date on the can or bottle or box makes it easy to see right away, takes just a second, and will help you keep rotating your oldest items front and center.

(c) copyright 2016 Laura Groch




One thought on “Thrifty/Nifty: Five easy tips for food shopping

  1. I put the month and year on the front of the label so it stares me in the face (since all cans are fronted in the cupboard) every time I open the door. It’s amazing, when I see something that’s been around awhile, how that effects meal planning.


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