When was the last time you took a close look at all the services your local grocery store offers? If its been a while, you might be surprised by what you'll find.
More and more grocery stores across the U.S. offer unique services that we likely never would have dreamed of a few years ago. Beyond weekly specials, convenient carry-out items and in-store florists. But, did you know about some of these other programs and services
Weekly recipes and meal suggestions - Virtually all major grocery stores offer downloadable recipes, information on various food groups, and quick and easy week-night menus. Whole Foods, which has nearly 300 stores across the U.S., even offers printable guides for how to cook various types of foods.
Healthy eating - Low-calorie meal suggestions are easy to find with some stores promoting low-fat menus of 300 calories or less. Hy-Vee's more than 230 stores across the Midwest offer fitness and nutrition information, and also provide an interactive Health & Wellness Forum where you can share and discuss your healthy ideas and ask questions of their registered dietitians.
Tips for entertaining - Beyond cost-effective catering and convenient party trays, some grocery stores - including Kroger's nearly 300 stores across the U.S. - offer party planning tips and help with wine pairings.
Budget-friendly meals - In addition to traditional weekly specials and lists of "every day value" items, some stores promote complete economical meals. For instance, Hy-Vee offers 30 meals for $3 each.
Kid-friendly programs - You'll frequently find grocery chains participating in school programs (like "Box Tops for Education"), as well as cooking classes for kids and other special activities. In the Northeastern U.S., Wegmans offers WKids Fun Centers where children ages 3 to 8 can play while Mom and Dad shop.
Dieticians on staff - Serious about your family's health? In addition to healthy eating suggestions and online help with special diets, some stores dieticians on staff to offer free guidance and advice.
Curbside pickup - Although it is still being tested in some markets, a few grocery chains, including Kansas City-based Price Chopper, offer convenient, online shopping with a scheduled pick-up.
iPhone apps - Want easy access to recipes, shopping lists and store locations for your favorite grocery chain? Some stores, including Whole Foods, now offer an iPhone® app. There are also a variety of other independent apps for smart phones that give you shopping lists, a barcode scanner, integrated coupons and more.
In short, grocery shopping has come a long way in the past few years. Take a quick tour of your favorite grocery store's website. It may point out things that can help you with your family budget, save time and perhaps even improve your health.