6 Tips for Getting In and Out of the Grocery Store Faster, According to an Instacart Shopper Who’s Done Thousands of Shops

updated Jan 13, 2020
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We like to joke that we are professional grocery shoppers here at Kitchn (since we’re pretty much always carting groceries around), but there are actual professional grocery shoppers who put us all to shame with their skills. If you use Instacart to shop from local grocery stores online, you’re probably familiar with the personal shoppers who pick up and deliver your order (and a lot of other people’s) all in a day’s work. They do so much grocery shopping that they really know what they’re doing — and they know how to do it quickly.

We consulted with Jimin Song, a Full-Service Shopper at Instacart, for her best tips for grocery shopping like an actual pro. She’s completed thousands of shops since she joined Instacart in 2018, and here are her tips to make your shopping trips as speedy as can be:

1. Study your list.

There’s no official test and you won’t be graded on your grocery shopping, but you should study up! Jimin recommends doing a little prep work before a big grocery haul to speed things along, starting with familiarizing yourself with your list: “Review your entire grocery list before you start shopping so that you have an idea of all the sections of the store you need to visit.” Map out an optimal route from there.

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2. Double up on shopping carts (if absolutely necessary).

Jimin has encountered her fair share of big shopping trips that require more than one cart, especially ones that involve lots of cleaning products, heavy beverages, or Costco in general… Her strategy in that situation? “If you’re picking up a lot of heavy items (like cleaning products or beverages), shop those at the beginning so they’re on the bottom of your cart. If necessary, grab another cart to fit everything else you need.”

3. Avoid waiting in the deli line.

A minute can feel like a long time while you’re waiting for a half a pound of thinly sliced Virginia ham. Jimin has a smart strategy for avoiding this agony: “Write everything you need from the deli counter on a piece of paper and tell them you’ll be right back to pick it up. While they’re working on that order, grab everything you need from a nearby section, then return (in a timely manner) to pick up your deli items.”

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4. (Respectfully) abandon your cart while you shop the produce aisle.

We realize that this might be considered a faux pas by many, but Jimin swears by it: “In a busy produce section, set your cart off to the side. It’s easier to move in and out a lot faster without a cart and get what you need.” We should add that you should not leave it in the middle of an aisle: Stow your cart somewhere out of the way and off to the side where it won’t get in anyone’s way.

5. Strategically weigh items.

It’s time-consuming to circle the produce section, weighing each item individually, and repeating the process approximately four-dozen times. Jimin has a solution: “If you’re weighing your produce, grab three different items at a time from around the same section and weigh them one right after another before putting them into your cart.”

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6. Bag your own items.

Speed things along in the checkout aisle (while also being a good human) by offering a helping hand to the grocery store cashier. “When finishing your trip, help the cashier bag your items so the checkout process goes a little quicker,” says Jimin.

How do you speed up your grocery shopping trips? Leave your tips in the comments below!