Your Grocery Run, Conquered

So usually when people say they’re going for a “grocery run,” they don’t actually mean that they’re running around the grocery store. Or that they’re running to the parking garage so that they can get their car and drive to the grocery store so they’ll be able to make it back and unload the groceries in time for their 9 a.m. Mammalian Physiology class. I guess I’m not like most people then.

For me, going on a “grocery run” is actually a form of cardio. I have the layout of Whole Foods – the closest grocery store to the University of Maryland – memorized with the same conviction as my favorite granola recipe: The colorful produce greets you after the orchids, followed by the refrigerated section, which leads into the gind-your-own-almond-butter-machine, and you pass through the bread-and-English-muffin aisle before heading to the cash register. I can be in and out of that place faster than it takes for my brain to process that I’ve had coffee that morning. However, in order for that to happen, there are some things that need to happen first.

Here are my top three grocery store tips:

1. Make a Running List

I know what you’re thinking – I already make a list! This is such generic advice! But I’m hoping that the way I make my grocery lists will take your listing skills to the next level.

The first thing you should know is that your grocery list should be a running list. Your list should be continuous, starting the week before you go to the supermarket and ending the minute before you head out shopping. While scribbling down the things you need five minutes before heading out may sound like an efficient tactic, the sad reality is that you will forget things. And nothing is worse than coming back from the grocery store knowing that you need to go back to get that annoying container of milk that was so clearly in your head but didn’t make the paper. So, get out an index card, a post-it, the back of the chemistry slides you printed out by accident (or on purpose) – anything that you can put words on – and get that list running. Tack the list to your bulletin board, lay it out on your desk, carry it in your planner – whatever you need to do to see it at least once daily – and add any items you need as they come to mind. Make sure to add the items to the list as soon as you realize that you need them, or else you will forget to add them! Using this tactic sets you up to get what you actually need at the grocery store.

My running list from last week.

To maximize your shopping time, reorganize your list based on the way the supermarket is organized before you head out shopping. For example, rewrite your list to group all fruit and vegetable items near each other; cluster all refrigerated items. This will save you time that you would have spent wandering the aisles.

2. Timing is Everything

This is a nice little lesson that I learned after driving to Trader Joes at 4 p.m. on a Sunday to grocery shop for the week (it turns out a good chunk of the Silver Spring community had the same plan as me…).

While it’s important to make sure that you’re going shopping at the best time for you, it is also important to consider how the schedules of those around you might interfere with yours. No one likes being on line for a half hour, or navigating the traffic jam of carts that was once the cereal aisle. The good thing about being in college is that you can (usually) find an hour to go to the supermarket on a day that isn’t Saturday or Sunday. Whether the best non-weekend time for you is Tuesday at 10 p.m., Wednesday at 7:30 a.m., or Thursday at 5 p.m., make sure to consider the other factors that might be making your grocery run more of a grocery stroll.

There is nothing more peaceful than Whole Foods at 8 a.m.

Of course busy situations are sometimes inevitable, but if you put enough thought in, you can usually find an off-peak time to shop. Although it may sound annoying to have to wake up early to go grocery shopping, when you are in and out of the store faster than it takes to unload your groceries, you will be grateful.

3. Unloading with Elegance

You’ve successfully made it back from the grocery store. You have a half hour to unload your groceries, park the car and walk half a mile to class. If you’re on my timeline, it’s 8:30 a.m.

Yes, this is possible. And I say that confidently because I do this every week.

Here’s how:

1. After you bring all of your grocery bags inside (accomplishment #1), start unloading everything onto the kitchen table. Do not put anything away just yet.

2. Roughly group like-items together. For example, place the milk, hummus, yogurt and cauliflower near each other because they’re all going into the fridge; put the tea next to the oats and crackers because they’re going in the pantry.

3. After you’ve organized your groceries into groups, put each group away. Finish putting one group away before moving on to the next.

If it takes you longer than 10 minutes to unload, please let me know, because it’s never taken me longer than that.

This grouping tactic is a quick and easy way to save a lot of time. It prevents you from opening your fridge an embarrassing number of times and lessens the back-and-forth from table to pantry. This method leaves me with at least 20 minutes to park and get to class, which is more than enough time. In fact, I usually arrive to class at least five minutes early.

Whether you decide to make your next grocery visit a run or a stroll, these tips are bound to help you take on your shopping with ease.

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5 thoughts on “Your Grocery Run, Conquered”

  • I have a running list on my phone, that way I can add things as I need them and organize at the same time. And I have to shop for myself and for breakfast supplies for some high school students so I have two lists going at the same time.

    This week though I have to do the dreaded second trip. I’m going to be needing carrots for something and I knew I had some in my fridge but when I got home to put other things in the drawer I found out I only had two (I’m going to need at least 7) and both were wilted and all soft! 😖

    • Thanks for your comment!
      Great idea to have the list on your phone! Sometimes I make my list on the Google Keep app… it’s very visually-appealing and allows you to reorganize things easily! Usually, though, I like to have a physical list so that I can see it in front of me and write things down easily as they come to mind throughout the week. But that’s just because I am old-school in certain ways (even though I’m only 21 haha). Either method is great :)

      Oh no, the dreaded second trip! I’ve definitely been there haha. It happens sometimes. I hope that your shopping experience is seamless and that your dish comes out delicious :)

  • This is something I have always struggled with. I can so clearly imagine running into the store from one aisle to another only to realize that I missed something. Your suggestions are to in tune with reality and can so easily be applied. Thanks for sharing and look forward to reading more :) -sharon

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