Grocery shopping. It ranges from leisurely selecting pristine produce and locally-produced specialty condiments to throwing elbows at Costco on a Saturday afternoon.
A Neilson survey in 2015 found that about 6 in 10 people find grocery shopping an “engaging and enjoyable experience” and think of it as “a fun day out for the family.”
Wait, what?! There are times when I leave the grocery store feeling like I’ve been in a street fight while playing cutthroat Jeopardy for the last 45 minutes.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the number of people who enjoy grocery shopping has dropped in the past few years, and even more so since 2020.
Survey Says … We Still Like to Hand-Select Our Food
Online grocery shopping is hitting its stride here in the US. It is more popular and appealing than ever – The number of Americans who do some online grocery shopping has doubled in the past two years. No surprises there.
Even with all that growth, nearly 2/3 of Americans still do almost all of their food shopping in-person, at a store. Hmmm … yeah, I hate it when I get small bananas from my Instacart order (special instructions say “large bananas please”!).
I freely admit that I’m fairly picky about my produce … OK, all our food. What’s more, sometimes, I want to look at an ingredient label – maybe even compare it with another brand … side-by-side. Let’s face it – when it comes to food, sometimes a person just wants to pick out their own stuff.
The Grocery-Getting Plan
Before getting into the nuts-and-bolts of actual shopping, there are a few notions I have about groceries. Feel free to take or leave them.
- One shopping trip per week. Ugh, I know this is tough, especially for the foodies! It is a bit of a stretch goal. Not only is 1x/week a huge time savings, during the COVID era of masking up and bagging your own groceries, it’s a major sanity saver.
- Fill in with warehouse and online shopping. There are lots of food items that I need less often and like to buy in bulk. For example, I get olive oil, butter, and applesauce during my monthly Costco run. I order staples like cocoa powder and tahini from Amazon on their subscription program. Use these non-supermarket retailers to complement your weekly grocery runs. Delivery is especially great, since you don’t have to transport the items yourself (think overflowing grocery cart).
- Consider your roommates/family members (if you have them). I’ll bet half the items on my grocery lists are things that someone else wants. Examples: S’mores fixings (husband, son), baby carrots (daughter), jalepeños (husband). Be efficient and thoughtful – buy for everyone if it makes sense.
Grocery shopping can be fun – but it can also be a chore, stressful, and time-consuming. Here are a few ways to make your next grocery shopping trip more enjoyable. (Most of these can be applied to online shopping too.)
1. Don’t Go During Peak Times
What are the peak times, you ask? It may vary based on your location and community – search up your local store on Google, and you’ll see a nifty histogram of when your store is the busiest.
If at all possible, DO NOT go grocery shopping on Friday afternoons, Saturday, and Sunday.
“Safer” times are early morning and late evening. Before we had kids I would go shopping at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings – I was like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road.
2. Have a List
Closely related to “Grocery Shop Once a Week”
Have you ever hear the saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”? It’s a teensy bit extreme in this scenario, but still … If I go in the grocery store without a list, I’ll forget half the things I need and buy a lot of items I don’t really want.
Your list can be on paper, in A note-keeping app, in the grocery store app – wherever it works best for you – just have a list.
If you want to take this efficiency train to the next stop, organize your list into sections according to how you move through the store. Oh, the time and heartache you’ll save!
Chances are, you buy mostly the same stuff every week – perishable produce, shelf-stable groceries, dairy/eggs, meat (or meat subs), bread, booze. Make a default list (or grab my personal list here) and modify it as needed each time you go shopping.
Main List Benefits:
- You’ll remember to get everything you need, so you won’t have to make unnecessary trips to the grocery store. Hooray!
- You’ll make fewer impulse purchases, which will reduce waste (money and food). Yesss!
- Time savings. No pondering in the middle of the aisles about what you’re low on, or running back across the store to get that special yogurt that you MUST HAVE. Whew!
3. Help the Checker/Bagger
This is a win-win.
When I get to the checkstand, I smile and engage the associate in small talk. I enjoy this, and, since I go to the same store often, we kind of know each other. Then, I arrange my groceries on the conveyor belt in the order I want them to be bagged:
- heavy and rigid groceries (cans, boxes, jars, etc.)
- sturdy produce (like onions)
- soft produce (like tomatoes)
- bread (& marshmallows 😉 )
Most of the time, the checker/bagger will naturally pack all the cold stuff, tough stuff, and soft stuff with “like” items. I really appreciate it when they make an effort to pack food thoughtfully – let’s do them a solid and line things up logically. (If the checker is pulling double duty as the bagger, I’ll start bagging the groceries while they’re scanning).
This makes their job easier, the food doesn’t get melted & mushed, and maybe you make a new friend. See? Win-win.
4. Participate in Your Store’s Loyalty Program
I’ve heard the objections (from my husband, who has since been converted): “signing up is such a waste of time … I just want to buy what I want … you don’t really save any money.” Naysayers!
My community supermarket (it’s Safeway) has an excellent app that lets me do things like: make a list (no surprise), add “member” sale items to the list & my account, and order my list by category or aisle.
But wait – there’s more! My account has a record of my purchases, and the app then sends me sales that are tailored to my shopping habits. So yeah, if I buy the same brand of yogurt every week, I get more discounts on that yogurt. Sometimes I get free stuff on the app, too.
Instead of carrying your plastic membership card, use the phone number on your account or save your member info in a mobile pay app like Google Pay.
Last I checked, we save $700 – 800 every year at just this one store.
Oh yeah, discounts on gasoline for every so many dollars spent.
Easy, personalized savings. I’m hooked, er, in.
If all else fails …
Treat yourself afterwards, as a reward for procuring food, yet again, and surviving to tell the tale.
Suggestions: caffé mocha, a little nap in the car, calling a friend to tell her about all the wack things you saw in the store.
List, Mask, & Discounts – Go Shop!
Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do and grocery shopping goes sideways.
Maybe your kid knocks over the end cap display of Jack Daniels & you all smell like whiskey on the drive home, or you get in line behind a shopper with 57 expired paper coupons that get haggled over for 20 minutes. That’s life.
What you can do is
- shop during downtimes,
- stick to your list,
- be nice to employees,
- and take advantage of offers from your favorite store
What tips and tricks have you used improve your food shopping experience? Please share – I’m still trying to make it (more) fun!!
Mitova, Teodora, et al. “21 Grocery Shopping Statistics for Every CUSTOMER in 2020.” SpendMeNot, 9 June 2020, spendmenot.com/grocery-shopping-statistics/.
Nielsen. “More Than Half Of Global Consumers Are Willing To Buy Groceries Online.” PR Newswire: News Distribution, Targeting and Monitoring, 28 June 2018, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/more-than-half-of-global-consumers-are-willing-to-buy-groceries-online-300074168.html.
Russell Redman 1 | May 11. “Online Grocery Sales to Grow 40% in 2020.” Supermarket News, 18 May 2020, www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/online-grocery-sales-grow-40-2020.