Wait– I have a coupon for that!

I have a confession to make:  I have become an Extreme Couponer. All the signs are there: I’ve developed a pattern for watching my most lucrative stores for bargains and super deals. I know and use terms like Catalina, MFG, MQs, blinkies, peelies and stacking. And I have no less than five jars of spaghetti sauce in my cabinets. (The big ones — and I paid only $4 for all of them!)

In fact, I have now successfully navigated three ‘super doubles’ couponing events at my local grocery stores!  ‘Super doubles’ is when a grocery store doubles coupons, in some cases doubling manufacturer coupons worth up to $2.00. So while I’m by no means an expert in extreme couponing, I AM highly enthusiastic about the impact it has already had on my family’s grocery budget. There are three of us in my little family unit and while our budget has increased some since I landed my dream job as an Administrative Assistant at Midan Marketing, it is certainly not unlimited.  Shoppers like me who save by couponing for common household needs and side items will have extra cash to purchase more roasts, ribs and steaks than before!

[Read more…]

Dinner at the Door: A Review of Online Meal Delivery Services

I have discovered something: I actually like to cook!  I just don’t like to plan meals and I despise standing in front of the frig with the door open, trying to figure out what I am going to feed my hungry clan. Because I work full-time and am a busy mom and wife, my time for meal planning and shopping is limited. A typical week for me includes three to four soccer practices plus church functions and chauffeuring kids to their activities – all after work!

Like many moms, I find great satisfaction in sitting down and eating as a family. I work hard to protect mealtime and try to make dinner at least four nights a week. I was curious as to how an online meal delivery service could help make this happen.

Online meal delivery services are not a new concept, but the niche certainly has been reinvigorated in the last 18 months. Here at Midan we knew we needed to learn more. So, as Shonda started researching online grocery services, I decided to investigate the meal services counterpart. I ordered from both Blue Apron and Home Chef for a couple of weeks each, to “test drive” the concept.

 

Thoughts on Blue Apron

Everything you need for dinner in one Blue Apron box

Everything you need for dinner in one Blue Apron box

Blue Apron is a three-year-old start-up now delivering five million meals a month. The menu is set each week. You cannot select for specific dietary restrictions, which could easily be a detriment for some. The first week I ordered four meals for four people. The meals cost $8.74/person, which includes shipping. The ingredients arrived plenty cold but in LOTS of packaging. My first impression was that all this packaging can’t be good for anyone but the recycling center. (Complaints from customers have led Blue Apron to put a recycling program in place where they retrieve and reuse the packaging.)

The recipes sounded good. Some of our favorites included Fennel- and Thyme-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts and White Balsamic Pepperonata and Flat Iron Steak and Fines Herbs Butter with Garlic, Potato and Red Pepper Hash.  The pictures and instructions provided were easy enough to follow, although there were no one-dish-wonders like I often gravitate to in my stable of easy, quick meals. There was a lot of clean up; we always had several cutting boards and pots and pans to be washed. Every meal we received was tasty but my teenage son did declare that most of the meals were too “frou frou” for him. With the higher cost of beef, very little beef was sent, which certainly wasn’t to our liking either!

My biggest complaint:  Blue Apron said the meal would average 40 minutes from start to finish. That was never the case; there was usually 40 minutes of prep time before the cooking began, which lead to a few late night dinners.

 

 Thoughts on Home Chef

Home Chef launched in Chicago in 2013. This summer they reported they were shipping 70,000 meals per month. Home Chef does allow you to select for different dietary preferences, which is a plus. To accommodate family preferences, we tried the low-carb, gluten-free selections. Each week before the cut-off time, I was able to go in and confirm I wanted what they had selected for my family or change to another offering. The appetizing photography often caused me to swap one item for another.

Home Chef ingredients conveniently packaged together

Home Chef ingredients conveniently packaged together

Home Chef seemed to use fewer ingredients and ingredients were already prepped (e.g., the garlic was peeled and ready to be minced). The prep timing was more accurate, and Home Chef includes nutrition facts, which gets a gold star from me. The cost per meal is $9.95 and I usually had enough leftovers for one or two lunches. And, there was way more beef!  We had flat iron and sirloin steaks, which were delicious!  The pork chops and pork tenderloin were also excellent. 

 

Overall thoughts

Do I like this type of program?  Yes! Although I entered this as a “research project,” I was surprised by how much I liked it.
Did I continue after the test? Yes, but with only two meals a week, as that seems to be the right amount for our family and allowed me to get the kids’ favs back on the menu.
Are they more expensive than homemade meals? Yes, but this is offset by me not having to spend a good chunk of my weekends meal planning, checking inventory and shopping. Having some leftovers to take to the office for lunches also helps me justify the cost.
What was the quality of the meat and produce? I’ve got to admit, I was skeptical about how the meat and produce would look when it arrived, but I was pleasantly surprised. All of the produce was outstanding and in the eight weeks I tested, I only had one case-ready leaker: fish!  Each vacuum-sealed package of beef, pork and chicken I received was excellent. All the beef was Select grade, which I understood given the price point they have to hit. The Blue Apron pork and chicken was branded; the beef and pork I received from Home Chef was not.
Can you skip shipments?  Yes, both companies have a great app that allows you to see what is coming and skip that week’s shipment if you want/need to.

 

The biggest benefits

The biggest benefit was the convenience of knowing what we were having and that I had all of the ingredients on hand!  This is a HUGE plus for a busy mom!  While it was my job to have salt, pepper and olive oil on hand (easy enough), everything else – even spices – is included and pre-measured, which means there was no waste.

Easy-to-follow recipes from Home Chef

Easy-to-follow recipes from Home Chef

One benefit I had not anticipated was that the instructions were so good (step-by-step with photos and often a video), that I left my 14-year-old son and his buddy in charge of starting dinner while I ran to pick up my daughter. Most evenings my husband and I prepare the meal together, which gives us time to catch up and is one of the main reasons I have discovered I love to cook. Quality time with the fam, cooking and eating…the benefit of the warm fuzzies has made this experiment well worth the effort!

Retailers, I don’t think it will be too long before you will need to embrace this concept in some way to keep your VIP customers coming into your stores. I like the idea of picking up pre-measured, all-ingredients-included meals for a set price when I need a quick dinner solution. Along with providing the ultimate convenience, an in-store option like this would also eliminate shipping costs and require less packaging.

Packers and processors, if you are not in discussions with companies who play in this space, what are you waiting for?  Forging relationships now could help you grow later. Along with options like online meal delivery service, talk to your current brick-and-mortar customers about how they plan to deliver fresh meals to customers who want to spend less time shopping and more time cooking. Be a part of the solution for these customers now so you can be a part of their success later.

 

Have you tried an online meal delivery service?  I would love to hear about your experience! Leave a comment here or email me d.amstein@midanmarketing.com.

 

Groceries delivered to my door?
Sign me up!

I’ll admit it. The thought of trading in the grocery store checkout line for an online cart to buy my weekly groceries puts a little spring in my step. I appreciate that I am heavily involved in the meat industry and have a deep love for brick and mortar stores, but the promise of groceries delivered to my front door intrigued me enough to try it out.

Online grocery is one of the great comeback stories. After the first online grocery delivery company Homegrocer.com failed during the dot-com bust of the 2000s, smart business people perfected the formula and they have returned stronger, more diverse and with better IPOs than ever before. Online grocers like AmazonFresh.com, FreshDirect.com and DoortoDoorOrganics.com are skipping brick and mortar stores for a strong online presence with regionally-based distribution warehouses and privately-owned delivery trucks. In 2014 IBIS World reported that online grocery sales had grown at a 14.1% annual rate over the past five years. In addition, profit estimates were $927 million, which is 8.5% of total revenue. For comparison, brick and mortar stores are at an average of 1.3% total revenue (FMI). Online grocery is only growing, with 54% of online grocery shoppers increasing their spending over the past year (Watson, 2015).

What does this mean for the meat industry?

For the right grocery shopper, online grocery can be a life saver. While it truly has the potential to replace or at least fill in the gaps of a regular grocery shopping trip (and that even goes for fresh meat sales), there is a price for convenience. From my estimates, an online shopper will pay more, but in the long run it’s an opportunity cost comparison. If the time saved by shopping online versus going to a brick and mortar store is greater, shoppers will increasingly make the switch. For meat suppliers, that means playing the game and working to create fruitful relationships with online grocery businesses. However, when trying to forge the sale, it will be important to have a good grasp of an online grocery’s unique buying, selling and distribution business model.

In order for brick and mortar grocery stores to compete, Meat Directors or Meat Managers need to constantly be giving consumers a reason to physically come into a store. That means emphasizing convenience, value and product freshness, along with unique advertising campaigns to peak and maintain a customer’s interest. Some retailers have been successful with a hybrid model that allows customers to order online and pick up bagged and ready to go groceries at the store’s front door. While this does require a bit of infrastructure and systems in place on behalf of the retailer to succeed, it also may require meat suppliers to produce specialty cuts or packaging for the retailer.

Who’s the customer?

I am the epitome of an online grocery consumer target. About five years ago — otherwise known as B.C. (before child) — I was a busy professional single whose clean refrigerator held nothing more than a half-gallon of skim milk and a few premium steaks in the freezer. Now I am a busy professional mom who can barely squeeze two gallons of whole milk, several frozen ground beef chubs and an entire pork loin into my over-stuffed refrigerator.

In either case, trips to the grocery store have always been a burden. Since I was often in grocery stores for professional reasons at the start of my career, I could find a thousand alternate things to do than hit the local grocer for personal items, and now it’s often comical to watch my 2-year-old’s grubby fingers pull random items off the shelves. Voila! Enter my reason for trying online grocery with front- door delivery.

Because I have a self-diagnosed obsession with online reviews, I have compared and contrasted three major online groceries in that format. Since only a few online grocers deliver to my region in Kansas City, I roped some friends into receiving packages on my behalf with the promise of free steak. Each is a potential online grocery customer as well: a busy professional single and a busy professional mom.

Let’s dig in!

The Basics
amazonfresh-logo-190915_150px

AmazonFresh.com4stars

Locations served:
New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Southern California, Northern California and Seattle

Who got the delivery:
My high- powered single friend in San Diego

Fresh-Direct_150pxFreshDirect.com

3stars

Locations served:
New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia and areas of Delaware and Connecticut

Who got the delivery:
My cousin, the busy professional and mom of two

door-to-door_150pxDoortoDoorOrganics.com

3stars

Locations served:
parts of Colorado, Kansas City, Chicago, Michigan and parts of the NE

Who got the delivery:
Me, the meat industry professional and mom

Ease in Online Ordering
5stars

I’ll be honest. I love shopping on Amazon.com! I read all the customer reviews, I religiously use the sorting capabilities and I even get excited over the “frequently bought together” suggestions. So when I had the opportunity to buy groceries in the same way, I was excited! Aside from forcing an available delivery zip code in order to browse items, AmazonFresh.com’s online ordering lived up to the hype and more!

3stars

FreshDirect’s online ordering was antiquated at best. Their online ordering mirrors that of an actual brick and mortar store with categorizations, cross merchandising and a large number of offerings, but their system does not have nearly the bells and whistles as other websites. The scheduling system was a bit confusing, and their check-out process seemed to take forever. Overall, they are due for an upgrade.

5stars

DoortoDoor organics online ordering was designed with the consumer in mind. Their website is truly beautiful, and their advance categorizations and enticing photography elevate the overall feel. They also have quick reference icons communicating various brand attributes along with a one click Shop By Recipe® function! Whoever designed their website knew how to appeal to consumers.

Pricing and Offering
2stars

AmazonFresh.com relies on suppliers to set actual product pricing, and for the offered regional and specialty brands, the pricing seemed in line with what they would normally cost at a brick and mortar store. The prohibitive costs are the incremental ones. There is a $299 annual signup fee for a PrimeFresh membership and a minimum $50 subtotal just to get the first delivery.

4stars

Pricing for FreshDirect is slightly more than what would be found in a brick and mortar store, but still not out of reach. They do not have a minimum order requirement but instead charge a flat fee of $7.99 for deliveries. There is an optional DeliveryPassSM subscription which is a maximum of $119/year with a minimum order of $30. I’m intrigued!

3stars

Because DoortoDoorOrganics is a hybrid subscription meal planner and online grocery, to get a delivery you must be subscribed to a “Produce Box,” which start at $25.99. Once you’re subscribed, you can shop the store, but be forewarned – all items are either organic or natural, and inherently pricey.

 

Delivery and Packaging
5stars

Among many things AmazonFresh does right, their delivery and packaging is on point! They make marketing magic with branded green delivery trucks, matching cooler bags and branded freezer packs. Refrigerated items even have special quick teardown Styrofoam sides that help protect deliveries from the hot sun. The beef items themselves were delivered frozen in wax paper wrapping, which made the steaks have a “local butcher” feel. This was definitely a nice selling point.

1star

On the plus side, FreshDirect delivery was perfectly timed; however, their packaging was less than desirable. The steaks were in traditional overwrap packaging, but then just thrown into a large cardboard box with no protection or way to keep the product cool, especially in the summer. The promise of convenience dissipates if a customer has to be home to receive his/her groceries.

3stars

First off, delivery was on time as promised; however, the packaging was way over done. There was literally enough padding and freezer packs to safely ship a delicate icicle to the Sahara and have it arrive safely. It is important to note that there was communication printed on the packing asking recipients to set everything out during normal delivery days so it could be returned and reused. Trouble is, not all customers will do that, which leaves their “better for the earth” vibe an empty promise.

 

What’s the final word?

In the long run I do not believe online grocery will replace the brick and mortar store completely, but it certainly has the potential to steal share from the U.S. grocery market as a whole.

What are your thoughts about online grocery? Tell us in the comments below.

 


 

IBIS World. (2014, December). Online Grocery Sales in the US: Market Research Report. Retrieved July 24, 2015, from IBIS World: http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/online-grocery-sales.html

FMI. (n.d.). Supermarket Facts. Retrieved July 23, 2015, from Research Resources: http://www.fmi.org/research-resources/supermarket-facts

Watson, E. (2015, July 7). Online grocery shippers are upping their spending online, but remain wary of buying fresh produce, says new survey. Retrieved July 23, 2015, from FoodNavigator-USA.com: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/Online-grocery-shoppers-are-upping-their-spending-online-survey

 

Meat Shopping With Midan – Friends and Family Edition

At Midan, we live, breathe and think about meat – all the time. In an effort to better understand how different Millennials purchase meat, I interviewed my friend, Cathy Lee, for this edition of Meat Shopping with Midan. Cathy is a former urbanite turned Millennial Mom, now living in the suburbs of Chicago. She works part-time as an occupational therapist and spends the rest of her time trying to get dinner on the table while chasing her toddler around.

 

Caroline and Cathy

 

Midan Marketing (MM):  Tell me how you typically shop for groceries in a given week.

Cathy Lee (CL):  I usually go to the grocery store three to four times a week, and the place I go depends on what is closest or what I need.

 

MM:      Wow, seems like you’re at the store pretty frequently.

CL:          I used to be a once-a-week grocery shopper in my single years until I met my husband, who liked going to the grocery store more frequently. When we first started dating, he pointed out how much food I would waste when shopping once a week, mostly because I would end up going out to eat a few times mid-week, and then have to throw out what I didn’t eat. Now I go a few times a week based on what I have planned a day or two out – it’s fresher, and we end up eating everything we buy.

 

MM:      Do you do all of your grocery shopping in one store? Or do you go to different stores for different items?

CL:          When we lived in the city, Mariano’s was my go-to store for everything. Now that we live in the suburbs, we have three grocery stores within a five-mile radius (Jewel, Heinen’s and a brand new Mariano’s). It really depends on the day, where I am and what I need. But I go to all three.

 

MM:      So then where do you shop for meat products? And why?

CL:          For meat products, I mostly go to Costco or Jewel. I really prefer to go to Mariano’s for grocery shopping overall, but it’s kind of far away. Jewel has really great sales on meat, so I can buy in bulk and then freeze it for later use. Same with Costco – I love that their meat comes in packages I can put in the freezer as soon as I get home.  Meat from the regular grocery store you have to use right away. Heinen’s has higher quality meats, but is very expensive and has a limited selection!

 

MM:      What cuts of meat do you typically purchase?

CL:          My husband is better at preparing red meat, so he’ll make a lot of ribs (he has a great Chinese rib recipe!), steaks in the cast iron skillet and pork chops. I’m not good at preparing red meat, so I buy a lot of thinner steaks for stir fry and chicken breasts. I do, however, love eating red meat in restaurants.

I also always have some kind of ground beef in the house. I really like it with pasta sauce. There’s one particular brand of ground beef I buy that is perfect. It’s organic, has the perfect amount in a package, tastes great, and is a good price. I buy them in bulk and put them in the freezer. I used to buy ground beef from the regular grocery store, but now I stick to this kind.

 

MM:      Sounds great. Do you know which brand it is?

CL:          No idea, but let me check my freezer… It’s Kirkland Signature Organic Ground Beef. They sell them in these perfect little square packages.

 

CL:          By the way, you know what would be really helpful?  If grocery stores told me which cut of meat is good for what type of dish.  Chicken breast is super easy. But with red meat, what is the difference between a chuck and stew meat? Is one better than the other? Does one have more fat than the other? I have no idea what the difference is or what to do with them, so I just don’t buy it. My husband would know the difference, but he doesn’t do the shopping.

 

MM:      Can you tell me how your meat shopping has changed over the years (from urban dweller to suburbanista)?

CL:          I can tell you that before our daughter was born, we (ok, mostly he) used to make a lot of fun meals. Like a rack of lamb or boeuf bourguignon. Now that we have a toddler, it’s mostly stir-fry because it’s easy. I can make a whole meal in one pot (less to clean, too), and you can stretch it out to have multiple meals. It’s pretty easy to mix the meat with vegetables and starch for a quick meal.

 

MM:      Lastly, where do you get your meal ideas from?

CL:          Mostly Pinterest. Or that Better Home and Gardens red and white checkered cookbook everyone gets when they get married. But it’s mostly from the Internet.

When Millennials Move On: Gen X at the Grocery Store

It’s okay to admit it – you might be a little tired of hearing about Millennials.  I know I am.  It seems that every article I’ve read lately is spouting stats about the buying habits of this up-and-coming generation.

What I am more interested in, however, is what are companies doing to reach the generation that raised these youngsters who are just now coming of age and leaving the house?

I am talking about Generation X, those of us sandwiched squarely between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers.  As a card-carrying member of Gen X (those born between 1961 and 1981), I am wondering why we aren’t getting more attention.

There are certainly plenty of us out there; the Census Bureau projects that the Gen X population will peak at 65.8 million in 2018.1

Aside from our sheer number and associated buying power, it would be wise for retailers and packers to think about Gen X as the flip side of the Millennial equation:  as a result of Millennials growing up and moving on, older Gen Xers  are experiencing major life changes that impact how we shop for and prepare meat.

Although I am a brand-new empty nester (I just dropped my daughter off at college last week – sniff, sniff), I can already tell that grocery shopping is going to be a whole new ball game.  And I am ready to embrace it!

When my children were home, I made it a priority to put a decent meal on the table every night.  Protein figured pretty prominently in my dinner lineup:  steaks, roasts, ground beef, chicken, and pork tenderloins.  I bought lots of family packs and was a frequent freezer.

Now that the kids are gone, I don’t feel that obligation to be “Super Mom” every night.  The evening meal, thankfully, has become a much more casual affair.  I text my husband in the afternoon and confirm he’ll be home for dinner, and I pop in the grocery store.  The cart has been replaced with a handled basket, and I am now picking up meat packages with a pair of steaks to throw on the grill that night, versus mega packs for multiple meals throughout the week.  I was really excited the other day when my local grocery store had smaller rotisserie chickens in little bags alongside the standard-size birds in the plastic containers — perfect for just the two of us.  (Our dog was disappointed there weren’t any leftovers.)

My thinking is this:  since I don’t have to cook anymore (my husband is perfectly okay eating cereal in front of ESPN), when I do cook, it needs to be fast and fresh.  Since there are many nights we don’t even know if we’ll be home for dinner (we might go to the gym or catch a movie on the spur of the moment), I need protein  options that are convenient for that game-time decision, like pre-marinated pork tenderloins and grill-ready steaks.  Lots of older Gen Xers like me are experiencing new-found freedom from the kitchen, and the retailers that offer fresh, flavorful meat choices that fit our on-the-go lifestyle are much more likely to get our business.  So while Millennials might be getting lots of press lately, smart grocers and processors will be thinking about how to lure millions of suddenly-liberated Gen Xers to the meat case.

As for me, this empty nester thing is turning out to be not so bad.  Who says Millennials get to have all the fun?

 

1http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/16/this-year-millennials-will-overtake-baby-boomers/

Meat Shopping with Midan – Newlywed Edition

The lingering citrus flavor of Belizean ceviche had faded, and the last piece of red velvet wedding cake had been savored. While deciding where to put the recently-unwrapped waffle maker, a harsh reality began to sink in. I realized a bag of steamed vegetables for dinner, while perfect for a girl on a wedding diet, would not satisfy my husband, who still eats like the football player he once was. The carefree college meals of fro-yo and popcorn were long gone and housewifery was ahead of me.

I decided the best way to tackle this transition was with meal planning.

I have always enjoyed cooking and trying new recipes – I could flip through cookbooks for hours; however, this enjoyable hobby is now confined to a time frame bound by working hours and attempting to eat at a reasonable time. Making a plan not only provides peace of mind, but in doing so we are able to monitor our spending and our calorie intake – our two main priorities when shopping (I’m not so sure if the hubs cares as much about the latter as he does the former).

When I am feeling especially organized, I attempt to plan our meals for the entire week, but it usually works out that I plaWedding Cake Photon for two days, maybe three, at a time. Sure, this may seem like an excuse to peruse around Pinterest or revisit the flagged pages so dearly constructed by sweet friends Ina Garten and Giada De Laurentiis, but hey — it’s a planning period! So on I go, pinning and dog-earing, pinning and dog-earing until I have decided on two nights worth of food. I try to find a happy medium between the hearty, meat-heavy meals that Robert enjoys, and light, health-conscious meals for myself. After I have found what I’m looking for, I grab a pen and two notecards – time to make the list.

First, I list the boring stuff – laundry detergent, toothpaste, trash bags, etc., followed by the ingredients found in each of my chosen recipes. After everything is scribbled on the first notecard, it is time for the second – the final draft, the hard copy, the be-all end-all.  I organize my list from produce to ice-cream dairy, picturing exactly where each item can be found in the store. This way I can easily move from the right part of the store to the left, getting in and out of there as quickly as possible.

Like getting married or moving to a new town, it is important to find your groove when meal planning and grocery shopping. My first few trips to the grocery store as a Mrs. trying to create grown-up, well-rounded meals, I felt like I should grab the “Customer in Training” child’s cart – “make way for the novice shopper everyone, I have no clue what I’m doing.”  One time in particular I was shopping for flank steak. I went on to get everything else on my list before returning to the meat case (this was the first time I broke my left to right rule) because I wanted to go when no one else was around. I wanted to take my time reading each label, familiarizing myself with what was there. Over time, and after many many trips to the grocery store, I have now become more comfortable and feel like I earned the right to use the grown-up cart.

After maCustomer in Training Cartny meals being eaten at 10 pm or last minute trips to the Mexican restaurant, we are finally developing our routine.  Now that the warmer weather has  settled in, we have started grilling (almost every night). So unless it is a one dish meal, we will both venture to the fridge at the end of the workday – I pull out ingredients for a fun side dish and he pulls out the pork chops, grabs some tongs,  and heads to the patio. Minutes later we have a healthy, summery, meat-focused and newlywed-approved meal.

I have been raised giving and receiving food as a token of love, and as an adult I have chosen to incorporate this into the planning process as well by thoughtfully choosing each meal. My grandmother’s pound cakes complete birthdays all over the county, and my mom’s Chipped Beef Dip always puts a smile on dad’s face. I have not found my specialty yet, but by fine-tuning the grocery shopping experience so that it is enjoyable rather than dreaded, I am able to put love into every meal I create, well beyond the honeymoon phase.

Meat Shopping Mom on a Mission

Meat Shopping with Midan Blog

This is the second post in our new “Meat Shopping with Midan” series. In each entry, a Midan team member shares insights into how they shop for groceries and meat, based on their lifestyle and personal interests.

For those of us who work with Meredith, a Midan Account Executive, hearing she is an organized, plan-ahead shopper is no surprise. Meredith’s inbox is the envy of the office; all of her emails are neatly categorized and filed. As we learn below, she approaches the grocery store in a similarly-sensible way.

My name is Meredith, and I am a working mom.

Like so many moms, I have many jobs. Because I work outside the home, I regularly juggle office responsibilities with household chores. Right along with laundry, dishes and vacuuming, grocery shopping is one of the many tasks that fills my time each week. No matter how much I plan, I usually start another grocery list within hours of my most recent trip.

In order to make this never-ending task more effective (and bearable!), I’ve devised a few strategies that help me make the most of my limited time. As a mom with a toddler and a new baby coming soon, grocery shopping for me is all about convenience, budgeting and planning.

i. I try to be a smart shopper when it comes to “when” and “where.”

Living in a small town in North Carolina, there aren’t too many shopping options close by. My top stops are my area supercenter and local grocery store, with the occasional pop-in at the nearby discount grocer, because it is literally within walking distance from my house (and the milk is super cheap). I choose a time that isn’t too busy, if possible, and try to get in and out quickly, especially when my energetic toddler is with me. I often write my grocery list in order of the store shopping pattern to help with efficiency.

ii. I keep my grocery list flexible for sale items.

Another key factor in my grocery shopping is budget. My family is pretty easy to please when it comes to food choices, so I tend to plan meals around what’s on sale that week or just stock up when things I know we use are on sale.

iii. I stock up.

I buy meat in bulk or on sale and freeze it so I have it on hand. The main meats I purchase are ground beef, beef roast, pork chops and chicken breasts. Pork tenderloin, beef cube steak and strip steaks are more occasional purchases for me. My local grocery store recently added a section of custom meals in the fresh meat case that require only 30 minutes of cooking time. For me, that’s dinner on the table in half an hour tops! We have tried their burgers with bacon and cheese, kabobs and parmesan chicken and they have all been very good. I am willing to pay a little bit more for the convenience of having the meat meal-ready.

When canned goods or snack items are on sale, I stock up. I also participate in the supercenter’s savings program and like knowing they are comparing prices to other stores, so I save money with no extra effort!

We eat most of our meals at home, and I cook a lot, so a well-stocked pantry keeps me from constantly running to the store. When I have time, I try to look ahead to our week. I don’t necessarily plan meals for each day, but I try to have all ingredients on hand for when the next meal is needed.

iv. I don’t fight it – I admit Mom has had a major impact on my shopping habits.

I’ve noticed I do a lot of what my mom does when it comes to cooking and shopping, just because I’ve watched her do it for so many years. (And, let’s face it: I realize I am becoming my mother!). I buy certain brands and sale items because my mom does.

v. I do leftovers!!

There is nothing better than coming home from work and heating something up vs. starting from scratch. Lasagna, casseroles, roasts, soups, anything in the crockpot – I like making something we can have for at least two meals. And, when my plan fails, I always keep a frozen pizza ready.

Even a super-organized person needs a back-up plan.

 

Read the meat shopping blog from our PR Manager Caroline Ahn – she’s a suburbanite! http://blog.midanmarketing.com/2014/11/14/meat-shopping-with-midan/

 

 

 

 

 

Meat Shopping With Midan

This is the first post in our new “Meat Shopping with Midan” series. In each entry, a Midan team member will share insights into how they shop for groceries and meat, based on their lifestyle and personal interests. We hope you find it valuable.

 

My name is Caroline, and I am a suburbanite.

Caroline Ahn

I never thought I would be typing those words, but that’s what I am, having recently relocated to the suburbs of Northern Virginia after spending 15 years in major metropolitan cities.

With this major location switch have come changes in the way I shop for, cook and eat food.  My whole experience with food has actually turned completely upside down from my previous lifestyle – but definitely for the better!

In my journey from urban dweller to suburbanista, I’ve noticed four major differences in the way I shop (and ways retailers can make it a better experience):

  1. Retailers, I need meal ideas. Because I am cooking A LOT more.

Before I moved to Virginia, I cooked once a week – at most. I ate most of my dinners at trendy restaurants, and on other nights, clicking a link on seamless.com for delivery was just too easy. Now that these options are not quite as available, I find myself at a grocery store a few times a week, perusing fresh vegetables and proteins. Retailers, if you want to make it easier, give me some meal ideas and cross merchandise proteins with complementary items, so I can get through the store quickly and efficiently. Please suggest the freshest seasonal items.

  1. Whoever thought of single servings of meat – thank you!

As a single girl who doesn’t need a huge amount of food, I am very thankful for individual servings of fresh meat. I used to think – what am I going to do with five steaks? Or a pack of nine chicken breasts? Of course, I could go to the full-service case and flirt with my local butcher hottie (Why are butchers so sexy, BTW? Maybe a future blog post…), but who has time for that on a regular basis? Single servings of fresh meat are the answer. My only suggestion? Perhaps better packaging. Vacuum-sealed single servings are usually piled together like a pool of meat packages; I wish retailers could find a better way to organize and merchandise them to make them more appealing.

  1. I’m not very price sensitive. I just want to get in and out of the store.  

I know fresh meat prices are increasing; however, unless the price is more than $10-12 for a steak, I won’t even think twice. Considering I used to dine out 4-5 times per week, I’ve already reduced my food spending significantly by cooking at home. While I might choose one protein over another based on price, I probably won’t sift through multiple packages to save $1-2.

  1. Health and nutrition are hugely important.

The single greatest benefit of cooking and eating at home is better health. Having nutrition labels on-package helps me quickly identify which cuts are leanest, lowest in calories and most protein-packed. The holidays are around the corner, and many will be starting Paleo, Atkins or low-carb diets soon after. I’ve been reading articles on how consumers are turning to non-meat products for their protein needs. Working in the meat marketing business, I know that fresh meat is the best source of lean protein (with vitamins too!).  Retailers and packer/processors should put greater emphasis on owning the protein category – we shouldn’t have to compete with Greek yogurt or protein powders!

Looking back on the past year, I’ve expanded my horizons in both the grocery store and the kitchen! I’ve developed loyalties to different stores based on their offerings in the meat and produce departments. Not all meat departments are created equal, but the ones that do the best job of meeting my needs are the ones I go back to!

 

Fellow meat industry professionals, I’d love to hear about your grocery shopping adventures!

 

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