Let’s talk about grocery shopping. That was the subject of a workshop at the Newport 60+ Center on Saturday. Dropping in between playing piano for a funeral and a regular Mass, I was a little overdressed in velvet and jewels. But can you be too overdressed to talk about strawberries and broccoli?
Mike Stephenson, who spent many years as a produce manager at Safeway and Savemart stores, shared some of the backroom secrets grocery store owners may not want us to know.
Do you know why the meat and dairy are usually in the back? That’s so shoppers have to walk past all the other items and be tempted to buy things they hadn’t planned to buy. That’s also why you often find the bakery next to the produce. You’re loading up on healthy greens and fruits, but the smell of fresh bread or donuts is driving you crazy. Right? That’s what they’re hoping.
The stores are like a giant Monopoly game. Some aisles are big-ticket spots like Boardwalk and Park Place while others are the lowly Baltic Avenue. Stephenson estimated stores make 30 to 40 percent profit off produce, 20 to 25 off meat, and 45-60 percent off non-food items.
Did you know that companies like Pepsi and Starbucks pay for the shelf space where their items appear? Double profits.
Have you noticed the security cameras everywhere? Theft is a big problem at grocery stores. It’s hard to catch the culprits and they cannot be legally apprehended until they leave the store.
Being a produce expert, Stephenson had lots of advice about buying and storing fruits and vegetables.
- Buy what’s in season. Right now, it’s things like grapefruit, avocados, kiwi, oranges, pears, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and yams. You might find peaches and strawberries in the stores, but they won’t be as good, especially here on the Oregon coast where all the produce comes from other places.
- Buy organic berries grown without pesticides. It’s nearly impossible to wash the regular ones well enough to be safe.
- Wash everything before you eat it, even fruits like oranges that seem to be safe in their heavy peels. As soon as you cut into them, whatever is on the outside goes in.
- Take your berries out of the container and spread them out. Otherwise, if one gets furry in the middle, they’ll all go bad.
- Those bags of mixed greens (like the one in my refrigerator) are already on their way out when we buy them because they’ve been cut up and separated from the nutrient-giving base that holds the leaves together. Make your own salad. The ingredients will last longer.
- If you shop when you’re hungry, you will buy more. Eat first and stick to your list. But you knew that, right?
For years, I hated shopping because I didn’t have enough money. Now the challenge is buying enough but not too much for just one person. Package of six pork chops? Why would I need that? One crab? That just sounds sad. I want some cake but not a whole one. God bless the stores that offer single slices and smaller servings.
Do you use coupons? I don’t. They’re never for what I want to buy. I do try to time things so I get the J.C. Market’s Tuesday senior discount, 10 percent off the entire bill. Fred Meyer stores offer a senior discount too, but only on their own Kroger brand merchandise.
My mom and now my dad were strictly once a week shoppers. Always in the morning. For the most part, I shop weekly, too. When Fred was alive, he loved to do the grocery shopping. I made him an aisle-by-aisle checkoff list. How often do you shop? Do you use a list or decide as you go along?
What’s the biggest challenge for you at the grocery store? Can you find everything you want at the same store or do you have to shop around? Do you stock up at Costco or stick to local stores? Do you love grocery shopping or hate it?
Let’s talk about groceries. And then let’s have a snack.
The clever photo is from pixelbliss via 123rt.com stock photos