How I Save Loads of Time in the Grocery Store

posted by Andrea | 05/21/2012

I’ve already shared the simple system I use every week to find the best grocery deals, clip coupons, make our weekly meal plan, and then create my grocery list.

I’ve also shared some of my best tips for saving money on groceriesbut I still haven’t shared one of my best tips for saving loads of time at the grocery store.

It’s actually such a simple tip and should only take you about 5 extra minutes before you get to the store. However, I need to share it with you because last week, I forgot to do this… and it took me twice as long to get through the store (see, it really does work!)

So what is my “secret”?

I organize my shopping list based on the store’s layout.

For example, all the dairy items at my local Meijer are in the very back of the store, so I group all the dairy items together and put them at the top of my list.

The baking aisle is usually my next stop, followed by the pasta aisle, the snacks/cracker aisle, then the breakfast aisle, etc. etc.

By that time, I’m just about at the meat/cheese section of the store, which then wraps around to bread section, and ends in the produce section.

My last stop is the frozen food aisle and then I make my way to the checkout.

By grouping all the items on my grocery list by category (or by aisle) and then arranging my shopping list to start in the back of the store and work my way to the front, I eliminate TONS of wasted time walking aimlessly up and down the same aisle multiple times. I also rarely forget or over-look anything on my list… and I think you’d be amazed at how quickly I can get in and out (even with all my coupons).

A couple weeks ago I actually timed myself and it was exactly 17 minutes from the time I walked into the store until the time I walked out! I did luck-out and found a cashier with an empty lane… but I attribute my speediness to an organized list and the fact that I walk really, really fast!

So every week, I look through the ads and write down all the items I need to purchase. Then, once my shopping list is complete, I go back and re-write my list based on my grocery store’s layout.

photo source

I know this might sound a bit compulsive to some of you, but it literally takes me 5 extra minutes and saves me SO much time in the store (which is helpful when I’m shopping with a fussy baby who needs to eat every 2 hours!)

Oh, and if you can’t remember your store’s layout, most grocery stores offer maps at the customer service desk — so just ask for one the next time you’re there :)

Do you categories and/or organize your shopping list? 

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  1. Laura


    I do the same thing ~ saves so much time! Since I got my iphone a few months ago I have been using a free app called “Grocery iQ” which saves me even more time now (I tried a few grocery list apps and this is my favorite). Items are categorized by where in the store they are (Dairy, International, Deli, etc) and you can arrange the aisle order for each store you shop at. If you put the cost in for each item it totals your order and you can check them off as you shop so that you know your total before you get to the checkout. You can also keep items you purchase every week in a favorites list. Just a little recommendation for you and your readers :)


  2. Katie


    I use Grocery IQ on my iPad and love it! I’ve arranged everything in the order of my store’s layout. I go through all of the regular aisles, then produce, then meat, then freezer, then dairy- I often take more time just because grocery shopping is my one way to get away from the crazy in my house, and this way none of my food is partially defrosted when I check out!


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  4. Kate


    About eight years ago I created a spreadsheet that organizes the items I regularly purchase by aisle. Each week, when I go through the ads, I just need to check off or put the quantity next to the item. There is space to add extra items or specify a brand when necessary (like when my husband shops). Easy way to make my list and easy way to shop!


  5. Kerri Johnson


    Krogers website will let u make an online shopping list using that weeks ad. When u print it out-it is in abc order according to category. U can add extra items that werent in the ad also and it will group them as well.


  6. Staci


    I’ve been reorganizing my grocery list this way for quite a while now… it absolutely saves so much time and frustration! I usually don’t even need to cross things off (that means not using a pen, and one less thing to carry while keeping track of three kids 6 and under through a store is a good thing) because I’m just following my list in order as it’s written. On the rare occasion that I don’t rewrite my list, I always regret it when I’m zigzagging through the store because I forgot something on the other side of the building.


  7. Lara


    I think what takes me so much time at the store is comparing the best prices. I am always comparing the price per ounce on everything I buy so as to get the best deal. I don’t coupon, so that is the best tool I have. Are there any suggestions for how to be more efficient in this area? It seems as though some moms just KNOW a good deal when they see it.


    Vicki Reply:

    The shelf label should tell you price per ounce.


  8. Vicki


    I don’t worry about store layout. But I am a stickler about my list being categorized. No matter what aisle or section I’m in I just go to that category on my list!


  9. Linda


    I save a lot of time with CRESBI crates. I open my CRESBI cooler of crates when I enter the store and stack them in my cart. I organize the items I’m going to buy in the different color crates as I shop and put the items’ barcodes up. Then when I get to the checkout I just place the whole crate on the conveyer belt and the checker uses her handheld scanner to ring up the items, never having to take them out of the crates. When I get home everything is exactly where I want it: blue crate stuff goes into the freezer, green into the vegetable bin, red is for meats, and pink is full of boxes, jars or cans for the pantry.


  10. Renee


    I write my list according to the layout too. I also keep copies of a master list of everything we use. Before I go to the store, I take out the list and circle what we need and write the quantity. I shop at a smaller store, Aldi, so that gets me out quick. I go to Aldi first, and what I can’t get there, I get on the way home at Kroger. I write down the unit price of an item so I know if I’m getting the best price. Aldi has some organic items, but I get more at Kroger. I like Aldi for snacks, baking supplies, canned goods, paper products, bottled water and things I don’t need to buy organic. My son has peanut and egg allergies, so all the label reading adds time.


  11. Kathryn


    I should do this. Ever since I had baby #3 in October I keep missing things and having to go back. What’s that saying about babies stealing your brains?


  12. Julie Spady


    i’m so excited I already do something YOU do!! It is a timesaving idea for sure!


  13. joy


    Yes!!! I’ve been doing this for a while. I typically shop at Aldi and can do my shopping for our family of 6 in less than 60 minutes from the time I get into my vehicle to the time I pull back into the garage. They just rearranged my Aldi, so I’m scrambling a little bit these past few weeks, but I do write my list in groups: canned, dry/pantry, dairy, produce, meats etc. I just use a larger piece of paper and have an area of the page for each location. Before checking out I always recheck every item just incase I missed something while a little person was screaming to get out of the cart. My big time savings is in shopping at only ONE store per week. I plan a quick stop at a second store (Meijer 2x per month and Sams Club 1x) for each week. Shopping once is also a wonderful way to save $$. Unless it’s crucial (e.g. Milk), we do without.


  14. Cynthia


    Cut out the step for rewriting the list twice. Write the original list in the stores ” order”, at least by sections!


    Andrea Reply:

    Cynthia, the reason I make 2 lists is because my first list is just in order of the items in the store’s add. Then I add a bunch of things to end of the list based on what I’m lacking in my pantry or what I might need for meals that week. After everything is added to the list, then I go back and re-write it based on my store’s layout. It probably takes less than 5 minutes for me to re-write the list but it’s the best way for ME to organize things in my head :)


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