40 Genius Tricks for Getting In-and-Out of the Grocery Store Faster
It’s inevitable: the weekly, bi-weekly, twice-a-week, or maybe even daily shopping trip. But no matter how much time you carve into your schedule, it always seems like you’re running through the store like a crazy person, just trying to grab all that you need before heading to the next place on your list. Finding ways to make grocery shopping faster seems impossible, right?
But shopping, although a nuisance for all of us, doesn’t have to take so long. From organizing your lists to previewing sales, here are 40 ways to make your process easier and more efficient.
Preview the sales before you go
When you get to the store, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the sales and want to grab everything that’s discounted. To avoid the mayhem, preview the store circular ahead of time. That way you know what to expect, and what you really need.
Shop with a full belly
We’ve all fallen victim to the impulse buys. Rather than filling your cart with unnecessary items because you're famished or skipped your last meal, try heading out with a full belly. This will help you fight cravings and focus on the necessities.
Organize your list by category
You can save yourself endless amounts of time by organizing your list by category. If you know you want string cheese and shredded cheese, for example, put them in the same spot on your list! No sense in walking around in circles or trying to find a single item when you’ll be back to that same area later.
Categorize by aisle
If you’re a serious shopper, this tip is perfect for you. Not only can you sort your list by type or category, but you can also go one step further and sort by aisle. This especially works if you’re familiar with your store enough to know what’s by the entrance vs. on the other side. It’s a super-efficient shopping method!
Maybe you like shopping with your significant other, roommate, kids, etc. But if you’re trying to save time—don’t. People have a tendency to distract and add time to your decision-making process. If you can go alone, it’s preferred.
Ditch the cart for smaller trips
If you’re not planning on getting a huge haul of groceries, then skip the cart altogether. It’s much quicker to walk with a small basket or reusable shopping bag, rather than try to navigate around people and displays with wheels.
Stick to one store
Easier said than done, especially if you frequent several stores or choose your shopping place by proximity to your home, school, or work. But if you stick to one store, you can become familiar with where everything is (and maybe even get to know some of the employees, too!), which will make your process smoother and quicker.
Focus on the essentials
Oftentimes we get distracted while shopping because of displays, sales, new products, and the like. If you go into your shopping trip with a focus on the essentials, you’ll avoid getting things you don’t actually need or even things that aren’t as aligned with your diet.
Skip the samples
If your favorite store offers samples, try to avoid them as much as you can. Sure, it’s fun to try the latest products, but the time you spend waiting in line and navigating a small crowd to throw out your trash is time for shopping you’ll never get back.
Avoid the center aisles as much as possible
The center aisles are filled with processed foods. Although there’s nothing wrong with indulging or getting a few items you can’t live without, the main staples of the average fresh food-based diet—produce, dairy, and protein—can be found in the perimeter of the store.
If you’re trying to speed up your process, stay focused on the edges.
Pick your favorite brands and stick with them
Shopping by brand can actually make a difference in how fast your trip is. Brands typically stay within the same areas in aisles and shelves. You can also focus on finding coupons in a more efficient way because all of your products will be consistent.
Write down quantities of items
Writing down the amounts of items you need can be super helpful for making your grocery shopping faster. If you know you need two cups of something, you might want to opt for a bigger buy, rather than the smaller package you’ll only get three uses out of. This will prevent a trip in the future, too.
Use call-ahead services when you can
Some grocery stores offer you the option to call ahead and make an order for something like deli meats or specialty foods, for example. If and when this applies, take advantage! It’ll save you tons of time and help you avoid lines, too.
Buy frozen items only once a month
This may sound a little strange, but when it comes to buying frozen foods, it’s best to try to only do a haul of this one time per month. That way, when you’re shopping at other times, you can focus on the fresh and perishable items rather than worrying about what frozen things you may need to supplement.
Leave your cart and come back
If you can’t avoid the cart altogether because you’re buying too many things, then consider the "leave" method. Put your cart in a central location (without your purse, wallet, or phone in it, of course!) and walk to the aisle(s) you need. Grab the few items, then come back, toss them in, and keep going. This is simple but saves tons of time!
Schedule a pick-up order
Ordering groceries online might sound super lazy, but it’s actually more efficient than you think. When you order online, you can browse and add to your cart from anywhere. You can apply coupons, find specific brands without wandering around the store, and even schedule your pick-up time for when it works for you.
Okay, so maybe delivery sounds like a whole new level of laziness, but if you’re thinking in terms of efficiency and convenience, it can be a huge time-saver. Some stores even offer kick-backs and discounts for their delivery services or even free shipping.
Listen to music as you go
Depending on what type of music you enjoy listening to, plugging in your headphones can be a great idea. As you're rushing around the store, your music motivates and keeps you going, especially if it’s something more upbeat.
Avoid the shopping rush
People have typical times that they go grocery shopping: before work, during lunch break, after work, or on the weekends. If possible, try to avoid those times for a more seamless shopping experience.
It’s a good idea to consider events in your community, too. For example, if there’s a local baseball game on Friday, you might want to get your shopping done well beforehand.
Get to know the employees
Getting to know the people who work at your favorite stores can be helpful if you ever need to find something. If you’re a regular, some workers may even be willing to set aside a few things for you if they know you’re coming at your usual time.
Preview recipes before you walk in
If you’re a list person, you probably have the ingredients written down before you get to the store. If you’re thinking of a specific recipe, though, it’s best to preview it before you even walk in. That way you’ll know what to get and won’t waste time searching the internet.
Take advantage of Pinterest
Apps where you can save your favorite recipes or items are must-haves when it comes to grocery shopping. Create a "Shopping" or "Groceries" board on Pinterest to remind you of everything you need, especially if you’re a visual person. Or, simply pin the recipes you’re thinking about so you have them with you, wherever you are.
Put your phone on silent
This may seem like such a simple thing, but we so often get distracted by our phones when we’re grocery shopping. A simple text can turn into a back-and-forth throughout your trip. And a "quick" phone call can be a huge distraction. Just turn your cell onto Do Not Disturb or vibrate so you’re less focused on it.
Check out your store’s app
Oftentimes grocery stores will have apps that track and save coupons for you. As you’re browsing, be sure to check the latest deals and get coupons. That way, when you’re checking out, everything you need is right at your fingertips.
Reference your last receipt before you go
If you keep receipts, this is a great way to keep track of your spending and items. Before you head out, reference your last receipt. This will help you see what you eat most often, what you don’t need, and the essentials that are typically gone by your next trip.
Consider subscribing to services
Subscribing is simple and can save you both time and money. If you subscribe to something like Amazon or Costco, for example, you can get free same or two-day delivery on groceries. This also helps you add frequent items to your cart automatically.
Keep track while you shop
If you take a list with you, record prices next to each item. Although this will take a bit of time your first go-around, it can help you with over-spending in the future. If an item’s price has skyrocketed, you can skip it this time and jump to the next item on the list.
Spend less time couponing and more time shopping
Although coupons can be great money-savers, they can potentially be huge time-wasters. If you find yourself spending more than 15 minutes clipping coupons before your shopping trip, just stop.
Saving yourself a few cents won’t pay off in the long run if you’re spending an hour finding the right coupons.
Buy in bulk once per month
Bulk-buying is one of the most efficient shopping practices. Rather than heading to the store multiple times per week to grab little items, think about what your staple items are and purchase them in bulk every month or so. These are things like flour, rice, frozen vegetables, and other staples that you eat often.
Check your store’s "popular times"
Did you know that Google has enabled a category for stores that shows popular times based on frequency of customers per day and week? This can be invaluable if you’re thinking about trying to squeeze in a trip between errands. Be sure to check before you go!
Prepare your physical self
You can save yourself time by preparing for the trip appropriately. Whether that means wearing clothes that are comfy and easy to move around in, shoes that won’t hurt when you walk, or reading glasses to be sure you can see the tiny print on labels, be prepared in all the ways you can be.
Consider shopping on Wednesdays
According to Progressive Grocer, only 11 percent of Americans shop on Wednesdays, and on any given day, only four percent shop after 9:00 p.m. If you’re thinking about the "best day" you can go, consider Hump Day.
Avoid the buffets
Buffet areas, although they may appear convenient at first glance, are actually less healthy and less efficient for your grocery shopping. Rather than strolling through and leisurely considering each item, stick to your list and the staples you eat every week.
Plan out a weekly menu
Before you even get to the store, think about what you want to cook and what each recipe entails. This will help you build a productive list and spend less time aimlessly walking through the aisles.
Have a budget in mind
Although budgeting isn’t always directly related to saving time, you’ll spend less time in the store considering items if you know you have a set price range. Keep yourself within limits to avoid over-spending and wasting more time at the store than you need.
Look both high and low in the aisles
The middle section of each aisle is right within view. Don’t be duped! Oftentimes lower prices are higher or lower on the shelves. If you know this, you can avoid comparing prices and just grab what you know is a better (and cheaper!) option.
Take advantage of the customer service area
If you’re getting ready to check out and the line is super long, see if someone at the customer service area will take you.
Bring your own bags
Bringing your own bags is one of the simplest ways to make your grocery shopping faster. You can pack everything up yourself, and you'll be doing the Earth a favor, too. Plus, some stores may even offer discounts for bringing your own bag.
Pay attention when it comes to checkout time
We have the tendency to skip the line with the person who has the overflowing cart, but that doesn’t always mean that line will be slower. Pay attention to the person checking out as well as the bagger. You want a line that’s working efficiently and a bagger who knows what they're doing.
Use the self-checkout when you have fewer items
Self-checkout is such a time-saver when you have fewer items. Rather than waiting for someone to scan and assist you, hop over and get this process done yourself.
Fair warning, though—you have to get alcohol in a normal line, so keep that in mind when using the self-checkout option.
Armed with these tips, you can make your next grocery shopping experience the most time-efficient one yet.