How Do I:??

How To Buy Groceries In The US

Americans like to buy groceries at large supermarkets, neighborhood groceries, and outdoor farmer's markets. In all these cases, you serve yourself and pick your own produce.

Before you go shopping, check for coupons and sales in your local newspaper. Check the expiration date of each before using it. At the front of the store or in the window you may find flyers posting the day's specials. If you can't find any specials, ask a clerk.

Buying Quality Foods:

Meat, poultry, pork and eggs are all subject to rigorous and consistent federal inspection by the U.S.D.A. (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and rated by "grade". Meat is graded by both quality (wholesomeness, safety and freshness) and yield (amount of usable lean meat). The highest grades for meat are prime, choice and select, and the yield is graded from 1-5, 5 being the highest.

Learn more about meat and poultry grades and nutrition at the USDA website:

Eggs are also graded on quality and appearance, with the highest grades being AA and A, suitable for both eating and baking. Grade B eggs are of lower quality and may be suitable for baking.

Learn more about eggs at:

Fish and seafood are also subject to federal inspection, but not consistently. Make sure you sniff and examine the fish before buying it. Shellfish like clams, mussels and oysters, if uncooked, should have closed shells. Open shells indicate they are unfit for consumption.

Organic produce and foodstuffs are often free of pesticides and additives that may cause health problems. They are currently subject to many different regional and private standards. However, the federal government is in the process of establishing uniform regulations for what constitutes "organic."

Other ways to save money:

    • Ask about in-house "generic" brand products, like the "Safeway Select" brand at Safeway, a large national grocery chain. They will generally cost less than "brand name" items.
    • Compare products by checking the "unit price" of each item.
    • You can save on dented cans by asking for a discount, but they may be contaminated with botulism, a potentially lethal toxin.

Club cards/Warehouse Shopping:

Some large grocery chains like Safeway offer "club cards" which give regular discounts on groceries.

You can obtain the membership form at Safeway's website.

Warehouse stores like Costco are large warehouses filled with bulk items at wholesale or discounted prices, like 20-packs of toilet paper. These stores may carry not only perishable and nonperishable foods but household items like appliances, toys, clothes, tires and furniture. For a fee you may become a member. FFF
>> Find a Costco warehouse

Pack your own - Some stores offer even steeper discounts by letting you bag your own groceries.

! Be on the alert for product recalls. Some brands of juices and meats have been found to contain e. coli bacteria, potentiially deadly to infants. Watch the news for product recalls.

! "Paper or Plastic"?
At the checkout counter, the clerk or bagger may ask if you want a paper bag or a plastic one. Some people prefer to use paper so they can recycle it.

Best days to buy produce, seafood and meat: ask the store manager. Delivery days vary.

! Most foods are not taxed. However, you will pay a sales tax on certain prepared food items like deli sandwiches. This sales tax will be added on to your bill at the time of sale. Taxed items are indicated by a "T" next to the price. To learn more about sales taxes for different items, click here.

Farmer's Markets, held on weekends in many large cities, bring fresh produce directly from the farms. They offer low prices and fresh produce. Many organic farms offer their produce here. Check your local paper for dates and times of the farmer's markets in your city.

Buy Food?

Learn Cooking Measurements?

Learn Oven Temperatures?


Understand Sales Tax?


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