Shopping for food and other household products is a skill that is important to learn if you are living independently.  Below are a few tips to help get you on your way.

1. Make a list
Preparing for a shopping trip will help you stay focused and stick to a budget.  Go through your cupboards, fridge and freezer and see what needs replacing or restocking.  Think about meals you enjoy and can easily prepare and check you have all the ingredients.  Any you don't already have can go down on your list.  Also think about quantities.  Do you want just one item or do you need a set quantity or number?

2. Avoid shopping at lunchtime
Shops tend to be at their busiest at lunch time, so between 12pm - 2pm, so if you are new to grocery shopping you may want to avoid these times.  The quietest times are usually early mornings or evenings.  If you have access to a computer, internet and a debit/credit card you could also do your shopping via one of the supermarkets websites. 

3. Transport
Before you start filling your trolley with lots of heavy shopping, consider how you are going to be transporting your bags home.  If you intend on walking home you may want to invest in some stronger, reusable shopping bags that can be worn over your shoulder or on your back.  These will be better for your back and allow you to carry more items more efficiently.  If you plan to get a bus or taxi then make sure you leave yourself enough money to cover the cost.  If possible keep bus or taxi fares in a separate part of your purse.  That way you are less likely to use it accidentally while paying your food bill.

4.  Shelf Life
Unless you plan or eating something in the next day or two, look for items with a longer shelf life.  You can find this out by checking the B.B (Best Before) or use by date on the packaging.  Tinned and dried foods usually have a longer shelf life, often months or even years.  Items like fresh or frozen food often have much shorter shelf lives.  Some foods also have instructions about how long to store and use an item after opening.  Items like jams and sauces can often be stored unopened on a shelf but need to be transferred to a fridge after opening and have a guide of how long they will stay fresh after opening.

5.  Packing
How you pack your bags can make a big difference in how easy it is for you to transport your shopping home and the condition it will be in when it reaches it's destination.  Aim to put heavier items, like tins, in the bottom of bags as they are less likely to damage other, more delicate items like eggs and bread.  If you are buying several heavy items try and spread them between several bags.  This will spread the weight and make it easier for you to carry your shopping.  Finally put delicate items, such as eggs in the bag last.  If you are buying some lightweight, dried items, like pasta, this can often act as a cushion for delicate items so you can pack delicates on top of these types of foods.

6.  Queuing
Many supermarkets have several options for paying for your goods.  They will sometimes have self service checkouts, checkouts for baskets only and checkouts for larger shops.  Keep an eye out too for any instructions about payment.  If you are intending on paying for your shopping with a less common credit/debit card check first that your cashier can except these payments. 

7.  Reward and loyalty cards
Most large chains offer customers some kind of reward or loyalty scheme.  You can sign up for these either in store or online and you will then be issued with a card.  Use this card when you pay for your shopping and you will collect points which can be exchanged for discounts on your future bills. 

8.  Stay calm
Supermarkets can be daunting places if you are not familiar with them.  Be patient with yourself and take your time.  If you can't find an item you need then don't be afraid to ask one of the staff for assistance.  Look out for staff who are walking around the store and restocking shelves as these staff are in the best position to assist you and point you in the right direction.  If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed just stick to the items you need most.  You can always come back if you haven't got everything the first time.  If there is a lot of choice in a particular product look for the product with the simplest and clearest labelling or for products you are already familiar with.