You Never Knew You Needed
By QUYNH (STEPHANIE) BUI | November 3, 2019
Cover photo by Pixabay
Grocery shopping is no easy task – it seems to entail so many calculations: the number of groceries, the budget, the quality of the products and so on. If you are having trouble sorting out this ordeal, I (like the Beatles, with a little help from my friends) devised a list of seven grocery shopping hacks that can make your transition into adulthood a walk in the park (or may I say, in the grocery store?)
Hack #1: Make a shopping list (and follow it!)
Before you head out to the food galore (aka supermarkets), write down what you need to purchase so that you won’t miss any necessary items. I found this to be more challenging than I anticipated; getting carried away by the alluring supermarket offers and going over budget can happen to the best of us. Therefore, I suggest putting on your utilitarian cap and follow what you have set out to buy to avoid any potential mischiefs.
Hack #2: Check expiration dates on produces (meats, veggies and fruits)
Perishable goods usually cost quite a lot, yet they tend to decompose relatively fast if you don’t consume them within a given time period. Unfortunately, I have thrown away rotten greens and fruits on many occasions just because I couldn’t finish them on time – a complete waste of money! It is therefore highly advisable to check the expiration dates before purchasing produces; allocating the time to cook them also helps you not to waste your money and food.
Pro tip: You can prevent spoiled produce by preparing them ahead of time; that way, your foods can be preserved longer.
Hack #3: Meal planning is everything!
Before you venture out to the grocery stores, take a minute and think about what dishes you would like to cook, and buy ingredients based on your weekly plan. This activity will get you excited about cooking and help you estimate the amount of food you’re going to consume, which will save you a fortune. I recommend preparing food ahead of time (ideally two-three days) because cooking and washing dishes can be quite time-consuming – sometimes you just won’t have the energy for it. Meal prepping can therefore help to deviate you from the luxurious but expensive habit of ‘eating out.’
Hack #4: Bring your shopping bag
Learn from my mistake: I always forget to bring my shopping bag when I buy groceries and have to purchase replacements every time. Although it does not cost much, it’s still money not well-spent and should be used for better purposes. Remember to always bring your own shopping bags (B.Y.O.S.B.) as it will save you some dimes; it also forces you to happily make some environmentally conscious choices, even if it might cause some inconveniences.
Hack #5: Discount supermarkets are big surprises
Although Albert Heijn reigns supreme in the chain of Dutch supermarkets, its more affordable competitors have still secured a substantial foothold in the grocery shopping game. Jumbo, Lidl, Dirk, Plus, and Aldi offer many alternative options that are usually a bang for the buck; this is thanks to their frequent promotions and overall lower prices. Although there might be a slight discrepancy in the quality between Albert Heijn and these discount supermarkets, personally, it is not super apparent, so the price difference is worth considering.
Pro tip: If you regularly shop at Albert Heijn, ask for a free Bonuskaart at the counter as some discounts only apply with the card at hand.
Hack #6: Time for some Dutch vocabulary: grocery shopping edition!
Kickstart your multilingual brain and hunt for these magical words the next time you go grocery shopping: ‘Actie,’ ‘Korting’ and ‘Bonus’ – the Holy Trinity of discounts. Pay close attention as supermarkets usually offer promotions when the expiry date is approaching. It can also be because products are bundled as a combo or even through the classic tactic ‘Buy X get X free.’ Make use of these opportunities as you will find yourself grocery shopping with a bargain.
Hack #7: The Reclamefolder App
A friend of mine discovered this hidden gem called the Reclamefolder app (or website): a magazine-like catalog that cumulates shopping deals from not just supermarkets, but all sorts of stores (Xenos, Blokker, Action and many more). All you need to do is click on the catalogs you wish to see and discover the on-sale items. However, it is only available in Dutch; this is the only caveat to the app but shouldn’t be much of a problem because you will be going off visual cues anyway. If this is too time-consuming and confusing, you can also subscribe to your preferred supermarket’s email newsletters (Albert Heijn has one!) to view new deals and offerings.