Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday: Employee-Only Grocery Store Secrets

As I was thinking about what kind of an article I could write to help other people out, I tried to think of something that I know that most people don’t- some kind of knowledge that I could share. And, as I thought it over, I realized that since I had worked at a grocery store in nearly every capacity for about a million years, there might be something I could share that I had learned there. So, here goes. 5 things most people don’t know about grocery stores.

1. When buying meat, milk, and bread, buy from the back and bottom because grocery stores rotate: meaning, oldest in front, newest in back. Pull your food from the back, bottom, behind, and underneath, and you will usually get a product that is a few days fresher.

2. Cheese normally keeps for MONTHS past when you buy it- check the expiry date on the back. A lot of the time, you’ll have 4-6 months until it expires- so you can feel free to plenty when it goes on sale.

3.Expiry dates vs. Code Dates: This is an important, albeit well-kept secret of grocery stores. Sometimes, in place of an expiration or best by date, there will just be a mix of numbers. The reason? Grocery store employees go through and check expiry dates to make sure that products on the shelves are fresh. If they are expired, a grocery store can send that product back to the manufacturer and get a refund. Some companies don’t want their product sent back-they don’t want to have to pay for a refund of expired food if their product doesn’t sell. Their sneaky way around this? Code dates. They are required by law to have some kind of expiration date on their products, so they make a special code for dates: Example: A45=November, AA=11, SD= 2012, and so on- so all you see on the label is a mix of numbers and letters (A45AASD) nonsensical to you and grocery store employees. Since no one except the manufacturer knows the code, they don’t have to worry about expired product being returned to them. Be safe: buy products with an expiry or best-by date.

4. When it comes to dairy, bigger is better. If you are at a store that is always jam-packed, THAT is where you want to buy your dairy products. Not every store is big or busy enough for a daily dairy shipment- so if you are at a store that is cram packed, usually it means that their dairy is sold so quickly that you are ensured absolutely fresh product from the truck that morning, rather than a shipment from 4-5 days ago.

5.  Produce employees are supposed to sample their wares: Want to know if something is fresh? Not sure if that batch of oranges is good? Find an employee and ask them to cut it open, or give you a slice to make sure it is good- they won’t say no.

EXTRA: Here’s one extra tip: When it comes to canned and bottled food, expiration dates really are not expiration dates. Nearly all canned and bottled foods are good for months and often YEARS past their expiration date. Why? No company ever wants to be sued. Better super safe than super sorry, so they put their expiration dates far in advance of the real expiration. (NOT true of boxed cereals- you will definitely notice that cereals past their expiration date are less than fresh and yummy)

Hope this helps you feel like a pro next time you go to the grocery store.


  1. Such a good list! Thank you for sharing!

    I worked at a pet food store, and I would like to share about pet food:
    Don't buy the cheapest bag of food- its full of filler and you actually spend 2-3 times $$ on the food a year. Go for the more expensive bags that have a meat product as a first ingredient and stay away from bags containing corn or chicken as those are #1 allergy causes in pets. Ignore the feeding instructions on the bag and live by a rule to do 1/4 cup 3x a day for every 25 lbs of pet. This includes snacks. So, if Fideo is 45bs, he only needs 2/4 cups of food given 3x a day. Yes, your pet can survive on this much food. Doing this will save both $$ and make your pet extremely healthy. Most pets I see are grossly overfed and overweight which also makes your pet lazy and causes many health problems. You want to be able to feel your pets ribs and the indents easily on their side, you can add a little more food, but not more than 1/8 cup more for the day. Of course this excludes the pregnant and puppy/ kittens who need lots of extra food to grow.

  2. fab info -- thanks for sharing!!

  3. Ohhh I just want to go to the store now with all my new found knowledge! What an awesome blog!! Thanks!

  4. I'll feel a bit more powerful on my next grocery trip!

  5. I love this post. Found it on Pinterest and it's the best advice I never knew. Thank you!