By Heather Schroering, Tribune Newspapers
4:08 PM EDT, August 20, 2013
Grocery-bagging catastrophes — we're all familiar with them: A squashed loaf of bread defeated by a can of green beans, blemished tomatoes that lost a battle to the sharp edges of a cornflakes box.
Luckily, there are tricks to being a better bagger. It's all about "thinking one step ahead," says Andrew Borracchini, 18, this year's winner of the National Grocers Association Best Bagger Championship and employee at Metropolitan Market in Seattle. Here are his suggestions for bagging with cloth or paper bags — but these principles can be applied to any type of bag or even box.
Degree of difficulty: Easy
Use both hands: "If you grab a box, grab a can," Borracchini says. This will expedite the process. It also helps to look down the conveyor belt to see what's coming instead of grabbing the first items you see.
Categorize: "Make sure (groceries are) nice and separated," Borracchini suggests. He bags in four groups: general, shelf-stable items, like boxes and cans; fruits and vegetables; refrigerated and frozen items; and meats. Borracchini warns that ice cream and meat can leak or condensate on the trip home, so improperly bagged groceries can result in soggy boxes and messy cleanups. Thus, when categorized, there's less room for destruction. To be extra safe, he also recommends wrapping each meat in its own separate plastic bag.
Build a foundation: "In general, the heavier it is, put it at the bottom," Borracchini says. If possible, create a foundation in each bag by packing bigger items first, so nothing will get crushed under them. Taller boxes, like cereal, should go around the edges of a bag, with cans in the middle. Next, look for smaller, durable items, such as granola bar boxes, to lay flat in the middle. Save delicate items, like bread and eggs, for the top. Smaller stuff, such as packs of gum and spice jars, can just be dropped in between open spaces, so long as they're not crushable.
Don't exceed 15 pounds per bag when using paper or cloth bags, "or else it will rip," Borracchini says. Also be mindful of how much you can safely carry.
Be careful with glass: "You don't want glass touching other glass because it might clank and break when (you're carrying it)," he says. Place glass items in the middle of the bag surrounded by cans. However, glass bottles and jars can go next to each other if there's a buffer — for instance, if you're bagging a couple of bottles of wine, wrap one in a paper sleeve.
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