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Tips for first-time student shoppers in America

2020-03-31 17:30:38
Shopping for essential items in the US can be pretty overwhelming at first for many international students, but with a little practice, you will soon get used to it. Here are the different types of stores you’ll find in the US as well as tips on how to shop wisely

Different types of stores in the United States cater to different needs:


· Convenience stores and gas stations are a quick stop for small, daily items like newspapers, maps, soft drinks and snack food. It is common to see several stores — British Petroleum (or BP), Speedway or Shell, to name a few — grouped in one area or spread along busy streets and highways. Avoid purchasing grocery items at these stores as they can be rather pricey.


· Grocery stores such as Jewel-Osco, Meijer, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are where people buy the majority of their food and toiletry items in the United States. Shelves stretch on seemingly endlessly, stocked with sometimes five or ten different brands of one product. Grocery stores are not typically found in downtown areas; urban dwellers usually shop several times during the week, purchasing only the necessities that they can easily transport home by bus or train.


· Department stores are even more sprawling, “one-stop shops” that offer everything from furniture to groceries to clothing and prescription drugs and banking services. Macy’s, Sears, Kohl’s, Walmart, Target and Costco are some of the largest U.S. department store chains. As mentioned, many department stores (as well as grocery stores) contain banks, pharmacies, eye doctors’ offices and small eateries.


· Farmers Markets are a collection of stands that typically sell home-grown produce, flowers, artisanal items, arts and crafts during the summer months. Farmers Markets are usually held on a specific day and time and are organized locally. Contact your local municipality to learn more about Farmers Markets in your area.


Some tips to make your first trip to the grocery store stress-free.


Know your space

This is the first step to a successful grocery shopping trip.


 If you’re living in a dorm, don’t buy things that can’t be eaten as they are or prepared in the microwave. If you have a small fridge, don’t buy an epic amount of food as you will have nowhere to store them. This also applies if you’re sharing a kitchen. Make sure you only buy enough to fill up your own designated space.


Familiarize yourself with the options

It may take a little time and error to find a grocery store in your area that suits all of your needs, but once you do, make sure you know what stocks they carry. Spend the first few trips to the grocery store walking up and down each aisle to get a feel for the layout of your local stores and know the best days to go shopping. This way, you’ll always choose the least stressful, quickest time and place to plan your weekly route.


Make a list and stick to it 

This is a must for grocery shopping. Decide what you need ahead of time and don’t stray from it. If you do, you’ll probably end up buying a lot more than you need and spending more than you planned.


Also, make your list in sections. Groceries stores typically all follow the same layout, so make your list by those sections (produce, dairy, etc). This will speed up your shopping process and make for less aimless wandering. 


Read the labels

Everyone, including college students, has dietary restrictions Whether you are trying to lose weight, or are a dedicated vegan, reading labels is the perfect way to find out exactly what it is you’re buying and will be eating.


Also, for dairy products, eggs, and packaged produce, you must look at the expiration date before you put it in your cart. If you don’t, you could be buying something that will be rotten in a day.


Only buy for the week

Grocery shopping is a chore, and no one wants to do it once a week, but doing so will save you money and reduce waste. If you only buy what you need for a week, then you’re less likely to splurge on unnecessary items or let your food go bad sitting in your fridge.


Discount cards 

Make sure you sign up for discount cards at grocery stores – you will save quite a bit of money. But be careful because sometimes it’s not just a discount card, it’s a credit card so make sure you know what you’re signing up for.


For example, Ralphs, Albertsons and CVS all have discount cards, while Target has both a store-specific debit and credit card. If it asks for a Social Security Number on the applications, it’s a credit card.