Grocery Outlet advice

I know I’m kind of behind, but I just started shopping at our local Grocery Outlet (Novato CA). I feel like I’ve joined a new club and could use some shopping advice from you seasoned veterans out there. How often should I go, what sections tend to have the best stuff, how do you find out which wines to buy, etc. I don’t think I’ll buy meat there, but what about produce? I stopped buying produce at Trader Joe’s because it often went bad in a very short amount of time. What about cheese? They seem to have some great deals.
All help is greatly appreciated - thanks!

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  1. Check all dates. If anything that can sit on a shelf for a long time is at or near expiration, avoid it (chocolate, cereal, cooking oil, etc.)
  2. Dairy is usually okay.
  3. Unless a single sample works out, don’t be tempted to buy multiples of something.
  4. Look for high end ice creams, and choose flavors where a bit of melting won’t make a difference to enjoyment— salty ones are disasters.
  5. Google brands you’ve never heard of. Especially with chocolate, some of the ones they regularly carry look fancy but just aren’t good.
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Get to know the clerks. Find out the days new stuff comes, but also when they drastically mark stuff down.
Up here in Oregon we have excellent meats . I’m not afraid at all. I have the most fun with spices and sauces and stuff from out of region, Things that don’t show up through normal distribution channels.
Also, each store is varied depending on what the owner thinks or knows that his/her clientele desires.
For instance , where I live, mucho Mexican and Asian stuff which is a lot of fun for a whitebread midwestern boy like me.
:smiley:

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I rely on organic produce from readily recognizable brands. Same for organic chicken. I’ve come to know several fine producers of grass fed beef and lamb. Decent branded pork. We enjoy the frequently available small chunks of beef chuck and pork shoulder, perfect for small pot roasting. Organic dairy is excellent. Sometimes extraordinary upscale butter. Always good yogurt, but unflavored is less frequent than fruited. Good dry pasta, rice and beans. Tinned tomatoes. Pastured eggs!!! Fresh bread stuffs.

Then, cruise specialty canned and bottled goods. Try something that you’ve never thought of buying. Like today, I popped for a local teriyaki marinade, usually 18.99 for 5.99. We usually count on chucking a very small proportion of product that we find we don’t like…but seldom have to do so.

Agree that very expensive chocolates can be stale or odd-ball. But classics like Almond Rocca are always a great buy.

We go probably once a week unless we find that we’ve hit on a wowzer, after which we’ll return, hoping for more of a good thing.

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Great advice from all the G.O. regulars.
Products can vary from week to week so when I go I like to cruise all the aisles.
Meats: I buy whole chickens to roast (the thigh packs are a lower quality brand so avoid those), grass fed ground beef and lamb and bacon. I picked up a great slab of uncut double smoked bacon and they regularly have different thick cut bacons. As with everything at G.O. check the expiration dates (I freeze my bacon anyway so no big deal if about to expire).
I buy a lot of fruit but not so much veggies - carrots and organic lettuce/kales, etc. Just check the berries carefully as they don’t always have much of a shelf life.
Wines: Try a bottle before buying more than one. But if you find something you like stock up on it - just because it looks like they have a ton of cases doesn’t mean it won’t be gone in a week or two and you might never see it again.
I get organic milk and whole wheat bread - these are staples like a regular grocery store gets so no issue re: expiration.

This is my favorite piece of advice. I generally hate shopping but enjoy shopping at G.O. because things change much and you can get oddball stuff so cheap you have to try it. For example the Kettle brand bloody-mary flavored potato chips are the best chips I have ever had but I’ve never seen them anywhere, I think it was a test flavor or something.

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I never saw those!

I found the wines to be uneven in quality, in general. But if you find a bottle you like, rush back and pick up more, because it might sell out quickly. Their regular 20% off wine sales often turn up wines that they don’t usually carry, often reputable brands.

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Apparently stores are franchises, not company owned, which might lead to more variation between stores. I just checked one out that was a little farther away but much nicer & better stocked than the closer one.

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True. That’s why it pays to know the folks in charge. Also why the selection varies
I have seen stuff from this thread and asked our local managers to order the same for us.
Works part of the time.
:smiley:

As far as I understand, all stores get the Flyer sale items and some other standard stuff
but then order according to what they want to stock . So some stores will have lots of gourmet cheeses and meats and another one may be much more cheddar and hotdogs.

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My first Grocery Outlet experience was at the Oakland location years ago - the mother ship! And my friend knew the wine guy there, so it was extra spectacular.

Since there I’ve been to the Morrow Bay GO, San Diego and many in the SoCal area (Sun valley, Los Angeles, Burbank, Alta Dena and Rosemead.)

Some things are consistent, one of which is (and I don’t know why) the produce is not that great. Tends to be pricier and wilt faster - I’ve done better at my local 99 cents store.

BUT. The wine selection? And cheeses? And frozen goods and snack choices? Always a good bet. OH and the dried spices! They carry the Gel brand, an old east coast discounter and they are cheap and fabulous.

In my area (SoCal, Los Angeles) they always have bags of frozen pirogies, way cheaper then I can get at the normal supermarkets. We’v found great deals on palatable protein powders ($10 versus $18 at amazons cheapest price) so? We’re fans.

Just know your overall price points before you go in and you will be dandy. Have fun!

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