Some people find grocery shopping tedious or boring — hence the invention of grocery delivery services and meal kits — especially those of us who shop once a week or more.
Over the years, I've adopted a few habits that make grocery shopping easier or, dare I say, more fun — even with two kids in tow. Some of this advice is tried and true whether you really want to make grocery shopping happier or just plain faster, while other tips will make your big-haul or pantry-stocking trips more enjoyable.
I often feel like an oddball because I absolutely love grocery shopping. This weekly ritual makes me feel accomplished and I enjoy the routine of weekly trips to the store as a family. This is a good thing when you test recipes for work and also feed a family of four on a budget, because grocery shopping can involve hours at one store and multiple stops depending on the week and meal plan.
Before You Go Grocery Shopping
1. Eat a meal or snack.
Research backs up the sound advice that you shouldn't shop on an empty stomach. We tend to spend more, buying unneeded items, when we are rushing or hungry. We make our Saturday morning breakfast part of our weekly grocery shopping ritual. Ensuring that everyone is full before we hit the store means both parents and kids are happy.
Pro tip: Grab a no-cook lunch or dinner to eat instead of cooking after your grocery haul.
2. Check the sale flyers online.
I am not a coupon aficionado, because honestly I don't have the patience to keep up with them, but I do check my grocery store's flyer online for weekly specials. This helps me meal plan around items that are on sale or stock up on seasonal produce for freezing or preserving. The 10 minutes I spend reading the flyer save me about $20 a week on meat and produce.
3. Have a list (organized by department).
Surely I sound like everyone's mother right now — eat a snack, check for sales, make a list — but our moms are right! Having a list makes grocery shopping easier. Even better is organizing your list by department in the order you move through the store. For most stores this means produce first, meat, dairy, and finally the bakery.
Read more tips: 5 Tips for Smarter Grocery Shopping
In the Store Parking Lot
4. Take your own bags.
Small victories always lead to happiness, hence remembering to take my bags into the store makes me feel like a boss. Use bags you really love and remember to wash them regularly to keep them smelling fresh and clean. That practice will make you more motivated to use them.
5. Park near the cart return.
Even with two kids along for the ride, I never park close to the store. I'd rather not stress over a parking spot before I even get inside. Instead find a spot close to a cart return; you can grab a cart before heading in (if it's dry), which is especially helpful with little shoppers. But it saves even more time after unloading. No schlepping the empty cart back to the store.
6. Use a basket in a cart.
This brilliant hack is from one of our editors, Christine Gallary: Use baskets to compartmentalize your grocery cart. Obviously this works especially well if you're shopping for something special, like a birthday party, alongside your regular grocery shopping. But it's also great for when you're stocking up on meat or produce and need to keep those ingredients separate from bulk or canned items. It helps keep bulky greens, like collards or kale, from getting crushed too.
In the Grocery Store
7. Get that free cookie, friends.
The people behind the counter want to make your grocery shopping experience successful. Let the deli counter employee slice you something to try before purchasing. Also, our store offers free fruit or cookies for kids in carts and I always let my kids enjoy that cookie for happier (and quieter) grocery shopping.
8. Listen to music or your favorite podcast.
This advice comes from Assistant Food Editor Kelli Dunn: "Listening to music or a podcast while I shop makes me happier while shopping." Since many shops are packed during peak hours (or you live in a busy city like Kelli, where the store is always busy), something pleasant in your ear makes for a more pleasant experience.
9. Know your butcher, baker, and store manager.
I have a favorite cashier, Ms. Tina, who knows my kids' names and remembers their birthdays. She brought mangos back for me from her trip to India and now enjoys eating jicama after I brought some through her line. Ms. Tina brightens every grocery trip like seeing an old friend. Warm fuzzies aside, knowing the resources in your store means that you get all the insider information ("Mangos are on sale this week, Ms. Meghan") or can request the store stock something you'll buy regularly.
Read more: You're Doing It Right: Grocery Shopping
10. Make a game of it.
So if despite following all of these tips you still feel cranky about grocery shopping, try this: How fast can you get in and out of the store? Or how much money can you save this week? With my kids, sometimes we play the alphabet game while we cruise the aisles.