When we grocery shop Mrs. CBB and I want to bring home fresh food because that’s what we should all expect from a supermarket, right?
Finding fresh food or the freshest is always hit or miss but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you arm yourself with shopping habits we’ve come to rely on that I’m going to share with you today you are well on your way to becoming a grocery store fresh food sleuth.
Grocery shopping might seem like something simple to you but believe me when I say there are people who are seeking to learn how to grocery shop.
How could someone possibly screw up and buy food that is outdated, moldy, wilted or rotten for that matter? The saying “You get what you pay for” at the supermarket doesn’t always mean you get the freshest food.
Considering that most Canadians have a limited grocery budget it’s important for all of us to spend our money wisely and that means finding fresh food that won’t end up in the garbage before we have time to consume it.
Today I’m going to share with you some of the ways Mrs. CBB and I spot fresh food that lasts and how you can too!
Fresh Food is Love
Before we grocery shop we decide what to eat for the week based on flyer specials and we do our best to create a meal plan. Sounds pretty mundane and it is but it’s one important step we don’t miss.
I don’t know about you but when I think of fresh food I think of romantic meals, healthy living and lots of fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains and all things related to the Canada Food Guide.
Finding the healthiest foods for our family means shopping the perimeter of the grocery store because that’s typically where you will find all things FRESH or so they say.
- Fresh Produce
- Fresh Dairy/Cheese
- Fresh meat/fish
- Frozen Vegetables etc.
- Fresh Baked Foods/Bakery
- Fresh Deli Meats
Scoring the Freshest Food In the Store
When buying food though you have to be careful to make sure you get fresh food that is going to last. If you want to find the freshest foods though you will have to take into consideration a few things that might take you time when grocery shopping but will pay off in the end.
Some of the healthiest foods you can eat are free of pesticides and If you are into organic foods you will find more of the higher-end stores like Sobeys, Metro, Zehrs, RCSS etc. have a full organic/health food section for you to select fresh food.
Apart from what most call “The Healthy Aisles” most organic fruits, veg and protein products have their own section with everyday products of the same kind in the store. In other words you might not find them in those healthy aisles.
What we’ve learned though is no matter where you shop, what sections you shop in or whether you put together a healthy grocery list or not if you don’t know how to pick fresh food from the offerings you might end up bringing home food you can’t eat or food that won’t last as long in your refrigerator or pantry.
I remember a time when we went to a back-yard BBQ one summer and the hosts brought out a salad where the greens were so wilted I wasn’t sure if they missed the brown soggy pieces or they actually thought it was edible. I noticed on the counter in the kitchen one of those big tubs of washed, sorted greens you can buy for $4.99 at the supermarket.
Some of the leafy greens of the salad were fine to consume but it wasn’t something I’d serve to guests let alone to my family. I’d pick out the bits that weren’t fresh and toss the rest. Better yet, I’d return the product especially if I had just bought it or it was before the expiry date.
The problem with buying produce in plastic is that it sweats and we all know that sweat and fresh food do not mix. This is why if we buy spinach, lettuce or anything that comes in plastic and transfer it into BPA safe containers and leave them open in the refrigerator so they don’t sweat. This will help keep the greens for a longer period.
I also read somewhere that if you wrap your celery in tin-foil it will last longer. We tested this out and sure enough it works! Although we don’t like to keep food in the refrigerator for long periods as we like to eat our fresh produce as soon as possible there are some that we just don’t get through right away such as celery. Once wrapped in tin-foil the celery gave us a good 2 weeks of freshness. Simple!
If that’s not your thing then you can do what we used to do and cut a piece from the bottom of the celery and sit it in a glass of water to help keep it longer in the refrigerator. We’ve also just chopped it all up after washing and put it in an ice bath and it lasted for at least a week without going slimy. We tend to change the water our frequently though.
Apart from keeping food fresh which is another post on its own picking fresh food at the supermarket takes one thing, patience. If you are they type of person who grocery shops like they are playing a video game you will most likely take home fresh food but maybe not the freshest of the bunch.
In the winter most of us are under the control of the grocery store because Ontario market fresh produce isn’t readily available in most areas. A cold winter climate is a great reason to grow your own fruits and vegetables indoors if you can and why the only way to get fresh food that tops my list is… To Grow It Yourself. You know how you grew it and when it was picked.
Not all Canadians are able to grow vegetables indoors or have a greenhouse either so it’s off to the supermarket we go. For those of you who don’t have the space or time to grow a garden and stash away your precious crop in the freezer or by canning we have to pick fresh food at the supermarket with a keen eye for detail.
Here are some ways we find fresh food in our supermarket.
Is this you? We all do it but read on to find out why it doesn’t always mean you will get fresh food.
Check expiry dates
Not all product have or require an expire by date in Canada but for those products that are required to be labelled your first course of action is… read the label. The expiry date is there for a reason so read it and decide whether you can consume the product by that date.
Keep in mind though that you not only have to read the date you MUST look at the product especially if it is in a see-through plastic container or bag. Have you ever brought home berries only to find a white fluff on them? It happens so have a look around the container to see if there are any dents, cracks or spoiled food that you can spot.
If you do find a product that is out of date or that is full of fluff or mushy please don’t put it back on the shelf. Be considerate and pass it along to someone who works at the store.
Smell Touch See (SES)
These are three things that are imperative to making sure you are buying fresh food. We have senses so we should use them to our advantage and this is a great time to put your nose, eyes and hands to work for you.
Sometimes smell is an indication of whether a fruit or vegetable is very ripe and ready to eat such as a pineapple or the exact opposite, ready for the garbage.
Have you ever seen people tapping on watermelon? Do you know why people tap on a watermelon?
You can tap on a watermelon and listen if it sounds hollow which means it’s ripe. Along with tapping you can smell the watermelon stem area and if it smells like watermelon you know it’s ready to eat.
If you love cantaloupe like my father-in-law he says that if you shake it and hear seeds moving around and it smells like cantaloupe that it’s ready to eat. He also presses on the outside of the fruit as well and if he can easily create an indent he will buy the fruit as it’s ripe.
If you are buying meat products look for colour (if it’s grey it’s likely off) and make sure there is no slimy coating on the products which indicates it is no good. Smell is also another sign whether a protein is good or not although it’s tough because they are wrapped up so visuals are important here as well as best before dates. Beef for instance tends to smell a bit like vinegar as it starts to turn.
I’ve also found that if we buy lemons, limes and any other types of citrus type fruits if they are firm that they end up being dry in the middle. I tend to touch them to make sure they are firm but have some sort of give to it. Most importantly watching out for bruises and dents on fruits is key to whether they are ripe, over-ripe or just plain ready for the compost heap or a quick smoothie. You wouldn’t want to pay full-price for those products though.
Like I mentioned earlier about vegetables in bags and containers have a look to see if they look watery, limp and plain not edible. Other vegetables such as root vegetables should be firm to touch and if anything smells off or moldy put it aside for the produce clerk to remove.
Most stores go through the produce department and sell off veg and fruit at reduced prices when they are ready to go off or have a few days of life left in them if you are looking to save a few dollars.
Build a relationship
Whether you live in a small town or village or the big city it’s not a bad idea to get to know the people who work in the grocery store you shop in. There’s nothing wrong with greeting the store staff, using their name and telling them what a great job they are doing or how much you like shopping at their supermarket.
Building relationships with the managers and the employees of each department is a great way to make sure you get the best of the best products and service. Even though it’s their job to serve the customers being an excellent customer goes a long way.
Next time you have a question or are in need of certain products you don’t have to be shy because you already know the staff where you shop and they know you.
Some of you might actually want well-ripened fruit to make smoothies or even banana bread so don’t be shy to ASK as there may be plenty of what you need in the back stock room.
The best part is that most stores will sell off ripened product at reduced prices just so they can get rid of it. Their loss is your gain at a reduced cost to your grocery budget.
If you have any questions ask, it’s as simple as that!
First in First Out
Don’t always trust the first in first out or FIFO motto as many people like the lady above in that photo like to pull from the back because she thinks it’s fresher.
It’s almost become psychological that we think that the product in the front has been touched, hugged, spit on, stepped on, dropped or whatever else we can think of that could potentially happen to a product. We end up automatically sticking our hand to the back or bottom of the pile believing we scored the freshest product of the lot.
YES almost all stores put the new product to the back or bottom so the rotation follows FIFO as it only makes sense from a business stand-point. If everyone starts pulling from the back you are now starting from square one again and likely why you don’t see shelves over-stocked with product.
Trust your instincts, watch what you are buying and if you aren’t convinced don’t buy it.
If you want fresh food there’s nothing better than making sure you are at the supermarket when fresh bread and baked goods come out of the oven.
If you talk to your bakery you can place custom orders to ensure you get the freshest products. If you are casually shopping in-store you can bet that the products on the shelf are made that day.Fresh sells!
At the end of the day most stores reduce in-store bakery items to the clearance rack so you aren’t left with day- old products on the shelf. Even so I urge you to always check any dates on the product and don’t be afraid to give the product a tiny squeeze test to see how fresh it truly is.
If you aren’t sure talk to the bakery staff to find out how long the products have been on the shelf. If you aren’t happy with the time-frame they should be able to tell you when the next fresh batch is coming from the oven so you can be first in line to purchase.
Typically we find that we get only a couple of days of in-store bakery products to last at home before we have to grind them up for bread crumbs.
There you have all the ways we find fresh food in our supermarket although this list is not exhausted as I’m sure all of you have your own tips to add so please leave a comment and tell us your secrets!!
January grocery game challenge posts
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up for the month each week here in this section for you. Join in the Grocery Game Challenge fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each blog post… here are the GGC rules!
- Join The Grocery Game Challenge 2015: 2014 Overview and Final Shop Dec 29- Jan 4, 2015
- Why having a stockpile budget will save you money: #1 Jan 5-11, 2015
Grocery Saving Tips
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I hope you take the time to get back on track and start the savings process in your grocery budget today.
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Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide
Everything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is below with new information added monthly. If you are new here and haven’t had a chance to read past posts grab yourself a beverage, sit down, relax and enjoy some educational reading material on ways to save money in your grocery budget.
If you missed a Grocery Game Challenge post some of the most popular posts are listed below or you can now find the posts listed on their own page called The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email.
2015 Grocery shop results
If you are a foodie like I am you will enjoy going through my Free Recipe Index where recipes from CBB Home Chef Nicola Don and myself are shared every Sunday on the blog. Check it out!
Yearly grocery budget for two 2015: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $240 per year or $25 per month.
- 3 x cans of mushrooms $2.37
- Black Diamond Almond Milk 2/$4.00 – 3 x $1.00 coupons plus 1200 PC Plus points
- PC Stir Fry Veg $2.99- pink sticker $1.50
- Orange and Yellow sweet peppers $2.17
- Manns Snow Peas $2.99- pink sticker $1.50
- Boursin Goat Cheese 4@2/$8.00-pink stickers $1.00 each 🙂
- Utensil set Bamboo x2 $1.44 🙂 reduced holiday
- 2 bags… forgot ours oops! $0.10
Total-out-pocket $21.50-$20.00 PC points =$1.50
Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00
- Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $235.00
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $0
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $20.00
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $20.00
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 8856
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0
Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)
I reset this for 2015 to see earning potential.
- Snap Groupon to date: $ 0
- Zweet to date: $0.50
- Cart Smart to date: $0
- Checkout51 to date: $0
GROCERY SHOP THIS WEEK (add any other sections you need to show expenses and savings)
- Stockpile budget 2015 ($25.00): $25.00
- Stockpile budget used to date: $25.00
- Total coupons used this week: $3.00
- Total coupons used to date: $3.00
- Total in-store discounts this week: $11.00
- Total in-store discounts to date: $15.80
- Total spent this week: $21.50-$20.00 PC Plus points= $1.50
- Total spent so far this month: $62.24+$1.50=$60.74
- Total over/Under spend this shop: $n/a
- Total over/Under spend for the month: $n/a
- Total left to spend for the month: $171.26
- Total Spent To Date 2015: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $
Weekly Overview (your final thoughts): We didn’t need too much this week but picked up a few bits when we went into Zehrs to find out about photos for baby CBB for Valentine’s day. The Almond milk ended up being a great deal and my wife just loves it. I was tempted to go back and get more for $0.60 after coupon and points but decided not to.
Did you find any coupons? If so share the details in the comment section of this post where you found it and what the coupon is for with expiry.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible.
- Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops only to win a monthly prize. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it all together. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?:
YesNo, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year so we can plan accordingly for our budget. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any more. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money.
- Canadian Coupons: Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest Coupon Match-ups of the week and your weekly Checkout 51 offers from 25 Newspaper Inserts around Canada compliments of
Save Big Live Betterthat you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge.
- What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
- What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
- How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?: If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
- How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.
Over time you will gradually learn where you should and shouldn’t go in the grocery store or at least how to say no, I’m on a budget I need to buy this or that.
You may also substitute items in order to stick to your grocery budget to make it work. Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do.
This is why the grocery game challenge was created to not only show you that we are like everyone else but to bring us all together to work as a team to get our budgets on track.
If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2015 get ready to dive deep into your grocery budget and learn just where you are spending, how much you are spending and what you are saving.
Feel free to read all the above posts that I linked to above which I feel are relevant to learning about the grocery budget and grocery shopping in general. If you are brave and want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2015!
Join in and become money savers and take control of your grocery budget.
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