A clueless 20-something’s practical tips on grocery shopping

clueless 20 somthing grocery shopping philippines

(Roxelle Tan R./ Flickr/


One afternoon after work, I called my mom from where I was standing in the produce section of a supermarket.

“Yes, anak?” my mom asked. She was wondering and worrying why my call was preceded by a text message: “I need help. May I call?”

“What will I do with seven potatoes? I have to buy them in bulk. Anong gagawin ko sa patatas!” I said in a rush of panic and helplessness.

Anak,” my mom began slowly. “Hindi ko alam. Malaki ka na.”

With that, she hung up on me, leaving me in the middle of the grocery aisle while other moms looked on with pity and trepidation.

Gone were the grocery trips where I could smile sweetly at my parents while pointing to a bag of Lays. These days, I make a trip to the supermarket twice a month to buy things that I need. I’m still trying to get used to this domestic activity that has sustained families in the new world. I’ve gotten better, and by better, I mean that I no longer skew my budget by impulsively buying Lays.

Like any entitled millennial, I will share things to the Internet which I have little knowledge about. Instead of tackling important issues that besiege today’s Filipino youth, I’ll write about another bold attempt at conquering an adult activity—grocery shopping

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Gear up, grocery grunt!

Think of the supermarket as a battle field. You are a fledgling cadet unfazed by the action. You need three things: a list, a budget limit, and an environment-friendly shopping bag so that you won’t use plastic. (One point for social awareness!)

Unless you have a photographic memory, don’t rely on a mental list. Even then, the feeling of crossing off items can be fulfilling. List down products per category: bathroom, kitchen, food, etc. Aside from a list, write down a budget cap for that grocery trip. This will remind you to calculate your items during the shopping trip.

Always be disciplined. Ask yourself five questions when picking up an item:

  1. Do I need this?
  2. Am I sure?
  3. Am I aware that Mom isn’t here to pay for my bill?
  4. Am I really sure that I need this?
  5. Am I starting to look like a fixated idiot looking at this item in my hand?

One more thing: Don’t shop for groceries on an empty stomach. Wolf down a banana, a slice of bread, anything to fill your stomach. Coming in hungry is how you end up with two boxes of cereal, a pack of six apples, and chocolate chip cookies in your basket.

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ASL: Always spend less

Be on the lookout for special tags during different shopping seasons. Supermarkets have five of them: summer, back to school, rainy day, Christmas, and the ubiquitous capitalists-feel-like-you-should-spend-more holidays. Sometimes they work to your advantage. I took home discounted lunch kits during a “Welcome Back to School, Mommies!” shopping bonanza. True, I am not a mommy and I had to jostle them out of the way to get to the last piece of Lock and Lock. But hey, a man’s gotta eat; or at least, put food in a durable container and then eat.

Living alone has given me opportunities to do things my own way, which includes picking a lower-priced brand than my parent’s usual. This process involves holding the two products side by side; googling “What’s the difference between reconstituted milk and normal milk” on my phone; skimming a few FAQ websites in the middle of the dairy section; and coming to the realization that the cheaper variety will not kill me.

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Get a frequent shopper card, the zenith of a rewarding shopping experience. When my roommate came home with one of these, she excitedly told me, “Look! I’m a full-fledged basic adult now!” I haven’t gotten around to signing up for it – only because I have commitment issues. I don’t frequent one supermarket all the time. (To my partner: Do know that my issues are confined in the realm of grocery shopping. I love you. Do you need anything from the supermarket?)

Try to work bulk items into your budget. They seem expensive but they really do cost less in the long run. Toiletries come in big varieties. I bought the biggest bottle of shampoo in December 2012 and I’m still using it until now. Sometimes when I run out of thoughts during bath time, I imagine the effects of fusty shampoo on my hair. On most days, nothing beats the value of 200 pesos extending for months.

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The wet market is your friend

Unlike Princess Sarah, I don’t need my potatoes in abundance. For all my perishable food needs, I go to the wet market. I’m lucky enough to live on the other side of the business district where there is an actual palengke. This is where I’m free to buy things in retail: a piece of potato, two cloves of garlic, one-fourth kilo of chicken. This setup is perfect for my feel-like-it schedule of cooking.

The wet market is a wonderful place where elderly, entrepreneurial titas reserve a soft spot for long-sleeved yuppies lugging around a giant backpack. These titas will call you “suki,” ask what else you need, and suggest more ingredients for your dish.

Aproned titas with bob haircuts will find you endearing for your ignorance of quantity. (“Kasya na ‘yan. O, may kailangan ka pa, anak?”) Some days, they will notice that you are indecisive with your purchases. (“Hijo, gaano kalaki ang kukunin mo? Mukhang kanina ka pa diyan eh.”) Either way, these are wonderful people who understand your fight towards adulthood.

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Treat yo-self!

Let’s face it: This adulthood business is hard. So when you have extra, fork over a hundred bucks for a guilty pleasure. Mine is San Mig flavored beer. If the supermarket is not pulling a fast one on you, you could buy four of those with that hundred.

Tiger moms had given me a judging side-glance for this, probably making a mental note to remind their kids about early onset alcoholism. I don’t mind them. They don’t know my struggle.

After all my grocery items had been arranged in the cupboard, I enjoy a cold bottle of beer. This is the universe’s pat on the back for a job well done. Adulthood is hard, but it comes with perks.

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Post-script to cluelessness

With every chore that I do, I feel like I’ve been making more transitions from “self-assured fresh graduate” to “uncertain new adult grappling with the realities of life.” Hopefully my next transition would be towards “adult with good level of life satisfaction who is expert at chores.”

It’s been two years since I’ve started providing for myself. Grocery shopping is still one of my little victories. I still feel a sense of triumph when I spend within my grocery budget after a trip to the supermarket. It’s a sign that doing simple things for the first time has not lost its wonder.

P.S. For brand execs whose products were casually mentioned in this article, contact me. This could be our thing.


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  • Clueless too

    Enjoyed reading this. Keep writing. This could be your thing

  • Trying to be Adult Myself

    This was an absolute pleasure to read. Please write more of your experiences of adult-ing! :)

  • jam

    i love your humor!

  • Grocerer Too

    Great writing, great topic, go you! :)