9 Smart Ways to Grocery Shop Faster—And Gain Hours of Your Life Back
If only we'd tried #4 sooner...
Some call it soothing; others call it one sizable time suck. Whether you enjoy grocery shopping or not, you probably wouldn’t mind getting back an hour or two each week that you’d otherwise spend roaming the aisles for dairy products, deodorant, and dog food. Here, we’ve rounded up all the ways you can up your efficiency at the store—because less time shopping means more time with your loved ones (or your favorite Netflix show).
Shop Your Fridge, Freezer, and Pantry First
Before you leave the house, take inventory. There’s no need to buy an extra bottle of ketchup or box of cereal if you’ve got some hidden behind all the other pantry goods.
You can also intentionally plan your meals for the week around what items you already own. Building breakfasts, lunches, and dinners around using up the bottom of that jam jar or carton of eggs means you’ll save money, space, and time.
Make an *Organized* List
Highlight items by section in the store—i.e. pink for produce; yellow for frozen foods—so you go in with a game plan. If you use a paper list, keep it pinned to the front of your fridge with a pen nearby so family members can add to it as things run out (and set an alarm in your phone to go off an hour before you typically shop so you don’t forget it). If you’d rather go hands-free, the voice-enabled Amazon Echo or Google Home will let you dictate grocery lists out-loud before transcribing them and sending to your smart device. Nothing to forget here: you’ll find it neatly typed out in your phone when you’re at the store.
Shop During Off-Hours
Going for groceries first thing in the morning or at the end of the day means prime parking and short checkout lines. You can also use Google’s Popular Times feature to find out the store’s least busy hours.
Outsource, Outsource, Outsource
According to recent research from Instacart, using the grocery delivery service saves consumers an average of 93.4 minutes per delivery. This number accounts for approximately an hour spent at the grocery store along with the average commute time to and from each of their markets. If you assume that people go to the grocery store once a week, that means outsourcing your grocery shopping saves consumers an average 80.9 hours per year (two full work weeks!)!
Can you imagine all of the stuff you can do with an extra 93.4 minutes back in your week? That's two 45-min spin classes, a really thorough catch-up call with an old friend, the time you've been looking for to organize your closet, three episodes of the new HBO series you’ve been dying to start, a trip to the park with your dog.... the list goes on. Instacart comes with another helpful life hack: it lets you buy from bulk stores like Costco without a membership.
Skip the Coupons
If efficiency is what you’re after, coupon clipping won’t do you any favors. You may save a few cents, but for the amount of time you’ll lose searching through newspapers and printing pages from websites, it's not worth the effort. Instead, keep an eye out for what’s on sale while you’re shopping to save big on time and money.
Limit Yourself to One Trip Per Week
Unless it’s something absolutely necessary (ahem, toilet paper), do your absolute best to only shop once a week. Both time- and money-wise, every "quick pitstop" to the grocery store has the potential to take on a life of its own. Anyone who has never left Trader Joe’s without at least three extra impulse buys knows what I'm talking about!
Buy in Bulk
Speaking of which, buying foods and paper products you use consistently and constantly in bulk will save you tons of extra trips to the store. Just make sure you’re being smart about the items you choose to stock up on (check this list for our recommendations).
Today, it’s often easier (and cheaper) to purchase products online and have them delivered directly to your doorstep. With services like Amazon Prime or Prime Now, you can have everything from toothpaste to tortillas delivered within 48 hours if not faster.
Make Shopping a Solo Endeavor
We totally understand if bringing kids with you to the grocery store is a non-negotiable. That being said, a surefire way to blow an extra hour—and lots of additional bucks—is by touting family members throughout the aisles with you. Save yourself from the “gimmes” and snack cravings by leaving little ones at home.
RELATED: 9 Fuss-Free Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen—And Save Big on Your Energy Bill