Plan Your Grocery List To Make Your Shopping Trip More Efficient

It's 6 p.m. and you're anxiously awaiting your grocery delivery so you can sit down to dinner at a reasonable hour. You've been dreaming of guacamole since that Taco Tuesday Instagram post and your cutting board and knife are ready to go. There's a knock at your door, you open your bags, and ... the avocados are rock hard. Sound familiar? While grocery delivery services are convenient, there certainly are some drawbacks. When it comes to food (especially fresh produce) sometimes you just need to get your hands dirty and pick out your own.

It's possible to recreate the ease of shopping from your couch with just a few clicks while in a brick-and-mortar store — in fact, when done correctly, it can be even easier! The key is staying organized and sticking to a plan. If the thought of braving a busy grocery store and maneuvering the aisles with a squeaky cart and a wonky wheel gives you nightmares, there are a few things you can do to make the trip seamless.

Make a list and keep it organized

You've probably heard the advice to never go grocery shopping when you're hungry, but it would be just as wise to add never go without a list. When you write down what you intend to buy before you leave your house, not only will you ensure you don't forget anything, but you're also much less likely to wander down the cookie aisle filling up your cart. The American Heart Association points out you're also more likely to stick to your budget when you adhere to a list.

To keep things efficient, eatright suggests you organize your list according to the layout of the store. Break your list down into categories such as produce, dairy, frozen, and so on, and order them by how you'll navigate the aisles. If you want to channel your inner Type A even more — and if you have this insider knowledge in advance — you can organize each category by the layout. Do bell peppers come before broccoli in the produce section? Top of the produce list they go!

Take inventory at home

After you've made your extra-organized list but before you leave the house, take stock of what you already have on hand so you don't overbuy anything. Also take note of staples such as olive oil or mustard, and if you're running low on any, add them to the list and restock in advance. There is nothing worse than realizing you're out of butter when you're elbow-deep in prep work or halfway through your favorite brownie recipeInstacart suggests keeping a working list in your kitchen and adding quantities next to each item in order to minimize trips to the store.

Check the expiration dates on infrequently used items and set up your pantry and fridge chronologically. Take a cue from accountants and use the FIFO (First-In, First-Out) method with duplicates of items to ensure nothing goes to waste — that new, unopened barbecue sauce slides in the back so you're reminded to finish the opened one first. Such a method ensures as little food as possible goes to waste.

Strategize in-store shopping

Once you're physically at the store with your list in hand (or let's be real, your smartphone notepad app), it's time to get down to business. While you've organized the list according to how you'll tour the store, there is one caveat to that rule — perishables. Most stores are set up with frozen and refrigerated products along the perimeter, but that is not guaranteed and sometimes you may wander. If you come across the frozen aisle before you get to canned goods, pivot from the list and save the perishables for last (via Consumer Reports).

There is a small window of time that refrigerated and frozen items can be at room temperature before you enter the "danger zone" and bacteria begins to grow, per It may also behoove you to save the top basket in your cart for any fragile items like fresh flowers, sliced bread, or delicate herbs you want to spare from being crushed.

And if you don't know where something is, ask! While there's no search bar at a store, there are employees who know the place like the back of their hand.