Grocery

A Quick Tip for Streamlining Your Grocery Shopping

February 17, 2017

I recently joined the Park Slope Food Coop and assumed a shift as a cashier, which is both exhilarating and terrifying. I am expected to do simple math in high-pressure situations. I am expected to maintain focus as I ring up the endlessly fascinating purchases of my fellow Co-Op members (elk meat, salmon jerky, lamp oil, 80 baby bok choy). I am expected to smile at strangers.

Help your cashier. Help yourself. Help your fragile fruit.
Grocery shopping mantra

But my short time as a cashier has already taught me a simple, life-easing grocery shopping tip: The whole process will goes more smoothly when you treat your cart like a dresser rather than a dump-truck—that is, when you don't throw the potato chips on top of the bag of potatoes on top of the bag of frozen blueberries. And sadly, when you don't pretend you are a contestant on "Supermarket Sweep."

Instead, as you shop, help out your future cashier or bagger help you—by grouping the groceries in your cart by where they live in your kitchen: Keep the refrigerated with the refrigerated; the dry goods with the dry goods; the potatoes, onions, and other counter-top dwellers together; the fragile vegetables in another section of your cart (preferably that protected upper level); and so on and so forth. Then, unpack your cart with these groups in mind, too, so that the friendly cashier can place them in bags in an organized fashion that'll ultimately make it faster for you when you're unpacking at home.

HOT TIP: Be sure to keep all the purple foods together at all times. Photo by James Ransom

Not only will it ease the checkout process and unpacking processes, keeping your cart neat will ultimately mean fewer damaged and dented groceries.

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How do you make grocery shopping as pain-free as possible? Tell us in the comments below.

16 Comments

mutton H. October 16, 2017
Online grocery shopping is really good.I always shop grocery online because it save my time and money.I always shop from eZeelo.com and it is good.<br />
 
Tasha August 21, 2017
Wow that yellow bag is stunning!!! Is it a Food52 item or can you share the source? Thank you!
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. August 21, 2017
Hi Tasha,<br />We don't sell it ourselves, but it's this bag! https://www.cosstores.com/it/Canvas_and_mesh_bag/228955-33518329.1#41922336
 
groxers March 15, 2017
I prefer online shopping for groceries at groxers.com GroXers.com carries more than 2000 grocery products online ranging from your day to day grocery to premium and gourmet food items
 
Susan W. February 26, 2017
Your article bring up one of my pet peeves about grocery shopping: the size of the carts! Someone needs to rethink the way they are designed. They are so long that it is impossible for me to reach items in the front of the cart--and aisles between cashiers are too narrow to scoot around to the front to unload items from there easily. So I usually keep the cart outside of the aisle and unload from there. That way, I can keep my groceries organized as they move through checkout. But I can't tell you the number of times I've wished for a better-designed cart. Are they so supersized to get us to buy more? And the smaller carts are often too small, although I try to use them whenever possible. What happened to the old-fashioned medium sized cart? Life was simpler when groceries were always within reach.
 
Ann M. February 22, 2017
I have loaded the conveyor this way for years -- heavy stuff first, cold stuff together, produce together, bread, eggs, flowers last. I am very careful. I am very picky about how things go on the belt. Cashiers generally don't seem to notice/care, and I actually had one, when I mentioned it, tell me it "doesn't make any difference." But based on some of the ridiculous pack jobs that I had been victim of in the past, I wouldn't do it any other way. Really, it's just common sense, if you care about your investment in your food. Good article.
 
Ttrockwood February 20, 2017
I always bring my own bags and pack them myself- unfortunately the store i usually shop the cashiers seem to have a special talent for cramming a ton of very heavy things into one of my reusable bags- which not only smashed things like the avocados they put on the bottom but they're so heavy i can't carry it! I'm very efficient at packing my own and no longer get home with smooshed groceries or a strained back
 
Anna B. February 18, 2017
I have begun ordering the bulk of my items online then picking them up curbside. I have found it to be a great timesaver, the produce picks are exactly as I have ordered them(green bananas for ex.) The cost for this service is low and saves me from impulse buys. I know this seems like a disconnect from my food choices but it leaves me more time to enjoy cooking.
 
Tryumph February 17, 2017
I always bag my own, with a sigh of relief from the cashier. I know where they go as I have 2 large walk in pantries and 2 fridges and a upright freezer. I guess I am anal, as I don't want anyone else packing my food. It makes life so much easier when I get home to put everything away.
 
Andreea February 17, 2017
It's a little strange to me that in the US cashiers routinely pack your bags for you. In the UK, they will (obviously) do it if you ask them to help you, but you really are expected to pack for yourself while the cashier is scanning and so not hold up the line.
 
AntoniaJames February 17, 2017
First and always, I smile, have patience, and show empathy. Second, I get my credit card out while I'm waiting in line, so I have it in hand and can pop it into the chip reader the minute the checker starts my order. Third, I always tell the checker immediately which items don't need to be bagged, and can be returned to the cart (e.g., bags of oranges and grapefruit, beer). They otherwise would ask, and this saves them from having to do that. Fourth, I promptly open all of the canvas bags I've brought and start filling them, trying to keep pace with the checker. I sort by perishable / non-perishable and big/heavy items on the bottom, etc. My kitchen is small enough that it really doesn't make much difference whether I sort within my shopping basket, given the system described above. (Perishables go in the fridge, non-perishables go in the cupboards.) When we're all done, I thank the checker by name, including a compliment on how quickly / expertly they've done their job. That always brings a smile to both of our faces and, I hope, makes the checker's day a little nicer. ;o)
 
Kit February 17, 2017
Absolutely. I try to be ready with bags and credit card or cash too and definitely keep up. I enjoy small chats about things I'm buying or what's happening in the store. The process is an excellent opportunity to be mindful, organized, connect with the person serving you, and simply make the day better.
 
caninechef February 20, 2017
How right you are about having credit card ready. I admit it drives me wild when people act like they are surprised and it is time to get the card out. I can only imagine this routine repeated week after week. Even more egregious, the person who is so rude they can not get off their phone for 5 minutes to give their attention to the checker and empty their cart with 2 hands.
 
Kit February 17, 2017
I place items with the bar codes facing toward the cashier. Never see anyone do this, but there is plenty of time instead of tossing everything on the belt and standing there waiting. Groceries are scanned faster. I also like to bring my own bag and pack, and you can get more inside, in better order, han the plastic ones, and be fast with practice. Of course, items are placed with heavy first, light last, and like veggies and fruit together. With very little thought or effort and just a bit of engagement in the downtime you already have, the checkout is so much more effective and efficient for you and your cashier.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. February 17, 2017
WOW—love that tip! Thank you for some inspiration.
 
Kit February 17, 2017
You are welcome! Right now work PT in retail, and the most tedious thing is searching for bar codes. I much prefer giving my customers their time back vs. waiting on me!