My Mom’s Brilliant Grocery Trick I’ve Been Following for 15 Years

published May 31, 2024
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a woman in the purchase of food in a supermarket. everyday life of a housewife
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I spent a lot of time at the grocery store as a kid. My mom would load my brother and me into the back seat of our Buick Riviera and then use the time on the ride there to convince us it was only going to be a “short trip.” We knew better. 

She was (and still is) a friendly Midwesterner with a history of chatting up strangers, so we were fully aware that a trip to the grocery was never an “in-and-out” situation. When I was a kid, her friendliness embarrassed me (why did she talk to everyone?), but now I see it was one of her best attributes, especially when it came to the butchers at the meat counter. Let me explain.

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Why My Mom Always Chats with the Grocery Store Butchers, and You Should, Too

My dad worked a 9-to-5 job, so that left my mom in charge of caring for my brother and me, managing the house, and making all of the meals. I’m sure it was a fulfilling job for her, but I know it was probably also boring and monotonous. I get the feeling she liked trips to the grocery store, using them as an excuse to get out of the house and engage in conversations that weren’t about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Care Bears. 

Her favorite people were the butchers at the meat counter, and they loved her right back. What started as friendly banter became true friendship, with each asking the other about family members, weekend plans, and more. The camaraderie began to show itself beyond those conversations when the butchers began saving “good cuts” just for my mom. 

For example, she loved thick-cut, meaty pork chops. The butchers knew this and would hold the highest quality and best-looking ones for her. The same was true for other cuts; I remember bright red steaks with perfect white marbling that would deliver big flavor and buttery tenderness. They would also butcher bone-in chicken breasts for her, trimming them neatly, and leaving just the right amount of skin to cover the meat to keep it moist while cooking. They would essentially cut, trim, and fabricate anything in the case for her, and even though I was bored out of my mind and 100% annoyed by this, I secretly thought it was pretty cool.

I’m like my mom in a lot of ways, but mostly in the friendly-Midwesterner-who-talks-to-everyone kind of way. Like my mom, I have also befriended my local grocery store butchers who now know me and the work that I do. We’ve built a connection, not because they read my stories or follow me on social media, but because instead of looking at my phone or disengaging from the experience, I talk to them. 

Credit: Thomas Hoerup

We talk shop, we complain about the weather, we tell a few jokes, and we do it all at the meat counter. Because of this relationship, I always get the best steaks, chops, and anything else I need. In fact, they’re always “hooking me up,” even holding on to bones for me because they know I love making homemade stock

If they don’t have what I need, they somehow always find a way to get it. Like the time I requested 5 pounds of chicken wings on a moment’s notice or the freshest, most beautiful turkey for a Thanksgiving recipe. I’m grateful for this, so I always tell them how much I appreciate their service and overall awesomeness before giving my usual smile and fist bump.

Long story short, be a nice human. Talk to people and thank them for their service. Get to know the people you encounter regularly, especially the butchers at the meat counter, and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities (and benefits) that present themselves.

Got a grocery shopping tip to share? Tell us about it in the comments below.

This post originally ran on The Kitchn. See it there: My Mom’s Brilliant Grocery Trick I’ve Been Following for 15 Years