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Hate Grocery Shopping? Here's How to Love it

I love shopping for food, which could explain why nothing fits me when I go shopping for clothes. After many years of shopping when everyone in town plus their five kids are in the store, I have a couple of tips to help you survive the expedition.

I hate shopping for clothes. I think it's because I have an hourglass figure.

If I were 5-foot-10, it wouldn't be too tough dressing the bigger parts of my body, but at 5-foot-3 I tend to look like a sack of potatoes. It is discouraging to say the least. Bathing suit shopping? I'd rather go over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel.

Which leaves grocery shopping as my only excursion into retail therapy.

I love shopping for food, which could explain why nothing fits me when I go shopping for clothes. Hmmm, light bulb moment. Anyway, after many years of shopping when everyone in town plus their five kids are in the store, I have a couple of tips to help you survive the expedition:

• Pick a store that is close to you and that you love to shop at. Shopping at the same store will save time in the long run. Everytime I dash into a new store to pick up one thing I usually spend a ton of time trying to find it. Case in point: while I was creating the chocolate mousse for Healthy Starts Here I needed more silken tofu.

I was on my way to an appointment and in a different neck of the woods, I saw a big grocery store, so I thought I'll just dash in here, pick it up, and I'll be on my way. Well 20 minutes later I had three chocolate bars, a bag of onions, and no silken tofu. When I had finally found someone who worked in the store they told me they didn't carry silken tofu. Moral of the story: I was late for my appointment, the chocolate melted in the car and I now hate the big grocery store on Yonge Street.

• Plan out your groceries for the week around specials -- you'll save money and won't end up making the same thing week in, week out.

• Plan menus around recipes. If you're new to the cooking from scratch camp, look through some cookbooks and plan menus around recipes.

• Write a list. Sure, trying to remember what you need for the week is a great memory exercise, but driving back to the store because you forgot the eggs and are making omelettes for dinner is a waste of gas. Write a list, and then remember to take it with you, along with your reusable bags.

• Shopping around the edges of the store is where all the fresh foods are. If you love to cook and have your list, you probably won't end up in the chip aisle.

• I always start in the produce department. We eat a ton of fruits and veggies so my cart ends up looking like a rainbow, which is a good thing. Put your produce on the top shelf to avoid any of it getting squished.

• In my local store the bakery is right beside the produce department so I get my 100 per cent whole grain whole wheat bread and put it on top of my produce for the same reason -- don't want flattened bread when I get home.

• I like to shop the aisles next with my list. After I have my staples, I head over to the meat department -- use the plastic bags and put your meat, fish or poultry in them. Avoiding cross-contamination starts at the store. Place them in the bottom of the cart.

• I do the dairy department next getting eggs, milk, yogurt and juice.

• Then I head to the frozen foods for frozen veggies or not in season (hopefully local) frozen berries -- a better health choice than fresh not in season non-local berries.

• Once you head over to the cashier, your cart should be colourful and full of happy, healthy looking food, not like an ad for a fast food restaurant.

• Unless you love people crashing into your buggy, never shop on the weekend, unless it's really early on Sunday morning or Halloween. The best shopping day I had was Halloween night at 7 p.m. I needed a couple of ingredients so I left my husband home to hand out the treats while I shopped. There wasn't a soul in my store. It was awesome, slightly freaky, but incredible nonetheless.

• If someone does bump your cart do not ram theirs back. Just be a good Canadian and say, "I'm sorry." (Canadian custom and behaviour translation -- Canadians say, I'm sorry, even when it isn't their fault. We are incredibly polite which certain countries think is actually a bad case of low self-esteem, but no, we really are incredibly polite.)

• My favourite day to shop is early on either a Wednesday or a Friday. Wednesday still has the specials and no crowds; Friday has the new specials, great selection and not too many people.

• Never, ever shop when you're hungry. You'll buy stuff you wouldn't normally have bought. I still have a bag of rice crackers covered in seaweed in my pantry that I bought at a low blood sugar moment.

• Never, ever take a small, tired, crabby child shopping when all you've had is a large Tim Horton's coffee. It spells DISASTER. Been there, done that. Shop after naps and snacks.

• Watch the cash register. If the price is wrong, the law says it's free. YES, FREE. If you bought three bottles of natural apple juice and they rang in at $4.50 and the price was $3.25, the first one is free, the second and third are at the correct price. This only pertains to items under $10 so don't try to scam them on a new patio set.

• Don't go driving around looking for who-knows-what after you have your precious groceries packed into your car, get home and put the cold stuff into the fridge right away. Keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot is an important food safety issue that we tend to forget about, so perishable foods should go into the fridge or freezer as soon as possible. In the heat of the summer it's wise to have a thermal shopping bag or a cooler in the car so that ice cream or salmon won't spoil on the way home.

In the middle of January in Winnipeg, you can drive around for days and the ice cream will never melt. August in Ottawa? Break out the cooler.

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