Navigating grocery stores can be a confusing maze. Not only is it complicated to work your way through a store, but you often have to visit multiple locations to get everything on your list. No one wants to waste precious time getting lost in a store.
In order to minimize this headache, let’s review how to better manage your shopping experience.
Photo by: Clem Onojeghuo
Navigating Grocery Stores Like a Pro
Use Your Ultimate Grocery List
- As we discussed last week, having a well-organized grocery list is the key to an efficient shopping.
- The ultimate list becomes your guide, and carves a path through each store. You have already completed half the planing just with this first step.
- With your list sorted by store, then department, you will move through each department with ease. Once you map your stores using the tips below, re-sort your list to follow the correct order.
Mentally (or Physically) Map Each Store
- Think about the layout of each of your stores. Assuming you shop there often and know them well, and if you don’t, ask Customer Service for a map and department list, or a free store tour. These resources are available both in person and online.
- It might even help to literally draw out a map of your store if one isn’t available. A visual depiction of the store layout will help familiarize you with each department, and become more comfortable with how to navigate it.
- Typically store departments are arranged in a U-shape, with perishable items set around the perimeter. Produce will be at the front off to one side, usually followed by dairy, meat, and deli/prepared foods completing the U. These are the departments you will focus on as much as possible, only entering the interior aisles for specific items as needed.
Build Your Route
- This is the most important step, and for good reason. We can get easily distracted if we enter a store without a plan.
- Once you have a mental map of each store, begin building your route. It is typically best to start at one end and work your way towards the other. Avoid beginning in the department nearest the door where you enter, as foot traffic gets bottlenecked at the front of the store. You can bypass traffic and save yourself some time by walking directly to the other end and working your way back towards the exit nearest your car.
- My route in nearly every store I shop in looks like this:
- Produce – this is usually the bulk of what I purchase, and it can the least perishable, so I get this first.
- Meat and Dairy – I only get a few of these items from a store, so I knock them out in less than 3 minutes.
- Prepared Foods – these are typically at the opposite end of the store from where I started, so I know I am nearing the end of my list.
- Frozen – I get these items last for obvious reasons, and they are usually near the checkout lanes.
- Pantry/Dry goods – these are filler items. I duck into aisles and grab these between the above 4 departments. For instance, I know broth is at the end of the aisle across from the meat counter, so I leave my cart to the side, grab this while I wait for my meat to be packaged, and move on.
View Sales and Clip Coupons in Advance
- Nearly every store lists their weekly sales online, and/or has signs and collateral available in-store the week prior.
- If you plan this ahead it helps avoid impulse purchases and getting distracted by studying the sales once you arrive. The goal is to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible.
- You can also use sales flyers as a means of meal planning. If you know rotisserie chicken and broth are on sale, you already have the ingredients for two meals. A fresh chicken one night, and leftover quick chicken soup the following day.
Shop at Off-peak Times
- We have all experienced the hell that is shopping during weekend peak times. Obviously you cannot help this sometimes, but try to avoid these periods if possible.
- If you do have to visit on a weekend, do your research. Type your store location into Google and you will find the peak times listed by day and hour.
- Typically, if you aim for opening time, or later in the evening after the dinner rush, you will be safe.
- During the week, take an early lunch or late lunch break, and weather pending, store items in a cooler bag in your car. Or if you have space at work, keep them in your office refrigerator.
- Even stopping on your way home from work on a weekday means you will nearly have the store to yourself. Less traffic equals improved store navigation and a faster checkout.
Now that you have these few simples tips in your arsenal, let us know how your shopping experience improves. Or, do you have any additional tips that weren’t mentioned here? Sound off in the comments below.
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