Grocery shopping for dummies

Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

You always enter Safeway with a plan: no impulsive buys, only the essentials. But despite good intentions, you always leave the supermarket with a cart full of Pop-Tarts, seven boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, marshmallows and a giant bag of spinach that spoils within the week. For those of you who have no sense of direction when it comes to grocery shopping (will a six-pack of ramen last me a month?!), here’s a guide that might come in handy.

1. Know where to shop.

Grocery stores, like alcohol brands, specialize in different products. To name a few, Safeway is good for buying basics such as pasta and bread, Berkeley Bowl has the greatest variety of produce and Trader Joe’s has cheap bananas and interesting novelty foods (all hail Queen Cookie Butter).

2. Make a list.

This isn’t about your memorizing skills. This is about protecting yourself from bad decisions and heavy spending. Supermarkets are overwhelming. Wheeling down the aisle with a giant metal grocery cart that has a squeaky wheel messes with your brain chemistry. You start wondering things such as, “Should I buy frozen fish sticks? Have I ever eaten frozen fish sticks in my life? Should I start eating frozen fish sticks? What if I just get eight boxes for starters?” A list is great because it produces instantaneous guilt: You reach for the dollar-an-ounce Naked juice, look down at your list, then slink away in shame.

3. Plan your meals.

Be realistic. Are you really going to cook breaded salmon for dinner? Do you even own a cooking tray? When was the last time you preheated an oven? Cooking is a tricky business. It’s best if you avoid it altogether, when you can. On the flip side, ramen for every meal is not a sustainable plan — unless you want to get scurvy.

4. Know what you’re buying in every aisle.

If you fail to organize your grocery list by aisle, then you will spend hours scurrying back and forth across the supermarket like an ant caught under a glass. The blinding fluorescent lights will give you a headache, your arms will weaken from pushing around a grocery cart roughly the size of a washing machine, and you will collapse before you even make it to the middle of your list. Don’t do that. Plan ahead instead.

5. Never buy healthy alternatives.

Buying a pound of cauliflower is a poor method of getting you to eat something that tastes like rubber when boiled. Buy something you will actually eat — love yourself. You can worry about health when you’re older and closer to death and your sphincter doesn’t work anymore.

6. After the ordeal.

Look at your grocery bill. What was the most expensive item on your receipt? Did you spend $30 on animal crackers? It’s not like you’re going to cut back on your animal cracker consumption any time soon, but you might as well switch to a generic brand — just a thought.

Contact Lilia Vega at [email protected].