You have a million things to do, like getting dinner ready and picking up the kids from school. It seems like there isn't enough time in the day to get everything done. Which means having to go to the store to buy groceries is a nightmare! And I can't even tell you how sweaty it makes me to have to take my kids with me to the store. If you're looking for ways to get in and out of the supermarket faster, you need my tips to learn how to save time at the grocery store.
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How to Save Time at the Grocery Store
I feel like there are maybe two times a year that I actually feel like going to the grocery store. Maybe the stars have aligned and I don't have anything else going on that is adding stress to my day. On those rare occasions, I like to slowly browse the store, maybe even with a Starbucks in hand.
It's fun to check out new products and find things I know my family would love.
But usually going to the grocery is like the equivalent of a root canal for me. It makes me cranky and borderline antisocial.
Follow my tips for saving time at the supermarket so you can get in and out and back to your busy mom life.
If at all possible, I try to use Amazon Fresh so I don't have to leave my house. But sometimes I am feeling cheap or they don't have what I need. Then I use these tips to get through the grocery store efficiently.
Don't Shop On An Empty Stomach
Ugh, we’re all guilty of doing this! If you're hungry, you'll likely waste time picking up more food items than you'll need. You also end up spending more money than you would have. And depending on what you are craving, it might take you on a wild goose chase all over the grocery store.
Shopping hungry makes me feel all disorganized. I feel like everything takes longer and I'm not as efficient. Also, hangry. This takes my hangry levels up way too high.
But that can all be avoided by just eating an apple or a banana or bag of Doritos (kidding, kind of) before you go to the store.
Shop the Perimeter
I've read a lot of tips on meal planning etc., and they all say to shop the perimeter of the store. That's how I usually shop and I do think it helps to save time on grocery shopping but also keeps me from buying a lot of random or pre-packaged foods that our family truly doesn't need.
The perimeter is where you find produce, dairy, meat, etc. Those are the things you need, not the Pocky in the international aisle (although that is often on our grocery list for the kids).
Have a Routine
Shopping the store the same way every time helps you to really learn the store and where things are. I always start in the produce department. Then I move on to the next department and the next. This really cuts down on the time walking from department to department and backtracking your steps.
This really helps especially with those staples that you always have on your list. It becomes like muscle memory as you reach for the item and toss it in your cart, barely slowing down.
Organize Your List
Organize your list into sections according to the types of products and their department and layout out of the store if possible. That way, you don't wind up buying toothpaste, then going all the way to the other end of the store before realizing you have to go back to get a toothbrush too.
There's no sense in walking through all 26 aisles of your local supermarket (except on those VERY rare occasions or it's a brand new store or you are in a grocery store in another country – because then it's almost a crime to not go in every aisle).
I find that when I organize my list at home, even if I am in a store that I'm not super familiar with, I get in and out pretty quickly.
I have a meal planning printable grocery list you can print out to help make your planning easier.
Getting groceries can be ten times more stressful when you're with someone else, especially the kids. And don't get me started on shopping with my husband. If at all possible, try to go to the store when you can be by yourself. For me, that is usually Sunday mornings.
On Sundays, the husband stays home with the kids and the grocery store becomes not only a necessity but also a little bit of me-time. Some people wouldn't consider grocery shopping me-time, but I totally do especially if I don't have to rush home and cook dinner or pick up the kids.
I find that shopping with my kids means I end up with lots of random extras and potty breaks. But I totally get that shopping without the kids is a luxury and there were MANY years when both boys had to go with me.
The grocery store just happens to be the place my youngest son said the f-word, in the perfect context, for the first time. It was definitely one of those moments where I was laughing so hard I had to pretend I was crying.
Buy plenty of canned or frozen goods, which generally have a long shelf life. You can potentially serve a pantry meal one night and cut down on having to buy ingredients for that night's dinner. Plus, canned items tend to go on sale from time to time so you can save money too.
The pantry staples are usually near each other in the store and you can pick up a few things, like almost all of the ingredients for this super simple Tortilla Soup recipe.
This also helps me when it's time to cook dinner when I'm in a pinch. I generally make a meal plan on Sundays and try to stick to it.
But once in a while, an item goes bad or I don't have everything I need and I have to whip something up last minute. I love to have options in the pantry, even just a canned veggie, that I can grab to get something on the table quickly.
But I also want to remind you that sandwiches for dinner are not wrong. Neither is breakfast, or whatever the kids can grab on their own. You're not a bad mom just because you don't cook a homemade meal every night. I feel guilty using Postmates on a weeknight dinner but sometimes it must be done!
Stick to the List
If you spend the time to make a list of the things you need based on your meal plan, stick to it! So head straight for the aisles you need. Don't stray, not even for a Milky Way. That’s how the supermarket sucks you in! The minute you take your eyes off the list, or try to create a meal on the fly, your grocery shopping will slow down like crazy.
Park In The Same Row
I get that this may not always be possible, but do your best to park in the same general area. That way your hectic mind won't go into panic mode when you can't remember where you parked your car, plus, you can find it easily on your way out. This goes back to keeping to the routine. And I drive a little bit farther to another grocery store sometimes just for the parking lot.
I just got a new Traverse so now I park a little bit farther away. It's larger than my last car (which I love) but learning to park it has been a challenge!
I park by the same door, and know that all I have to do is grab my shopping cart and head inside to the produce section. Plus these doors are closest to the check out area. It just makes sense.
Be sure to factor in the time to return the cart to the right spot. I will always do my best to take my cart to a cart return, but so often, I'm finding that they only have one cart return for the whole parking lot.
The only other option is to walk it all the way back to the store (which I usually do except for when I had toddlers in the car) or find a planter to prop it up on so it won't roll into a car.
Avoid End-Of-Aisle Displays
Avoid being impulsive and spending time investigating that cute plate set or those holiday-themed decor items. You don't need them. The design of a grocery store is all based on the psychology of a shopper. They know how to grab your attention. The more time you spend in the store, the more you spend!
Supermarkets are tricky, and they've designed everything from the displays to the checkout area to call out to you while you're waiting impatiently in line. Stick to these time-saving grocery shopping tips to get you out of there faster!
Bag it Up
With the relatively new addition of using reusable bags at the stores, the check out process has become a mess. There is not good way for the checkers to swipe the items and get them bagged efficiently, even when they have a designated bagger.
Don't be a jerk and help out if you can. I usually start bagging the groceries as the checker scans things. It helps to get the ball rolling and get things back into the cart rather than waiting for the checker to do it all.
When the items are all scanned, I usually stop and let the checker take over while I pay for the items. And if there is stuff left to pack up after that I will jump back in and help.
This is also a great way to get the kids involved (yes, the bread will get squished). It teaches them to help people out even if it's not “their job.”
If you only have a few things, then, by all means, use the Self-Checkout. It can be much quicker unless you have a lot of produce that you have to search for by item.
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Pin These Time-Saving Grocery Shopping Tips
These tips for how to save time at the grocery store will help you get in and out faster, so you can get back to your busy mom life. Or binge-watching your favorite show. It's up to you to decide how you spend that time you saved!