Shopping Tips: Finding What You NeedPosted: February 2, 2011
When I first learned I was lactose-intolerant I went to the store to find rice milk (as I also have a soy allergy). I went to the dairy section, thinking that the milk substitute would be in a similar location to regular milk. I was wrong. I searched the aisles of Wal-Mart up and down until I finally discovered the rice milk in a shelf-stable container in the baking goods isle.
Whether you are looking for specialty items due to food allergies or for vegan/vegetarian substitutes, sometimes finding the products you need can be a full-on expedition. While each store is different, there are a few simple tips that can help you find what you are looking for quickly:
1) Check the Organic/Healthy Living Section – I’ve found that the majority of the specialty products I need (wheat gluten, rice milk, almond milk, quinoa) can be found in the organic or healthy living section of the local grocery store. If you have a Whole Foods or other specialty food stores nearby, it will probably be much easier to find the types of foods you are looking for. Where I live we have Cub Foods, Hy-Vee, and Wal-Mart. Cub Foods has a small organic food section while Hy-Vee has a much larger one. Wal-Mart spreads their organic and specialty foods (gluten-free) throughout the store. Even though these sections are usually on their own and clearly marked, sometimes not everything they offer is there.
2) The Bakery/Deli Isn’t Just For Bread and Meat – When I’m having trouble finding what I’m looking for in the organic section, I head straight to the deli or bakery area. Items such as hummus, pita chips, and specialty cheeses are usually found in the bakery/deli section of the local store. I’ve also found tofu products in the deli section before, so definitely don’t leave the store without checking it out first.
3) It’s Exactly Where It Should Be – If you’ve exhausted all of your other options and are still having trouble finding a certain product, check the last place you’d expect to find it: right where it should be. Sometimes I’ve found (especially at Wal-Mart) that they stock the substitute products in close proximity to the products they are replacing. For example, several weeks ago I was shocked to find that Wal-Mart actually carried soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread. I never imagined that Wal-Mart would stock such a specialty item, but when I did finally notice it was there it was in the same case as the regular butter. I also found egg substitute and other Earth Balance brand in the same area. So sometimes if you have run out of all other options, check the areas where the standard version of the product would be and you might be surprised at what you find.
Overall, finding specialty items in the store can be challenging, especially if you do not have a specialty food market dedicated to such products. However, if you just put a little time into searching your favorite store, you can usually locate what you are looking for, or something similar, in a fairly short amount of time.