I finished most of my Thanksgiving meal shopping last night. Hate me, if you want. I was in town near my favorite grocery stores. I was childless. A winter storm is predicted for the next few days, which in Central Texas means it is 40 degrees with a little light rain thrown in. It seemed like the right time. Apparently, a few hundred other people had the same idea. So, here is what I learned from my trip down the grocery aisles.
Do’s of Successful Grocery Shopping
1. Go to a store with which you’re familiar. I was anxious to visit a new store that just opened in our old neighborhood. I felt like I was in an English garden maze, which resulted in me having to backtrack several times to find things I missed.
2. Make a list and check it twice. Thanksgiving meal shopping should not be left to chance. Know exactly what you need, how much, and what brand. My husband and I planned the meal(s) Saturday morning, and I made my shopping list on my MealBoard phone app. We are preparing a meal on Thursday for us and my dad. Then, we’re having a meal with my husband’s family Friday evening. So, I needed to make sure I doubled a few items. I under-estimated the amount of sweet potatoes. We also discussed a few minor changes which will result in an additional couple of items. Thankfully, my husband offered to pick them up for me. My knight in shining armor. Actually, armor might not be a bad idea when shopping this week.
3. Pack your cart strategically. Instead of throwing everything in the cart haphazardly, know that you’re going to need space for crushable items, like bread or eggs. Put the honking big frozen turkey on the cart’s shelf underneath, so it doesn’t take up all your space and freeze the food around it. I like to start in the produce section and put as much of my fruit and veggies in the seat and a raised basket of the cart, but this new grocery store decided to flip their normal layout. I went in the wrong side and shopped backwards. Made me feel dyslexic. Strategic packing makes it easier to unpack on the conveyor belt when you get to checkout. I like to group my food, hoping they will get bagged that way. With my hour-long drive home, my cold food stands a better chance of staying cold. The people who bag food don’t see it that way, though.
4. Take a shopping partner. One to drive the cart; one to shop. Or split the list, and spend half the time shopping. My golden opportunity to shop at my favorite stores did not include the addition of an assistant. He was doing daddy-duty. I was lonely.
5. Use coupons and sale circulars with great discretion. Read the fine print. I’m not a coupon queen, but I use them when I can. I have also gotten out of the habit of comparing prices among stores since I usually only have one store to visit. So, some of the produce prices were better at the main store, and I bought them slightly higher at Sprouts. It wasn’t enough to break the bank, but I always feel cheated when I make that mistake. One special the main store always runs at Thanksgiving is a free turkey with the purchase of a ham. Yes, the ham is much more expensive than the turkey, but with a big family, the cost is mitigated by the number of meals we can get out of both meats. For about $30, we will likely get 8-10 meals. However, this year there was a catch to the special that I don’t think they’ve had in the past. With the purchase of a ham, you get a free turkey up to 10 pounds. Do you think they had any turkeys less than 10 pounds? Nope. So, you pay the difference from 10 pounds on. My turkey was a little over 11 pounds, I think, which made the cost about $1.50. Okay, but kind of sneaky.
6. Shop early. Early in the week. Early in the day. It’s not going to get any easier, trust me.
7. Be nice. Everyone is stressed. Don’t be part of the problem.
Don’ts of Successful Grocery Shopping
1. Try something new. Now is not the time to experiment, regardless of how much you want to try your hand at frying a turkey.
2. Fly by the seat of your pants. You don’t want a half-frozen turkey Thursday morning, do you? Or not enough butter for the sweet potatoes and rolls? Tragic.
3. Pile all your food in the cart with abandon, only to have crushed eggs and wet flour when you get home. Similarly, put up your food carefully. Perish the thought of a water leak or insect invasion which ruins everything stored on the floor and bottom shelf.
4. Take your children and allow them to run down the aisles or hang on the sides of the cart bumping everything you drive by. Coming from the mom of a lot of kids, grocery shopping for a big meal is not the time for family togetherness. If you are in a pinch for childcare, confine the smaller children to the seat and have the bigger ones push the cart. Give everyone a job to accomplish the task and stay out of trouble. Plan your shopping trip at the least busy time possible. Earlier is better.
5. Send your husband with a list of unusual baking goods and the children. I helped a clueless husband find some spices on the baking aisle yesterday. While he was trying to figure out what allspice was, his two young daughters were emptying the shelves of all the puddings and cookie sprinkles. I don’t know what he did that his wife sent him into such chaos alone, but he served his penance, lady.
6. Wait to shop until Wednesday night, or, worse, Thursday morning since some stores are going to be open ON Thanksgiving day. The shelves will likely be bare; the staff, battle weary. Everyone deserves the day off to relax and celebrate. If you don’t shop on Thanksgiving, the stores won’t open. Funny how that works.
7. Block the aisle while you peruse every brand of baking chocolate, or push through a crowded aisle like you’re the only one there. Common courtesy never hurt anyone.
Tell me your master plan for Thanksgiving shopping. Everybody has their own trick.