Going to the grocery store is more complicated these days. But you can still save and give yourself priceless peace of mind with these steps.
Visit this ‘supermarket.’
If the shelves of your usual grocery store aren’t fully stocked, consider heading to under-the-radar dollar stores, suggests savings expert Teri Gault. “They’re getting more and more competitive with supermarkets,” she reveals. “I recently bought a 2 1⁄2-pound bag of coffee beans for only $7.99, for example, and a 12-oz. bag of frozen berries for smoothies for just $1.”
Snag meaty deals.
“I love Costco for meat,” declares supermarket guru Phil Lempert, who recommends simply freezing bulk buys. Not only is red meat often less expensive at the club store (choice rib-eye steak, for example, is about $13.99 per pound, compared to $17.99 per pound at other stores), it’s also arguably safer. “Plus, Costco does more meat and poultry inspections than the entire government.” Bottom line: If you have room in your freezer, stock up on meat from Costco.
Avoid price hikes.
You already know that we depend on other countries for a variety of foods, but you’d be surprised which items may be harder to find. “About 25 percent of garlic and 75 percent of apple juice comes from China,” says Lempert.
To sidestep coming shortfalls or price hikes, consider swaps: If garlic is elusive, chives are great flavor-boosters, and instead of buying apple juice, try concentrate, a cheaper but just-as-healthy alternative.
Map your grocery run.
Visualize a map of your store, and write your shopping list with items in “high-touch” areas, like milk and frozen veggies, last, recommends food safety expert Betty Feng, Ph.D. Visiting the most-touched areas, like the door to the dairy aisle, last lets you reduce the amount of time you’re in the store before you can return home and wash your hands — the best way to protect yourself.
Wash your produce (the right way).
You may have heard that you should wash produce with soap and water, but Feng cautions against that. “Studies show people can get sick from soap residue left on food, lowering immunity when we want to be as strong as possible.” Instead, she recommends washing produce with cool running water. While warm water can open up the pores on fruit skins, allowing bacteria in, cold seals them, making your food even safer.
Instacart, a popular grocery delivery service, is seeing a tenfold increase in demand, notes Lempert. One way to beat the virtual ‘crowds’: Put in your order at 12:01 am, when they open new slots for orders. Can’t get an Instacart account in your area or not really a night owl? Consider Shipt, which is owned by Target, but delivers from a variety of stores. With a little planning and flexibility, our experts agree that you can shop savvily and safely.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.