Learning How to Grocery Shop

17 Aug

Jo Marshall, Purdue University Student and Peer Counselor
www.purdue.edu/mymoney

You have decided to take the leap—the leap from childhood to adulthood. You are going to try to make your own food! …but first you have to buy ingredients. Grocery shopping can be an adventure in and of itself. Just finding the correct items in the grocery store and maintaining your budget can be a challenge.

The first time I decided to buy groceries, I chose to go to Walmart. I didn’t have a car and I knew that the bus route would take me directly to the store and back to campus. Even so, I was terrified that I was somehow going to end up stranded. I boarded the correct bus, but once the bus reached Lafayette, the driver announced that we were changing routes. Purdue’s campus was far off in the distance and I didn’t know what to do. Surely I could find another bus, but what if it also changed routes? I had to think fast. I found another bus that was heading to Walmart and decided to take my chances. Luckily, this bus stayed on route.

It wouldn’t have been that stressful, had I taken the time to look around on http://www.gocitybus.com/ to see which routes could get me there. Go City Bus even has a smartphone app that allows you to see where the bus is at any time. Because I hadn’t prepared myself for the trip, going to the store took longer than normal, and I was hungry upon arrival.

bus floor and seats; text overlay: Grocery Shopping in College

When I reached Walmart, I grabbed a cart and very slowly walked around the store. It’s not that I wanted to be lackadaisical, but rather that I wanted to find the items and I had no idea where they would be. I arrived in the aisle for my first item and was bombarded by the immense array of colorful advertisements and choices. I had never realized how many different kinds of cereal there were! Not only are there lots of different kinds of cereal, there are also lots of different brands of every single kind.

The thing about having a lot of choices available is that you are frequently faced with the choice of buying a cheaper and potentially lesser quality item, or spending more and getting an item that may not be better than the cheaper option. On this particular shopping trip, I made some poor choices when it came to which brand to buy. I spent more money than I had planned and came home with things that I didn’t need because I had been hungry. I also forgot several of the items that I needed the first few times that I went to the store.

As I learned after a few shopping trips, it’s best if I follow a few rules when I go. First and foremost, I no longer go grocery shopping if I’m hungry. If I go shopping when I’m hungry, I buy way too much junk food. It’s better if I take the time to eat beforehand. Secondly, I have learned that it’s best if I carry a grocery list. This helps me not to forget anything and prevents me from buying items I don’t need. It also enables me to estimate how much money I will be spending so that I know whether or not I am going to stay within my budget. Finally, I have learned from experience which items are okay to buy cheaply and which items are worth spending more money on. This is my personal preference but it’s definitely worth trying different brands to find the best and cheapest option for you.

I hope that you can learn from my mistakes in order to stay within your budget and experience less frustration than I did the first time you go grocery shopping. Shop away!

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