People in the United States often spend about 46 minutes shopping for groceries daily. Some tips, like planning meals, using coupon apps, joining loyalty programs, and more, can simplify grocery shopping.
Let’s face it. Daily routines can be chaotic. Whether you’re a busy parent shuffling kids to and from extracurriculars or trying to fit in marathon training, grocery shopping is maybe the last thing on your mind.
One report suggested that people spent an average of 46 minutes grocery shopping per day between 2014 and 2017. If you shop weekly, that’s more than a week’s worth of time lost to shopping for food each year.
Shopping more efficiently and making the most of your time browsing store aisles can help you save both time and money.
Read on for tips to help simplify your grocery shopping experience.
Planning your meals for the week can reduce food waste and save you time and money. Having a plan also makes grocery shopping a breeze by cutting down on browsing time.
The key is creating a plan that works for you. This might mean:
- using cookbooks for inspiration
- working with spreadsheets to keep you organized
- creating a meal plan that satisfies kids’ tummies
If it’s your first time shopping with a meal plan, try starting small. Focus on creating a meal plan for dinners only. Then move on to planning snacks, breakfasts, and lunches as you become more comfortable with the process.
Make sure to consider prep time when creating your weekly meal plan. If your weekdays are busy, Sunday meal preps may help you save time during the week.
Making a list before you head to the grocery store is a great way to reduce food waste and stick to a budget.
Here are a few tools to make an effective list:
- Use Google Keep: This grocery list app is available for both Apple and Android phones and allows you to add items, share the list with others, and quickly check things off as you pick them up.
- Use a whiteboard: Use it to keep a running list of grocery items that need restocking. You can also use it to keep your meal plan in full view.
- Grab some paper: If you’re a paper and pen person, use a notebook or stick a piece of paper on the fridge to keep a running grocery list.
Planning your meals ahead of time and making a list usually go hand-in-hand. Start with what you already have on hand and build your meal plan from there.
Have some broccoli on hand but don’t want to flip through all your cookbooks for the perfect recipe? An excellent resource for meal planning inspiration is Eat Your Books (EYB). An EYB membership allows you to browse cookbooks and recipe databases by ingredient, cuisine, or nutrition.
Before heading to the store, double check whether you’re missing any key ingredients.
Also, consider organizing your list into categories, such as produce, pasta, dairy, and canned goods, to avoid zigzagging through the store.
Online delivery services allow you to buy groceries in just a few clicks, any time of day. This can help you save time, skip lineups, and avoid impulse purchases, like that extra box of cookies or danishes.
Shopping online can also help you stick to your list. You’re less likely to veer off course from your plan without distractions.
Most delivery services let you choose from different delivery windows so you can book a time that works for you. And many grocery stores offer free pickup if you prefer to swing by the store on your way home from work — without having to spend all your time inside the store.
The busier the grocery store, the longer you’ll spend there.
Avoid shopping between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. You’ll likely run into people getting off work during these peak hours. You might also want to avoid shopping before any major sporting event, like the Super Bowl.
To beat the crowds, shop when grocery stores first open or an hour before closing. Bonus: If you shop early, you’ll likely have access to freshly-stocked produce and fresh baked goods.
Don’t want to go first thing in the morning or the evening? Depending on where you live, Google can provide you with the busiest and slowest times for shopping at different stores. Just enter your local store in the search bar to get details on how busy the store is at that time and day.
Coupons have come a long way. You no longer need to cut them out of the paper each week. Digital coupons make it easy to save on your favorite items.
Here are a few grocery store apps to try:
- Ibotta: It earns you cash back at several stores, including Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and region-specific chains, like Krogers.
- Checkout 51: It offers cash-back rebates on products you purchase. You simply take a photo of your receipt in the app, and if purchases are eligible for rebates, you’ll get cash back.
- SnipSnap: It allows you to search for coupons online and download them individually in the app.
- Flipp: It allows you to browse the latest weekly flyers and coupons from stores in your area. And if you enter your shopping list in the app, it’ll match what you need with the available local deals.
Many grocery stores have loyalty programs with perks ranging from points that translate to cash rewards to member-exclusive deals or digital specials, such as free shipping.
If you have one or more favorite grocery stores, make sure you sign up for their loyalty program so you can reap the benefits.
Doing one big grocery shop a week can be a daunting task, but there are alternatives.
Splitting up your shopping trips into a few smaller ones at various times throughout the week might be beneficial.
For example, you might get your produce from a local farm stand but shop less frequently for staples. Or you might decide to shop multiple times a week to grab exactly what you need for dinner to prevent food waste.
Grocery shopping can be tedious, but certain tips can make it easier.
Consider planning your meals, making a grocery list, shopping during quieter times, or splitting up your shops to help make your trips go more smoothly.
The cost of grocery shopping can also add up quickly. Downloading coupon apps and joining loyalty programs can help save you money.
And if you’re looking to skip the store altogether? Buying your groceries online can save you time and make you less likely to spend extra cash on impulse buys.