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.