Before Your Next Grocery Shopping…

“It’s that time of the year
Yeah! that time of the year
When everybody’s feeling holly-jolly….”

Yohoo! The holidays are fast approaching! The streets are decked in red and green and the rush to get the latest fashionable items that we term “krismas cloth” in this part of the world is second to none. Our poor chickens and goats are already saying their last prayers as they would be slaughtered in their thousands to meet the demands of hungry humans. Yes, it’s Christmas! The season of happiness, spending and shopping!

At some points this month, you’ll probably be making plans to go for your last or second to the last grocery shopping for the year. Prices of foodstuffs would continually be inflated till it eventually sky-rockets during the peak of the celebrations. To boycott this, some would buy their foodstuffs as early as possible while others may prefer an adrenaline-infused shopping spree….lol

Notwithstanding the category you fall into, one thing is sure; Grocery shopping looms on your horizon. And the worry of the average Nigerian shopper is how to get the highest quality foodstuffs at the lowest selling price. If you could get a bag of quality foreign rice for #20,000 in our present economy, you’ll jump at the offer, won’t you? But what happens when you get a fair deal from the seller only to get home to find out that you bought poor quality rice. Or the yam you bought to use in making your Christmas pounded yam is half-rotten? It could be very painful as no one likes being cheated.

So today I’ll be giving some practical tips that would help you identify the best quality foodstuffs so you can have a more satisfying shopping experience.

I believe these would come in handy not just this holiday season but whenever you go shopping.

Before you shop

Take note of these whenever you plan to go shopping :

  • Check out your food pantry, freezer or fridge and take note of the things you have or don’t have. This would help you have an idea of the things you really need so you don’t buy things you already have enough of or forget to buy essential things.
  • Make a shopping list. The importance of this cannot be overemphasized! Shopping lists help you to shop with purpose, follow your budget and maximize your resources as much as possible.
    • An easy way for you to be able to compile a very comprehensive grocery list is to outline the food you want to cook, eg “I want to cook fried rice and chicken for Christmas so I’ll need rice, groundnut oil, seasoning, chicken, carrots, green peas, sweet corn, etc.
    • Shop with a purpose! Going to the market without a plan is not only wasteful financially, but makes you end up storing food items you probably don’t need for months on end, taking up space in your store cupboard. And if they expire or go bad before you use them, it’s a double waste!. Ensure you don’t shop haphazardly.

When Shopping..

  • Get to the market early, so you can get in on the good stuff and have a good bargain.
  • Buy from familiar faces whose wares you’ve tested and you can trust. Another good thing about this is that you’ll get discounts due to the “customer” factor as we say in Nigeria
  • Properly examine your groceries before you pay for them! It’s your right as a buyer. Most vendors are very good at sweet talks and you may be deceived and get home to see something that you’re not happy with. Some practical tips with common foodstuffs include:

Rice: When shopping for rice, first of all, ask yourself: What type of rice do I want to get? Is it long grain or short grain rice? Or Is it local rice or foreign? What you decide on most times is based on your budget or your preference.

Whether you’re buying in bags or in cups and rubbers, pick a few rice grains and examine them. Is it dusty or damp? Is it firm to the touch or soft? Can you bite through the raw rice grains easily or it’s hard enough to resist? Has it expired? All these parameters say one thing or the other about the rice.

If it’s dusty or damp then it has probably been stored for too long or it was poorly stored so weevils may have already started attacking the grains. If it’s not hard when you bite through then most likely the rice would boil too quickly and get too sticky and clumped.

Tubers: For the yam, water yam or potato lovers there are so many culture-based parameters to identifying the best tubers.

However, the basic thing you should look out for is the condition of the tubers. If the tubers have holes in them or irregularities then there is a huge tendency that the yam itself has been tampered with by yam beetles or it’s rotten. Also, good yams especially don’t get yellow immediately after you peel them but since most sellers won’t allow you cut them to observe first, you just have to notice your yams at home and re-patronize the sellers that sell yams you enjoyed well when you cooked them.

Meats: to identify fresh meat watch out for their colours and odours. Fresh meat is usually bright red in colour and doesn’t have an offensive smell. Some may even have blood on them. But when a portion of meat looks too dark, has a bad odour or has moisture on it then it’s probably going bad already.

Beans: there are different kinds of beans in the market. Buy based on your preference but try to watch out for holes in the beans which is a sign that weevils have eaten into the seeds. Such kind of beans is no longer as nutritious and shouldn’t be bought.

Fruits and vegetables: fruits should be firm to the touch and not too soft while vegetables should not be wilted or dry. Also, watch out for patches on the surface of the fruits that could indicate that there are worms or maggots in it.

Fish: Though fresh fish doesn’t pose many problems (except it’s actually not fresh), watch out for the smell which can indicate that it’s already going bad because it has stayed too long while buying smoked fish.

Groundnut oil: the importance of good vegetable oils cannot be overemphasized. It’s advised that we stick to branded oils because most locally processed vegetable oils are unhygienic. In addition, good vegetable oils are translucent. But when you see oils in bottles that look cloudy or darker in colour, run the other way!

The list of foodstuffs is endless so are the tips.

We could go to the culture-based tips like some Edo people would say when you want to buy Palm oil, sniff it first as scented oils tend to taste better. Some Igbo people say that when you want to buy yams in New yam season it’s best to buy the ones with thorns on their tubers because those are sweeter. And the Yorubas advice that you taste a pinch of the “Ijebu” garri to see if it has that characteristic sharp taste. There are so many of such tips that you may not be able to separate the myths from the facts unless you try it out repeatedly.

But more often than not, these tips work and can save you from making a bad purchase in our open markets. Pay attention to such shopping tips as you’ll be benefitting from the experience of others. Also share them with others and let your younger ones or kids know and surely you’ll have a more satisfying experience not just when you shop but when you cook and when you eat!

That’s all for today. Feel free to leave a comment so I can also hear the grocery shopping tips you know.

I love you all. Merry Christmas and Happy New year in advance!!!

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