Save Time + Money at The Grocery Store with These Tips
How to Save Time Grocery Shopping
Between scouring bare shelves for the items you need, battling long lines and lugging a carload of children around, grocery shopping can easily become a time-consuming task. So why make it more difficult than it has to be? A little planning can get you in, out and back to the comfort of home while there’s still daylight left to enjoy. All you’ll need is a well thought-out list, an opportunity to shop when you can avoid the rush and a gameplan for working your way through the store.
Make a detailed grocery list.Write down the items you need, starting with the essentials. Do a quick scan of your refrigerator and pantry to see what you’re out of and what you can hold off on buying. Go over your list a few times to make sure it’s complete—if you forget something, you’ll just have to make another trip out.
- Don’t wait until right before you head to the supermarket to put your grocery list together. Instead, keep a list going throughout the week, jotting down items as soon as you notice that you’re running low.
- While you’re drawing up your grocery list, group like items together so that you can make fewer stops in each aisle or section of the store. For instance, instead of having a list that reads "milk, potato chips, lettuce, butter, cat litter, eggs", you might arrange it so that all of the dairy items are side-by-side.
Go to a store you’re familiar with.Visiting the same store week in and week out can save you a considerable amount of time because you’ll know exactly where everything is. Not only will this spare you the frustration of having to hunt for every item individually, it will also give you a chance to get friendly with the staff, who can clue you in on special sales.
- Wait until you have more free time on your hands to check out that new supercenter or health food shop that just opened up.
- You can take a detour to another store if the sales are worth it, or if your home store doesn’t have what you’re looking for.
Pick a good time to shop.Take note of when your preferred store is the busiest and do your shopping when things aren’t quite as hectic. During an average workweek, most supermarkets tend to be overrun between 4-5pm, so early mornings or evenings may be your best bet if you want to avoid the rush. Over the weekends, it’s the lunchtime rush between 11am and noon that you’ll be contending with.
- If possible, hold off on doing your after-work shopping until rush hour traffic has died down.
Check for sales online.Before you grab your car keys, take a look at what kind of specials your local supermarket is running on its website. By learning about the weekly promotions in advance, you can sidestep the chore of comparing the prices of every item you look at.
- It’s also a good idea to flip through your coupon collection and only bring along the ones that correspond to the items on your list.
- Space out your shopping trips to take advantage of timely sales. This will be better for your budget, as well.
Becoming a More Efficient Shopper
Leave the kids at home.Schedule your trip during your kids’ school hours, or while they’re at home with their other parent or a babysitter. Having a couple extra sets of hands may seem like a good idea when you’re making a big haul, but you’ll be able to move faster on your own. Losing track of your kids at the grocery store can also be a cause of embarrassment, in addition to eating into your valuable time.
- When you’ve got no choice but to bring the little ones with you, assign them each a job. For instance, one can read out the next thing on the list, while another retrieves items from a nearby shelf.
- The same goes for spouses who have a habit of wandering off or are prone to making impulse purchases.
Map out your route through the store.Work your way from one end to the other, taking the store’s layout into account. Always pick up packaged foods first and save refrigerated ones like meat, dairy and produce for last so they’ll stay fresh. This is a more systematic approach than jetting back and forth aimlessly.
- If you tend to enter the store through the produce section and the cash registers are located beside the household goods, your grocery list should reflect this by having fruits and veggies listed first and things like toothbrushes and light bulbs at the bottom.
- When you can’t get to something you need right away, move onto the next item and come back for it later.
Don’t buy more than you need.Focus on what’s on your list (and maybe the occasional treat for yourself) and resist the urge to browse. Needless bargain hunting can quickly turn into a time drain. And even if you happen to stumble upon a good deal, you’ll still be leaving paying more than you would have if you’d stuck to the original plan.
- Get in the habit of regularly restocking the essentials. Putting off shopping until you run out of everything will only make your trips take longer, since you’ll have that much more to buy.
Nibble on something before you go.Have a light snack to stave off hunger and keep your mind sharp as you duck and dodge through the crowded aisles of the supermarket. You’ll have the energy you need to get more done in a short time, and you won’t be tempted to stop and salivate over every tasty confection you see.
- Everything will look appetizing on an empty stomach—if you’re not careful, you could end up bringing back more than you anticipated.
Spending Less Time in the Checkout Lane
Look for the fastest moving checkout line.The shortest line isn’t always the best one to be in. Hang back for a minute to get a sense of how each line is progressing and choose the most efficient one. It also pays to be aware of other factors that might potentially hold you up, like a new cashier or an angry customer complaining to management.
- Steer clear of overly talkative clerks to avoid getting trapped in a drawn out conversation.
- Pay attention to what the person in front of you is buying. If they’ve got a full cart, you may be better of jumping to another line, even if it’s a little longer.
Lay out your items in a sensible order.When you're placing your groceries on the conveyor belt, try not to make it any harder for the bagger than necessary. Start with the heaviest items headed for the bottom of the cart, like dog food and boxes of soda, along with things that will go into a separate bag of their own, such as milk, eggs and bread. After that, turn your attention to packaged goods and other knick knacks that can be fit in around the rest of the groceries.
- Group your items by type to make them easier to put away.
- If there's room, you can begin unloading your cart or basket while the person in front of you finishes checking out.
Help bag your own groceries.Don’t just stand there—lend a hand! After an item has been scanned, feel free to place it in a bag. You’ll get out of the store sooner, and chances are your cashier will appreciate the assistance.
- Remember, the bottom of the bag should be reserved for the heaviest items, keep your cold items together and place easily damaged goods like bread and eggs on top.
- A reusable tote bag can offer more space than ordinary grocery bags, which means fewer trips to and from the car, while also cutting down on unnecessary recycling waste.
Use the self-checkout station.For those times when you’ve only come for a handful of items, you can skip the registers entirely and ring yourself up. The lines are often much shorter, and you’ll be able to scan and bag as fast as you like. You won’t even have to wait for your change to be counted out!
- Use the self-checkout station the same way you would the express lane—for around a dozen items or fewer.
- Buying produce might slow you down, as you’ll have to weigh and enter each item’s product code individually.
- Consider posting a list on the refrigerator or a bulletin board that the whole family can add to. That way, you won’t have to interrogate your spouse or kids individually to find out if they want you to bring back something for them.
- Using a basket as opposed to a cart will make it easier for your to maneuver through the store if you only need a few things.
- If you’re having trouble tracking down a particular item, don’t hesitate to ask. An attendant will be happy to help you find what you’re looking for, and you’ll spend less time searching.
- Look into apps like Pepperplate and Paprika that help you build a more organized grocery list.
- Some busy metropolitan areas offer grocery delivery services. This might be a helpful alternative if you tend to be short on time.
- Keep in mind that you won’t be able to buy items like alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets at the self-checkout station.
- If you’ve got your kids at the store with you, make sure you don’t let them out of your sight.
Video: Grocery Shopping Hacks! Save BIG money (no coupons!) + How I grocery shop
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