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On your mark, get set, go!

How quickly can you make it through your grocery store? If you are on a time crunch, do you have to sacrifice price (or food quality) for time?

I find that shopping as quickly as possible is the best way to grocery shop. I leave the store knowing that I didn’t spend any extra money. I also have more time to do things that I actually want to do, rather than play bumper cart with cranky customers.

1. Make a list

I’m a big proponent of lists, but they really do keep me organized (and sane). If you have an organized list (here’s how to create an organized list), you can make it through a store in half the time.

Throughout the week, as you run out of items, keep a running grocery list on your fridge. Also, before you shop, review the store’s sales flier. Is there anything on sale that you need? If an item on your list isn’t on sale, can you wait another week before buying it?

Write down exactly what you need and stick to that list as you shop!

2. Know your store

I tend to shop at the same two grocery stores for everything. I shop at a tiny grocery store near my house for meat and bananas (they have the best quality and prices in town, but only for meat and bananas – yes, that’s random). I pride myself on making it through that store in less than 10 minutes, including my checkout time. I buy all my produce, milk, etc. at another grocery store, where I try to spend less than 20 minutes.

I know both of my favorite stores inside and out and can make it through both stores in less than 30 minutes. Even though my main grocery store is under construction, I still have a general idea of where to find each item. If you can’t find an item, don’t hesitate to ask. You’ll save yourself so much time, and many store associates are willing to drop everything and walk you to the item.

3. Know your prices

How do you know if you’re getting the best price for an item, even if it’s on sale? Create a rock bottom price list. Throughout the year, track the sale prices of your favorite items. When each item is at the lowest price, stock up.

For more information on creating a price list (and to get a ready-made list), check out Grocery University. This course has a premade rock-bottom price list, as well as useful information about sale shopping, using coupons, and decoding marketing gimmicks. I learned so much in this course (you’ll easily make up the cost of the course on your first shopping trip).

Also, read Wisebread’s list of 25 Things You Shouldn’t Buy at the Grocery Store. You can buy these items elsewhere to save time and money. I’ve automated my purchases for many of these items so that I’m not wasting time hunting for overpriced items in the grocery store.

4. Shop at odd times

Stores are the most crowded from 4:00-8:00 p.m. on weekdays and 12:00-6:00 p.m. on weekends.

When I worked outside the home, I used to shop on my lunch hour. Sometimes, I would take a “late lunch” and shop at 2:00 to avoid the lunch crowd, but even shopping at noon was better than fighting the after-work crowd.

Now that I’m home, I try to shop first thing in the morning or after 8:00 p.m. I find that I save more money if I shop first thing in the morning (and often find better quality food). The stores tend to be better stocked in the morning.

5. Navigate wisely through the store

Sometimes it’s faster to go a roundabout way through the store.

If you’re shopping when the store is crowded, try to avoid the crowds as much as possible. I often work my way across the store by going down random aisles such as the dog food aisle, which is much less crowded than the cereal aisle. Rather than turning around in an aisle or going down the next aisle, I skip a few aisles and race down an empty aisle. Bonus: if there’s nothing that I need in an aisle, I’m not as tempted to buy random items that are “on sale.”

Time is money, and that’s especially true in a grocery store. Next time you shop at your favorite grocery store, time yourself. Can you beat that time? The faster you shop, the less you’ll buy.

It is possible to save time and money in a grocery store. Try shopping as quickly as possible (and spend the extra time “tickling the wheat” and doing something you love).

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