Grocery shopping in the U.S.

How to get the most for your money

Shopping for the items that you need in U.S. stores can be overwhelming at first for international transplants, but with a little practice, you will soon be getting the most for your dollar.

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 together 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. You might want 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 thus more easily plan your weekly route. 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.

(Source: Hannah Roberts, USA Education Guides)