Ack! No milk! Off to the grocery store!
Was there something else you needed? There was, wasn’t there? What was it? Oh, look, this is on sale. That isn’t, but I think I need some. Might as well wander down this aisle to shortcut to the other side.
Oops – walked straight past the pasta, and we definitely need some of that.
How many grocery store trips feel like a random grab-bag and confused wandering? It happens to us all, but if feeding our people and keeping the shelves stocked is an important part of our service – and it is – then we need some better strategies for making the most of our grocery trips.
We want to minimize the time they take, the brain power they require, and the mistakes and oversights we make.
Here are five tips to help us do just that.
Grocery Store Tip #1: Have a regular route
Making decisions wears us down. When we have to make lots of little decisions, we use up our willpower and end up with cookies in our cart by the end of the grocery trip – or, if not that, then we feel drained and depleted as we pull in at home and realize we now have to put our haul away.
One way to cut down on decision-making while at the grocery store is simply to have a standard route.
Then, even if you don’t need something in particular along your route, you can still simply follow it, gets steps, and know you won’t have to back track when you remember you missed something halfway through the store.
Weave through the produce section, bee-line through the aisles you choose and avoid the ones you should (i.e. the chocolate aisle), hit up the dairy section and decide at what point you should head to the checkout.
Most grocery stores have a store map available near the entrance or online. Grab one and actually trace out the optimal route.
After a few trips, you’ll be surprised how much faster you can get through the store when you know the next step and the next turn you’re supposed to make.
Grocery Store Tip #2: Sort your cart as you go
At my usual grocery haunt, I bag my own groceries (or have the kids do it for me). With years of practice under my belt, I have decided opinions about the best way to pack groceries home. I have my extra large reusable bags and I can fit a lot in only a few.
But bagging groceries is an art if you want to get the most out of the fewest.
Whether you bag your own groceries, have kids do it for you, or are relying on the clerk, sorting your cart as you shop saves you time and headache when packing and unpacking your groceries.
Personally, I put fruits and veggies together in the back of the cart, meat on the bottom, dry goods in the middle with one side for cans and bottles and the other for bags, and cold at the end. Then when I’m putting my groceries up to be scanned, they come out in reverse order: first the cold, then the dry, then the produce, and last the meat – always like next to like.
This way, whether I’m bagging them or not, the cold things will end up together and keep each other cool company, the cans and bottles won’t smash the fruit, and the dry goods can quickly and easily be tossed together.
Then, when I’m back home, unpacking is faster because like items are already together. One bag can be set by the fridge, another by the pantry, and I can haul the meat straight down to the freezer.
And it all starts by sorting like items by like in the cart as I shop.
Grocery Store Tip #3: Compare price per ounce
The number of brands and variations on even the most basic items make grocery shopping a decision-fatigue nightmare.
Most grocery stores include a price-per-ounce comparison in tiny print below the price tag. Look at that number, rather than the packaging and the price. Make it your default to grab the cheapest-per-ounce package, so you save time and energy deliberating about which can of tomatoes or which box of macaroni.
Grocery Store Tip #4: Look at your list
This is my biggest planning and life management tip: lists do you no good if you don’t look at them.
Yup, it’s brilliant insights like that you’ll find here.
We might know this, but we need to practice doing what we know.
And that includes looking at our grocery list while we’re actually at the grocery store.
Looking at it in the checkout line or in the car after the trip is not helpful. Along the route you created for your grocery trip, set up list-checking triggers. Perhaps you can choose to look at your list after leaving the produce section and as soon as you reach the cold session.
Make it a habit so you won’t be kicking yourself when you get home because you forgot the eggs or the pasta.
Grocery Store Tip #5: Build the trip into your routine
We have to go to the grocery store regularly.
Yet few think of it as a responsibility to schedule and add it to the weekly time budget.
I know there have been multiple weekly time budgets I’ve put together that completely neglect the fact that I spend about 2 hours a week grocery shopping.
Is there a day you’re already out and about and adding in the grocery run makes sense? Is there a time of day that works best for you? Can your husband do it on his way home from work? Can you do it first thing in the morning on Saturday or on a weeknight evening?
Figure out the best time to fit it into your week, and budget that time, rather than being caught off guard and having to squeeze it in amidst other commitments.
Want to get a better handle on your kitchen processes so they take less time and mental effort?
Sign up for the free five day email course: Simplify Your Pantry.
We’ll clear out, pare down, and streamline our pantry, grocery routines, and menu plans, one step at a time. By the end of the week, we’ll be decluttered and have a personalized food plan that fits our families and situations.