You check your shopping list before heading to the store, but do you also check your watch and your calendar? According to Stacy Johnson, CEO and founder of Money Talks News, the hour and the day you shop will often determine how successful and efficient your shopping will be. Shop at one time for best selection, another for the smallest crowds and another for double sales. Here is the best time to go to the grocery store — and the worst.

If you want the best selection…

1. Shop early: Early to mid-morning is the best time of day for the finest selection, according to Johnson. That’s when dairy, bakery goods, produce, meat and seafood are newly stocked and freshest.

2. Shop on the day new ads comes out: If your grocery store’s ad comes out on Wednesdays, then that’s the time to shop for best selection. Shop later in the week and sale items may be gone. (If so, ask for a rain check so you can get the item at the sale price when it’s in stock again.) Also, some grocery stores will honor sale prices from both the current ad and the previous week’s ad on that day, so you get double savings.

3. Get the inside scoop from department managers: If you love fresh salmon, ask the manager of the seafood department what days new shipments arrive. If you regularly have trouble finding a certain type of dog food, check with a manager to find out when shelves are restocked. Looking for markdowns? Department managers are happy to tell you the best time to snag meat, seafood, produce and floral bargains.

 

Dairy decoded: What each color cap on your milk bottle really means

 

Most kinds of milk are pure white. But the dairy aisle is actually a pretty colorful place.

That’s because dairy producers use a variety of different caps and bottles in different hues to help distinguish between the fat content of each beverage. Not all companies play by the rules, but here is a basic guide to making your next trip to the milk section go a little faster.

Many dairy brands cap their milk bottles according to a system that’s similar to the way bread producers color code bag twist ties — by which day of the week the bread was baked.

Shopping for your favorite milk is easy as red, blue or green — with the exception of a few rogue producers like Horizon Organics, which color codes by the labels on the front of milk (all of their half-gallon kinds of milk use white caps and all of their gallon milk use red).

But when it comes to most major brands, like Dairy Pure, Target’s Market Pantry, Dairy Maid, ShopRite, Hood, Great Value and more, shoppers can count on a pretty consistent color-coded guide, which helps make shopping trips a little more convenient.

Among the major purveyors surveyed, red is the most unanimously used cap color for this full-fat beverage. So if you prefer drinking whole milk, which studies say can lower the risk of diabetes and help fight obesity, it’s OK to see a little red in the dairy aisle.

Nutrition info for 1 cup (8 ounces): 150 calories; 8 grams of protein; 8 grams of fat

2 percent – blue

Varying shades of blue caps are the most widely used to note this popular milk choice, but not every brand colors inside the lines. Watch out for yellow tops and labels are thrown into the mix. Some brands, like Dairy Maid and Kemps, use yellow caps on their 2 percent jugs.

Nutrition info for 1 cup (8 ounces): 120 calories; 8 grams of protein; 5 grams of fat

1 percent – green

Those who prefer just a little bit of fat in their milk should seek out green-capped bottles. Most brands use this lucky shade for 1 percent milk.

Nutrition info for 1 cup (8 ounces): 100 calories; 8 grams of protein; 2 grams of fat

Skim or no-fat – purple

A lot of big dairy brands, such as Dairy Pure, stick to purple but some, such as Target’s Market Pantry, stray a bit with a pink cap. And Horizon Organics’ carton label (not its cap) actually uses a white label with blue lettering. So if you’re seeking skim, always double check the carton or label.

Like the old saying: Milk does the body good?

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