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The Best Times to Shop at These Popular Grocery Chains Right Now

From Whole Foods to Walmart, here are the most sensible windows of time to go shopping.
Man wearing disposable medical mask shopping in supermarket during coronavirus pneumonia outbreak

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for stocking up on groceries in as few trips as possible is now in effect across the country, and Americans are scrambling to find the best times to shop at their favorite stores.

While each grocery store's peak time for foot traffic differs depending, primarily, on geography, Saturday and Sunday afternoons are typically the most popular time to go nationwide. In addition, many popular chains have set seniors-only hours in place throughout the week for vulnerable individuals to safely shop.

While it's hard to pinpoint exactly when the best times to shop are at some of the nation's most frequented grocery stores, we did some research and gathered what appears to be the most sensible windows of time to go shopping at five such places.

Something else to keep in mind when you're choosing the day you want to go shopping is when your state makes SNAP benefits available each month. Out of courtesy for those who depend on those resources, you can avoid going on those days to ensure they have enough food to choose from.

With that, here are the best times to shop at five of the most popular grocery stores in the country.

1

Whole Foods

whole foods market outside
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Whole Foods hours of operation vary by location, however, each location is currently opening one hour earlier than usual every day so those who are 60 years and older can shop safely. Avoid going during that time frame unless you are among that age group. If you're not, there is a specific day you should aim to go to Whole Foods, especially if you've recently been laid off or have taken a pay cut and need to save some cash.

In a former Eat This, Not That! article, Michelle Dudash, registered dietitian, nutritionist, and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families, advised going grocery shopping in the middle of the week to score the best deals. And at a place like Whole Foods where items are typically more expensive, a discount is always appreciated.

"Wednesdays and Thursdays are good because lots of stores do Wednesday ad changes. Some deals sell out, but for the most part, they are good for the whole week," she said. According to The Penny Hoarder, Whole Foods announces its new weekly sales on Wednesdays.

2

Target

target storefront
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Every Wednesday, Target reserves the first hour of shopping for vulnerable customers, so keep that in mind if you decide to make your grocery run that day. As far as specific times to go, Business Insider recently interviewed a Target employee from the Midwest and they said the best time to shop falls within the first two to three hours after opening.

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On the contrary, a New York-based Target employee told the publication that 9:00 a.m. sharp is the best time to shop, specifically on days when there are planned truck deliveries. Consider calling your local Target to see what days their deliveries come in so you can map out a plan for your next grocery haul.

RELATED: Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!

3

Walmart

walmart storefront
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At Walmart, seniors are welcome to come in an hour early (which is 6:00 a.m. at most locations) every Tuesday to shop for a whole hour before opening to the rest of the public. Most stores will be closing at 8:30 p.m. so if you need to go after work just be mindful of the newly adjusted store hours.

4

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's store front
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Between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. every day Trader Joe's, seniors are invited to join an additional line outside of the store's doors to get expedited entry in. For those who don't fall in that age group, try going one hour after the store would normally open. At most Trader Joe's locations across the country, that would be 10:00 a.m.

Dudash encourages going one hour after opening—no matter what day of the week it is—so you can get the freshest produce and even have first dibs on newly stocked packaged foods. She also gives a helpful pointer for when you're shopping for fresh foods, "The old items are on top, so choose something underneath," says Dudash. "If you are at the store right at opening, chances are that the produce won't be restocked yet, and [there] may be slim pickings."

With so many people opting for canned and frozen foods over fresh ones right now, this tip is especially helpful as produce may not be moving off shelves as quickly as usual. If you're more an evening shopper, know that Trader Joe's has revised store hours so that it closes at 7:00 p.m. to protect staff and customers during the pandemic.

5

Costco

a costco storefront on a cold bluebird winter day
Alastair Wallace/Shutterstock

From 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, Costco will be hosting seniors-only shopping. If you can't make it to Costco during the week due to a rigorous work from home schedule, Dudash suggests going on Saturday morning rather than Sunday to avoid large crowds, which we know is a possibility at this store. Let's not forget the insane line that formed outside of the Costco in Cypress, California just a few weeks ago.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more