It's an undeniable truth in life: Grocery shopping always seems to take way longer than you planned. Seriously, how many times have you looked at your watch and realized with horror that you spent an hour picking up produce for the week? Here are a few tricks to help you speed up this time-consuming task:
1. Identify the sales before you head to the store.
The good news: Coupons mean you save money. The bad news: Any deals (whether they be coupons or mark-downs) that you're bombarded with at the store can be very distracting – and might cause you to impulse shop.
Catherine Alford, the budgeting expert behind , says even people with lists can be easily persuaded by price cuts, so she recommends looking at deals before shopping so you know which ones you want to take advantage of — and which one you can bypass without a second glance. This way, you stick to your list and your budget — guaranteed.
2. Organize your grocery list by food category.
Kick your list-writing game up a notch and itemize it by produce, dairy, protein, and frozen items. This next-level idea means you only need to make one loop to get your entire haul — and you can avoid that annoying moment when you realize you forgot the pretzels five aisles back.
3. Shop alone.
Shopping might be more enjoyable with a buddy (unless your cart-mate is a screaming toddler, of course), but tag-alongs might not have the same speedy goal as you.
Finance writer explains that other people will also likely add more time to your decision process: "They will bog you down both physically and mentally having to include their decisions as a subset of your own."
4. Become a regular at your favorite store.
It's amazing how much faster you can zoom around the grocery store when you know exactly where you're headed. No more reading aisle signs. No more stopping to ask passerby's for help. If you always go to the same place you'll eventually know it like the back of your hand — and start forming relationships with helpful staffers.
5. Make friends with the store employees.
It's much easier to fight deli counter crowd if the clerk has your regular order memorized! Initiate the relationship by always shopping on the same day of the week, so the same people are working.
Stew Leonard Jr. (CEO of ) says managers are especially insightful, because they often know when their store is the busiest — and should thus be avoided.
6. If you're not doing a huge shop, skip the big push cart.
When you have so much space, you're more likely to fill it up with groceries — even if they're not on your list. "If I can't fit it in my hands or in a handheld basket, I won't get distracted and spend time considering stuff that's not on my shopping list," explains Erica Nonni. Plus, baskets tend to get heavy so you'll want to drop it off in the check-out line ASAP.
7. Only shop the perimeter of the store.
Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN — the nutritionist in the — that this where the produce, protein, and dairy lies, while the inside is usually filled with processed foods. If you limit your trip to just the exterior aisles, you'll shop faster and eat healthier. Double whammy!
8. Commit yourself to the same brands.
Sure it might be boring, but it's certainly faster. You can waste an hour staring at all the different options on the shelf — just think about how many different kinds of whole-grain options there are in the bread aisle. Which is why Jamie Novak, author of , says brand loyalty is key: "When you know which one to grab you'll save time."
The one exception? If you know you want to use a coupon for a brand you don't normally buy — a mental swap that won't require too much energy or extra time.
9. Stock up once on freezer items and non-perishables just once a month.
If you follow this rule and make one large trip every month, the rest of your trips will be quicker and less expensive since you're only grabbing fresh produce and perishables. Sure, this might mean you'll want to add a trip into your regular rotation, but you'll save time on those busy weeknights that are already too short.
10. Pick your check-out line wisely.
While your first instinct might be to avoid the person with the overflowing cart, think it through. Sometimes it's better to get behind a full cart with a dedicated bagger, than wait behind multiple people in the express lane where the employee has to ring up items and bag 'em, explains Steve Silberbrg. "Plus there is a good chance that one of those people is going to have an unpredictable issue."
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