Grocery Shopping Options Are Changing

As I was shopping for some cold medication in a pharmacy, a couple of bolts in a hardware store, some cards at a dollar store and tile in a home goods store, I came to a realization: Food is everywhere.

We typically shop for food in a traditional grocery store near our home. Sometimes I am tempted by the food items as I stroll around other types of stores.

If you have even the faintest of hunger pangs, you can grab a snack or a dinner mix before reaching the checkout stand. Unfortunately, not all the food offerings rank high on the health scale. However, with some label reading and comparison, you can make the best choices among the options available.

The variety of food available in retail stores stretches far beyond basic snack foods and beverages. The size of the aisles of food seems to be increasing, and the temptation to buy your groceries, along with other items, as you run errands has become very strong.

According to the 2017 U.S. grocery shopper trend data reported by the Food Marketing Institute, people are “shopping around” more than ever.

From 2016 to 2017, shopping in traditional grocery stores declined slightly, from 85 to 83 percent of households. On the other hand, shopping in convenience stores, natural and organic stores, and ethnic food stores has increased. Online shopping has increased dramatically.

About one in four households shops online for groceries at least some of the time, which is an increase of 50 percent in the last couple of years. About 43 percent of millennials (born between 1983 and 2000) shop online.

“Co-shopping” is increasing. In other words, one person doesn’t do all the shopping for a household. The duties are shared.

In my house, going grocery shopping together is equal to going on a “date” for me and my husband. Yes, we lead an exciting life.

Families are “outsourcing” cooking more often, too. Have you ever picked up a roasted chicken and deli salad for dinner instead of making it at home?

When available, ready-to-eat foods become the evening meal among 67 percent of households at least once in a while. Depending on where you live, you also might see “meal kits.”

I have been tempted by these kits that allow you to simply cook your dinner, even when buying the ingredients is less expensive.

About 88 percent of shoppers believe that eating at home is more healthful than eating at a restaurant. With smart choices, that can be true.

Be sure to take some time in your planning and shopping. Here are some tips from one of our “Now Serving” series of handouts available at (see Food Preparation):

  • Use store ads for menu ideas. Aim for a wide variety of foods from the MyPlate food groups and then write down menus for a week.
  • Save your list of menu ideas, perhaps in a binder, and include the shopping list with the menus. You may want to recycle your menu ideas in a few weeks.
  • Consider items on your menu that allow you to cook once and eat twice. For example, have a roast for Sunday dinner and roast beef sandwiches on Monday. Use planned-over grilled chicken in soups, fajitas or other dishes.
  • Keep your list on your refrigerator so family members can add to the list during the week. Keep staple items, such as milk, eggs, bread and juice, on the list each week, and add needed items to the list. If you have access to a computer, consider using that when planning your meals.
  • If you know the store layout well enough, make a list based on the layout with subheadings, such as “fresh produce,” “canned goods,” “meats” and “breads.” Some grocery stores provide a map.
  • Before going to the store, have a snack. Otherwise, adding many items to your shopping cart is tempting.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University 

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