It’s an unavoidable task – in order to survive, we must eat and in order to eat, we must grocery shop. In the US, consumers make an average of 1.5 trips to the grocery store per week (per household). Occasionally you’ll meet someone who doesn’t mind grocery shopping or even describes liking it. But for most people it’s a chore. According to Consumer Reports, the top 3 most hated aspects of grocery shopping include too few checkouts open, congested aisles, and limited choices. Stores WITH plenty of open checkouts, clear aisles, and lots of choices are more enjoyable to shop at. Here are 10 additional tips that will help make grocery shopping less stressful (and maybe even enjoyable).
1. Go with a list!
When we shop with a list, we are more deliberate with product selection and we spend less money on impulse buys. Taking your list – whether it’s on your phone or on paper – also saves time by helping us stay focused on why we are there, without a lot of standing staring moments, trying to recall what we have and don’t have at home in the fridge or trying to brainstorm what ingredients to buy for dinner that night.
Have you ever left the grocery store after dropping $100+, only to arrive home still feeling like you lack meal parts? Having your list will not only optimize time and the amount left in your wallet, but also the likelihood you will leave with what you need to make meals.
2. Eat before you go.
Shopping hungry = impatience and more impulse purchasing. Even if it means sitting in your car and eating a snack before entering the grocery store, do it! When we shop hungry, we not only tend to spend more money, we also gravitate to foods that are ready to eat now instead of ingredients to cook up later. (This makes sense. right? Our bodies are needing to eat now, so we crave foods that are ready to go and don’t need cooked first.) Hungry and listless? That’s big trouble because a hungry brain will have a very tough time coming up with meal ideas on the spot.
3. Use an app.
I was out of town visiting a friend, and as we were sitting in our pajamas with coffee while her husband was at the market, she watched on her Todoist app and saw which items her husband had bought as he was putting them into the cart and checking them off the list! Gone are the days of same day trips to the market, going a second time to retrieve the items our spouse missed the first time.
4. Get your meal plan groove on.
Not sure what to put on your grocery list? By making a weekly meal plan ahead of time, you’ll not only be prepared for the week, you’ll have everything you need for an all-star grocery list.
5. Shop at off-peak hours.
When I was in high school, I loved going midnight grocery shopping with my mom because the aisles would be full of box boys busy stacking the shelves. As an adult, I still try to avoid peak hours, but not to gawk at boys. Grocery shopping can feel much easier when it doesn’t feel like the rest of your town is also there grocery shopping with you. Avoid bumper carts by shopping at off-peak times, which are Mondays and Tuesdays (although Wednesdays and Thursdays are not significantly busier. Just try to avoid Friday – Sunday). On weekdays, most shoppers arrive between 4:00 and 5:00pm, compared to weekends when half of all shoppers arrive to start their shopping by 12:30pm.
6. Map your route.
If you have a pinball machine shopping style, it’s time to map your route and efficiently move through the store without zigzagging or back tracking. Most people have an idea of where they will head first when entering the grocery store. Using a grocery list that’s divided into store departments will really help you map your route well.
7. Choose your convenience.
Deciding ahead of time which convenience foods you are willing to pay more for will help prevent over purchasing of convenience foods (which tend to go bad more quickly), and it will help prevent overspending on these items, which tend to be more expensive. If the head of broccoli will rot in your fridge while a bag of cut broccoli is more likely to be eaten, plan on spending more here and saving in other areas. Knowing in advance where you are willing to pay for convenience will help save time and money during your grocery store visit.
8. Use the food group approach.
No list? No problem. Sometimes we find ourselves at the market without a list. When this happens, consider using the food group approach: before checking out, make sure you have grains, proteins (meats, seafood, beans, eggs, or nut butters), dairy, and produce. This will help prevent you from arriving home with only snack items and no real staples for making meals.
9. Shop in your pajamas (grocery delivery).
According to the consumer statistics organization, statista, 18.4% of consumers do most of their grocery shopping online. This saves commuting time and can be a great option for those who prefer not to fight the after work crowd at the grocery store.
10. Beware of marketing tricks
The milk is in the back for a reason (as the most common grocery item requiring a quick trip to the grocery store, placing it in the rear of the store forces us to travel past other items, increasing the likelihood we’ll buy more than just milk). The cartoon covered cereal boxes are placed low at child eye-level for a reason. Relaxing and upbeat music is played for a reason. The goal is to get us to spend more time sauntering around the aisles so that we buy more. Sticking to your list will help you avoid getting suckered into buying more than you planned on.