The Best Ways You Can Get Through the Grocery Store Much Faster

When you go to the grocery store, you probably want to get in, get out, and get home. Not only will the ice cream melt if you dawdle, but the longer you shop, the more you buy. We rounded up some easy ways to save time at the grocery store, and some little tips and tricks to help save money there, too. The last one will make your grocery shopping more fun, too (Page 15).

1. Make a game plan ahead of time

sale in a grocery store
Check what the sales are ahead of time. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Check out the ads for your favorite stores ahead of time and use those to plan your list. Budgeting expert Catherine Alford told Good Housekeeping she saves money and time that way. You won’t waste time checking out the sales at the store, and will also stick to your list.

Next: Speaking of lists, use this method to make yours even more effective.

2. List what you need by category

Woman with Shopping List
Make sure everything is specific. | Cathy Yeulet/iStock/Getty Images

If you know the layout of your grocery store, write your list in the same order as the aisles. For example, if you know the produce section comes up before the dairy case, start your list there. Not familiar with the lay of the land? No problem. Just organize your list by category, to save time wandering back and forth.

Next: The following list hack will also help speed things up.

3. Make your list super specific

lady shopping with a full filled cart in a supermarket
Make everything as detailed as possible. | Freer Law/iStock/Getty Images

Make your list as detailed as possible to make sure you get what you need and don’t waste time puzzling. If you have a meal plan or recipes in mind, write down exact quantities. If not, at least make the types of produce or preferred brands crystal clear.

Next: Shopping with a friend might seem more fun, but we have bad news about that.

4. Don’t bring a buddy

Family Discussing Shopping List in Supermarket
You’re better off going alone. | shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

If you prefer to shop with friends in tow, prepare to spend more time at the store. Finance writer Brad Hines explained that other people will also add more time to your decision-making. “They will bog you down both physically and mentally, having to include their decisions as a subset of your own,” he said. To get through fast, go it solo.

Next: However, having friends in high places can help you out.

5. Get to know the employees

Supermarket clerk helping a customer
The employees can help you out. | cyano66/iStock/Getty Images

Regulars get better treatment in just about every service industry, so make friends at your grocery store. The deli counter takes less time if they already know your weekly order. And if you get to know the managers, they can tip you off to their stores’ busiest times, so you’ll also know which days to avoid.

Next: Sometimes, becoming a creature of habit can really pay off.

6. Stay loyal to one or two stores

Latin brunette picking up some food at the grocery store
You’ll get to know the store well. | Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

While you can save money by shopping the sales, getting to know they lay of the land will save you valuable time. Instead of bouncing around to a few different locations to get the best deal, stick with one store and get to know it really well. You can also get in and out faster if you know exactly where to find everything you need.

Next: Use your smartphone or computer for the following hack.

7. Use an app to plan your attack

Woman checking shopping list on her smartphone
Go tech. | grinvalds/iStock/Getty Images

If your local grocery store has an app or a website that lists prices, use it to plan your trip. If you know ahead of time what everything costs, you save time deliberating. Many shopping apps will store prices automatically, and can even add up an estimated total for you. You can often create lists and set sales alerts online, too.

Next: The following tip saves you money and can help you squeeze in a workout.

8. Skip the cart, if you can

Male cashier with customers
A basket will make sure you just get what you need. | Noel Hendrickson/iStock/Getty Images

Yes, a shopping cart can make your life easier, but also more likely to wander the aisles. “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,” Erica Nonni told Good Housekeeping. If you can carry a shopping basket, use that instead. It will save you time and prevent impulse buys, too.

Next: Buck the system with the following grocery store hack.

9. Stick to the perimeter

shopping cart in a grocery store aisle
The healthy food is typically on the outside. | shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

Good Housekeeping Institute nutritionist Jaclyn London reminds us that the perimeter of the grocery store usually contains the healthiest foods. You can find the produce, protein, and dairy aisles, in that borderline. It also ranks as the easiest and fastest to navigate. Talk about a double whammy!

Next: Save your receipts to use this next trick.

10. Look at last week’s receipt

Check what your family is actually eating. | iStock/Getty Images

Tracking your purchases has a double benefit. You can save time and money by only buying what your family will eat. By checking your receipt, you can also get an idea of what you use most often, to write future lists even faster. Before going shopping, you should also check your cupboards. Buying duplicates wastes valuable time and dollars.

Next: Sticking to certain brands also has the following benefit.

11. Develop brand loyalty — for the most part

Reading label, package, grocery shopping
You’ll save time by knowing your brands. | iStock/Getty Images

Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That, says brand loyalty holds the key to quicker grocery shopping. “When you know which one to grab, you’ll save time,” he said. If you don’t have to deliberate, you can just grab your favorite and go. But if you swap out an item for another one that goes on sale, don’t sweat it. You can also make up that time elsewhere.

Next: The shortest line does not always move the fastest, either.

12. Pick the checkout line wisely

Customer In Queue To Pay For Shopping At Supermarket Checkout
Notice speed as well as line length. | bowdenimages/iStock/Getty Images

When choosing a checkout line, the shortest one might seem like the best choice. However, pay attention to whether longer lines have baggers to speed them up. Sometimes, getting in line behind a few full carts can move faster than express lines with lots of smaller orders. More people can mean more unpredictable issues, so weigh your options carefully.

Next: Planning out what to buy when can also save time, overall.

13. Stock up on standards once a month

Mom is giving a credit card
Make it a big trip. | GeorgeRudy/iStock/Getty Images

Making one, larger grocery run each month can save you time overall, even if that particular trip takes longer. Grabbing perishables each week will go faster than a long, in-depth shop. If you plan to stock up on shelf-stable items only periodically, you can also take advantage of monthly or quarterly sales on those items.

Next: You know not to shop hungry, but do you know why?

14. Eat before you go

Otherwise you’ll be tempted to buy everything you see. | Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images

Going to the grocery store while hungry can lead to impulse buys. But you can also shop faster if you keep your blood sugar up. Even if that means buying a snack and eating it at the entrance before you start, hunger and blood sugar can really affect your shopping pace. People with low blood sugar move more slowly, think more slowly, get easily confused and have a harder time resisting junk food. Well, we’re convinced!

Next: You’ve never heard such a good reason to plug in your tunes.

15. Bring your headphones

closeup iphone and earphones or headphones device on table
Listen to your own music. | Blackzheep/iStock/Getty Images

According to Lifehacker, grocery stores actually play slow, boring “muzac” to slow down your shopping. If you move more slowly, you become more likely to purchase more items. But if you bring your own music, you can’t fall victim to that trick. Listen to something that gets your blood pumping, to really get in the groove. Bonus: Your favorite music will make your grocery store run even more fun!

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