Coming back from winter break and getting into the swing of things can be hard, especially if you relied on your family to do all the grocery shopping and meal planning for you during the holidays. If you’re anything like me, your first step back into the world of independence will be a trip to Wegmans.
I’ve gone on Wegmans runs every week since I was a newborn. Wegmans was my daycare; my mom would drop me off at the WKids Room while she shopped. When I aged out of WKids — or rather, was forced out after my ninth birthday and a lot of crying on my end — I got to accompany my mom down the long aisles of Wegmans, figuring out the locations of my favorite snacks, panicking when I got separated from her (still true to this day), and learning its secrets.
I consider myself a Wegmans pro. I’m in and out of the store in eight minutes while spending under $15 for a week’s worth of groceries. And while I can’t promise to reveal all my secrets, I can share a few of them:
1. Download the app — Remember back in 2010 when the idea of apps was really cool and everyone joked about how there was an app for everything? Well that rule still applies, so I’m shocked at how few people have ever searched for the Wegmans app. It exists, and it’s great. No more wandering the aisles aimlessly — just enter your grocery list into the app and it’ll tell you the exact aisles to find everything. Downloading the app is the first step to put you on your way to being a Wegmans Master.
2. Get the Wegmans Shoppers Club Card — In order to sign up for the app, you’ll need to order a card. But don’t worry, it’s completely free and will actually come in handy later on. The card will save you money when you shop and get you access to special coupons. Hate carrying around an extra card in your wallet? Don’t worry — all you need in order to save money at the register is your phone number. I misplaced my card years ago but I’m still able to use all its advantages.
3. Plan your grocery list before you get to the store — This is more of general shopping advice, but it’s particularly applicable when you’re shopping at a large store like Wegmans. It’s too easy to get lost in the aisles and spend hours thinking about what you might want to buy. Pick a dinner recipe in advance (I personally make one recipe on Sunday night that lasts the whole week; I recommend this method of meal-planning if you hate taking time out of your day to cook). Then put the ingredients into your Wegmans app and stick to your list. Don’t wander. Don’t get distracted. Eye on the prize.
4. Pick recipes you already have most of the ingredients for — This is another general shopping tip, and it’s sort of common sense, but it saves me enough money that I figured I’d mention it. After you’ve been cooking for yourself for a few weeks, you’ll have built up a small stockpile of ingredients in your cupboard. You could continue to buy all new ingredients each week, or you could cook based on what you already have. I usually pick recipes where I already have 50 to 75 percent of the ingredients on hand. Then, for the next week, I’ll have even more ingredients in my cupboard to base recipes around. Your cupboard will grow little by little.
5. Be open-minded about your vegetables — The vegetable section in Wegmans is pretty expansive and can get overwhelming if you spend too much time there or frustrating if the vegetable you’re looking for isn’t in stock or in season. I’m personally an extremely picky eater when it comes to vegetables, but the good news is that in most recipes, the vegetables listed are really just light suggestions. I usually go into the vegetable section with an open mind and take whatever looks good. It might save you some stress (and save you from picking the broccoli out of your food later).
6. Navigating the bread section — If anything ever holds me up at Wegmans, it’s almost always getting bread. I always look in the wrong place. I don’t know if I’m the only one with this problem, but in case I’m not, let me try to help you out. The fancier, baguette-type bread is located in the bakery section, near the cakes and desserts. Everyday packaged bread is down the store in aisle 6B. And then for some reason there are certain types of bread in the Natures section and scattered throughout random aisles. The app clarifies most of this, but bread is also the most likely item to be out of stock, which could mean you have to improvise.
7. Ready-made food can be a lifesaver — Have a stressful week coming up and no time to cook? Still don’t quite have the hang of things in the kitchen? Wegmans offers good deals on ready-made food where you can get an entree and two sides for a relatively low price. These aren’t frozen meals — the food is all freshly cooked so you can eat it right when you get home or reheat throughout the week.
8. Timing is everything — Wegmans is open 24/7, but there are strategies involved in when you should do your Wegmans runs. Ideal times to go if you want to run into the smallest crowds are midday during the week or at 3 a.m. Unfortunately, most of us go to class, work and sleep, but if you’re ever free at those times, take advantage of it. Saturdays see probably the largest crowds, but Wegmans also provides free samples every Saturday. Depending on whether the samples are cooked pasta dishes and beers or trail mix and brussel sprouts, they might make going on a Saturday worth it. But the prime time to go is Sunday morning. I don’t know why it’s the best time — maybe because Cornell students wake up late on Sundays, or are getting hungover brunch, or maybe because the word on the street is that Wegmans restocks its shelves Saturday nights — but it’s the time at which I’ve gone shopping at Wegmans my whole life. But don’t make me regret I published this article: find your own prime time; don’t all start doing your shopping every Sunday morning.
9. Ask for help — Lost? Can’t find something? Want a second opinion on which product to buy? Ask! Everyone I’ve ever met at Wegmans is super nice. There’s no need to waste time wandering the aisles looking for something just because you’re too scared to ask.
10. When you’re done shopping, get food at the Hot Bar — This 100 percent ruins my point of shopping quickly and spending as little as possible, because getting Hot Bar food will both add time and cost just as much as you spent on your week’s groceries. And yet I do it every single week. Fill up a styrofoam container with piles of food for $9.49 per pound (last I checked — they keep increasing the price) and you don’t have to worry about lunch for the day. It’s the best reward for successfully navigating the complex and beautiful aisles of Wegmans.