Other than stocking shelves with products you love to eat and drink, there’s a surprising amount of other services many grocery stores provide for customers. The only catch is that not every store advertises these services, so you could go your entire adult life (like me) not taking advantage of all that your local supermarket has to offer. A quick phone call will confirm that these services are available at stores near you, and each one will make life just a little easier. Here’s a list of eight things you might never have realized your grocery store can do for you.
Got a dull kitchen knife, but want to spare yourself the expense of having it sent out for professional sharpening? Look no further than the meat department of your local grocery store. Although not all grocery stores offer this service, there are some major chains that do, like Shnucks in the Midwest and Raley’s in the Western US. Come in with your dull knife, and within 24 hours you’ll have a well-sharpened blade at no cost. Prepping food with dull knives is not only annoying but can also be dangerous, so giving your kitchen tools a little refresh will save you time, grief, and a trip to the emergency room.
There’s a lot that the grocery store meat department can do for you to make cooking at home even easier. Let’s say you’re buying a whole chicken and need it quartered, or need flank steak cut into strips, or need a cut of meat deboned. It might take some extra time, but butchers at Whole Foods, Mariano’s, Publix, and other supermarkets can make it happen. Some will even take it a step further and season or marinate the meat for you, which is just one less thing you have to do to get dinner ready.
Chill your wine
I never like to show up to someone’s home or gathering empty-handed, so of course there’s always a last-minute trip to the store for a bottle of wine. But what if the bottle needs to be chilled? If you can’t find what you like in the refrigerated wine section, the grocery store might be able to chill your desired bottle for you while you shop. Some locations might even have a rapid chiller on site that will get your bottle colder much faster. No one wants to show up at a party with a warm bottle of white.
If you’re in need of boxes for your next move, don’t buy a pack at Home Depot right away. Instead, try asking the manager at your local Mariano’s, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, or other chain grocer. Availability can depend on the time and day of the week that these stores receive shipments for produce and other larger items, and sometimes the store has an arrangement with the supplier where they send the boxes back—but lots of supermarkets are happy to unload all that cardboard on you, if you ask nicely. Try to plan your box hunt around when a location receives its latest shipment.
Clean your fish
As with the meat department, the seafood department at many supermarkets can help make your dinner plans a lot simpler by taking over some of the prep work. At grocery stores like Mariano’s, Whole Foods, and Publix you can ask the fishmonger on site to clean and cut the fresh fish of your choice. At Publix locations you can even ask that the fish be steamed. And if you’re squeamish about deveining shrimp, many seafood departments can assist in that as well.
If your grocery store has a floral department, then it is also likely that there is a helpful florist on staff who can arrange the bouquets you purchase at no extra charge. To be clear, involves arranging and wrapping the flowers, which is not the same as ordering a custom arrangement. That type of bouquet, which comes in a vase, does need to be ordered in advance and costs extra—but it’s a great service to take advantage of nonetheless.
The helpful recipes and meal-planning tips offered by many grocery stores’ websites are sometimes even better than what you’d find on your favorite cooking blogs, because you’re guaranteed to find all the recommended ingredients in one place. Whether you shop at Whole Foods, Publix, Mariano’s, Trader Joe’s, or any other major supermarket, you’re likely to find plenty of meal suggestions online, and beyond that, you can always ask for recommendations in person as well. Butchers, fishmongers, and other employees will likely have some solid ideas based on the products that are currently in stock.
Even your favorite supermarket can’t carry every single product you want, but many will place special orders if you just ask. Have a dinner party coming up and plan to serve some rare species of sustainably sourced fish? Whole Foods will order it for you, as will Publix, and call you when it’s available for pickup, or deliver it to you. Or if your store stocks Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom but not Cream of Onion, they might be able to place a one-time or recurring order on some of the latter. There’s no harm in asking, and the store will often be happy to oblige—after all, they want to keep customers happy and returning.