1. Make your mark
Speeding up your trip starts at home. Keep a master list of the stuff you buy every week, then build on it, says Rachel Hoffman, cleaning guru and author of Unf*ck Your Habitat. Jess Dang, founder of the meal-planning service Cook Smarts, says to group groceries according to your store layout. If you want some help with this, try the AnyList app, which sorts items by section for you.
2. Practice crowd control
You don’t need a crystal ball to know when your store will be busiest—just Google! Type in the name of your local store, and the search engine will show you what times it’s typically crowded, and also how it is right now (it uses anonymous data from shoppers to figure this out). Now, if only it could actually pick up the milk and eggs for you…
3. Don’t take a number
The deli and butcher are almost always busy, but you don’t need to wait there, says store planner Dan Phillips, who’s spent more time in supermarkets than basically anyone. Most deli counters will let you drop off a list of what you need, so you can swing by on your way to the checkout.
4. Mind your p’s and queues
When you’re ready to check out, the express lane can be tempting, but it rarely lives up to its name, says Dick Larson, an MIT professor who goes by the nickname Dr. Queue. Scanning items happens quickly, but paying takes time, so you’ll move faster if you’re behind one person with a full cart than you would behind three people with a few items. Sometimes even Larson lands in the slow lane, he says, and in these moments, he adopts a Zen attitude: “The grocery store queue is far from the most important thing in your life! Relax and enjoy the experience.” Meaning: Nab some chocolate and find a certain food magazine to flip through!