10 Grocery Shopping Hacks From Professional Shoppers
You'll be in and out in no time, even on a Sunday afternoon.
There's nothing worse than being stuck at a crowded grocery store with no plan. You already know not to shop on an empty stomach (hunger pains can lead you to toss all kinds of not-good-for-you snacks into your cart), but arriving without a list or a shopping strategy also has its downsides, including going over budget. That's why we've asked the experts—professional shoppers with grocery delivery services—to share their best tips and tricks to make your trips more efficient and organized. Take note!
Review your list ahead of time.
This may sound obvious, but just like Santa Claus, you should make a list and check it twice. Think carefully about what staples you have in your fridge and pantry and where you're running low, advises Tammy Graves, a Houston-based grocery shopper for Shipt. Also consider how many frozen or refrigerated items you'll be buying so you can plan ahead and bring enough cooler bags to accommodate them.
Download the store app.
"For many stores, you can build your shopping list online and it will sort by category and/or aisle locations, making it so much easier to get through the store," says Graves. You can also often use the store app to save money, as many contain coupons you can digitally "clip" and use during check out.
Shop in a linear order.
Graves says she avoids the produce section—where many shoppers begin—and starts in dry goods instead, then works up and down each aisle in order. Once this is done, she recommends shopping the perimeter for perishables, with your last stop being the frozen aisle (to keep these goods cold as long as possible).
Go to the deli first.
This part of a store can be notorious for taking for-like-ever to fulfill your order. Rather than standing in line, write everything you need from them ahead of time on a piece of paper. When it's your turn, leave the note and tell them you'll be back later to pick it up, advises Jimin Song, a Vallejo, California-based full-service shopper for Instacart. While they're working on your order, you can go shop from another section.
Keep your cart organized.
Place heavier items on the bottom and lighter items (or anything that can be bruised, such as avocado or bananas) in the baby seat part of the cart. "Just imagine all the different shapes and sizes of items are like playing a game of Tetris. The cart can hold so much more this way," says Graves. When you near the end of your trip and hit the produce section, you can move your lighter items on top of everything else in the main cart and add produce to the baby seat area.
Park your cart in produce.
In a busy produce section, carts can cause traffic jams. Try setting your cart off to the side so you can quickly dart around and pick up what you need. "It's easier and faster to move in and out without a cart," says Song.
Weigh in batches.
If you're making a recipe that requires a specific amount of something and need to weigh it—say, potatoes for soup, or tomatoes for salsa—do so in batches. Song recommends grabbing three items at a time and weighing them one after another before putting them in your cart to save time.
Check date codes on products as you grab them.
If a fresh item has a nearing expiration date, think about when you'll need it next, says Graves. Sometimes items such as eggs can be on sale if they're close to expiring, but if you won't be eating them before their use-by date, it's not a good deal. Ensure you'll be able to consume the item prior to its expiration before adding to your cart.
Group your groceries by category at checkout.
Place them on the belt in groups (think: meat, dairy, frozen, produce, dry goods, household items) with soft, squishable things like bread or chips last. It's also totally OK to (politely) ask whomever is bagging your groceries to please keep categories together, says Graves. Not only does this speed up the checkout process, it also makes putting away groceries at home much faster.
Help with bagging.
On that note, a smart way to wrap up any grocery shopping trip is to help the cashier bag your items—especially during busy times when baggers may not be available, this can get you out the door quicker, says Song.