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Ground Rules for Grocery Shopping

Reading Time: 4 min

Welcome to another episode of my series titled “Ground Rules”. It’s a series the content of which is based purely on my day-to-day experience in fool-proofing simple everyday tasks that affect our productivity. So far in this series, I have addressed Ground Rules for using PickMe and Uber, Ground Rules of Using Social Media for Sri Lankans, Ground Rules for Ordering through PickMe Food and Uber Eats, and Ground Rules for Online Banking and Shopping. Today let’s look at a few ground rules for grocery shopping.

Speaking of grocery shopping what would you do if you were to buy a bulk of sugar today? You drop by the supermarket. Then you decide the kind of sugar (white or brown), type of sugar (loose, packeted, or cubes), the quantity, and the brand depending on availability and price. Grocery shopping is such a mundane task we can hardly care about any other factors. Now, what if I told you there are four other important factors to consider when shopping for groceries? Keep on reading to learn more.

Always check the Expiry Date

I dropped by Cargills Food City – Kohuwala outlet on the 28th of this month where I picked up a few groceries and a loaf of sandwich bread. Although I’m not in the habit of doing it, this time I checked the expiry dates and realized the loaf was only 24 hours away from expiry. I returned to the shelf and picked up another, then another, and another. I checked around two dozen loaves and all of them were only 24 hours away from expiry. The crew removed all the loaves after I complained [Images below].

It sounds like a careless mistake, but it isn’t. A few months ago, I ordered some groceries and a loaf of bread online from the same supermarket and received a nearly expired loaf. Are you seeing a pattern here? Yes, you are! Supermarkets knowing buyers seldom check the expiry dates silently leave the products nearing expiry such as bread on the shelves. Now I check the expiry date of every item I buy not just bread. It’s inconvenient but it’s a must. Hence, my first ground rule for grocery shopping, check the expiry date, always.

Don’t leave valuables Unmanned

Supermarkets as a rule don’t allow you to bring your bags inside. They want you to think it’s for your convenience but it’s one of the ways they fight shoplifting. The standard procedure is to leave your bags at the bag counter where there are security guards responsible for watching over them and collect a numbered token so that the security guard will not accidentally hand over your stuff to someone else. You return the token to the bag counter and pick up your stuff once you finish buying your groceries. It’s the usual drill.

Some supermarkets however don’t have any security guards manning the bag counters nor do they hand over numbered tokens. I once left my dinner pack at Laugfs SuperMart in Kohuwala. The security guard said, “It’s alright sir. You don’t need a token.” When I returned to the counter the security guard had given my dinner pack to someone else! What if it was something more valuable than a dinner pack? Hence, my second ground rule for grocery shopping is don’t leave your valuables in the bag counter unmanned or without a token. [The images above show the bag counter in Arpico Super Center, Kohuwala branch left unmanned.]

Double-check the Grocery List

My father once bought two slabs of Christmas cake weighing 500g each at Cargills Food City, Nuwara Eliya with several other groceries. After coming home, he realized both slabs were missing. The bill indicated he had paid for those. There was absolutely no way he dropped them in between the exit and the car. He should have noticed if they did. (Two slabs of Christmas cakes weighing 500g each are supposed to make a loud thud.) He went back to the supermarket but did not find the missing items.

Somehow those two slabs of Christmas cake didn’t make their way from the cashier to the grocery bags. It’s but one example. Sometimes, you can be billed for an item you didn’t buy. Here’s how. You are buying four cans of Soda. The cashier holds one can to the barcode reader and inputs the balance manually. Doing so she can get the count wrong or press the wrong key, punching five or six instead of four costing you extra. Hence, my third ground rule for grocery shopping, double-check the groceries list before leaving the grocery store.

Don’t be a Selfish Panic Buyer

My final ground rule is not about me but others. I was not familiar with the term “panic buying” until the government, imposed a curfew to curb the spread of COVID19 back in the year 2020. Soon after the week-long curfew was announced masses were seen gathering in supermarkets and buying essentials and other supplies in large quantities to last for months. In Cargills Food City Nugegoda, it was noticed not even an Onion was left. People who cannot afford to buy in such large quantities came last and were left with nothing to buy!

Just a few days ago people were seen buying soap in the bulk when media announced a pending price hike for soap and other sanitary products. In fact, “Ada Derana” on April 26th reported one individual bought soap worth Rs. 18,000/- (50 USD approximately) One consumer speaking to the media said she pawned her jewelry to find money to buy soap. Unfortunately, there are people in this nation struggling to afford a meal let alone buy soap. Hence, my third ground rule for grocery shopping, don’t be a selfish panic buyer.

Wrap Up

Although a few friends of mine have said they enjoy grocery shopping, most of us find it to be such a mundane task we take it for granted most of the time. However, a second trip to the supermarket because of an expired product, a missing item, or an excess payment can be annoying and cost you a little more fuel and time as well. These ground rules by me for grocery shopping can help avoid that annoyance and the cost if you chose to stick to them. I know because they help me every day.

By the way, post-COVID 19 most of us prefer doing our grocery shopping online and many of the local supermarkets offer the service (While Cargills Food City, Keells Super, and Glomark do Spar don’t deliver during curfew it seems. With Spar you can’t pay online either.) These ground rules however relate only to grocery shopping in person. Maybe except for the first and the last ground rules. I will soon be publishing a few more ground rules exclusively for those who shop their groceries online. Until then stay tuned.


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