3 Ways to Spend Less Time Grocery Shopping


Only 10% of Americans love to cook. Creeeeak-Pop-Thud . . . Yes, that’s the sound of my heart breaking as I read this research study. I can think of a few million reasons cooking is essential to leading a healthy, nourished, and fulfilled life. I’m dedicating a series of blog posts to helping the reported “45% of people who hate cooking” and the other “45% who are lukewarm about cooking” in hopes they’ll give it another try.  Do you already love to cook? Great! These posts will help reinforce your love of preparing meals and help you save time doing it.

Lack of time

What’s your #1 reason for not cooking more?  A colleague of mine recently surveyed her clients and top of the list was lack of time.

What if you could win back 90+ minutes per week by streamlining the first step of cooking - shopping for ingredients?

Why to Shop Less Frequently

Grocery shopping can be a time sucking vampire!  Without a doubt, the #1 way to save time in the realm of cooking is to shop less frequently.  By that, I mean doing 2-3 big shopping trips per week rather than 4-5 smaller trips.

Before having kids, I shopped for groceries almost daily. I let the whims of seasonality and what was on sale determine what was for dinner. Back then, I had the luxury of time. I wasn't dragging two kids through crowded aisles while their little hands topple fruit snacks and cereal bars into the cart.  My need to limit shopping with my kids aside, here are two compelling reasons to shop less frequently:

Sunk Time

Have you ever calculated how much Sunk Time there is for each shopping trip? By Sunk Time I mean all the steps of shopping that happen before and after actually putting items in your cart. For me, it’s a whopping 43 minutes* for each shopping trip! This includes: writing a shopping list, driving, parking, getting a cart, then checking-out, loading the car, driving home, putting groceries away.  Do the math for yourself; it's surprising!

Cutting my shopping trips from 4 per week to 2 gives me 1.5 hours back to my life!  It’s a no brainer, right?

Cutting my shopping trips from 4 per week to 2 gives me 1.5 hours back to my life!  It’s a no brainer, right?

(*Here’s my calculation for my Sunk Time for grocery shopping: 5 minutes writing a list, 5 minutes driving and parking, 3 minutes getting into the store and getting a cart, 10 minutes checking out, 5 minutes loading groceries into car, 5 minutes drive home, 10 minutes to put groceries away)

Will Power Burnout

What’s your food kryptonite?  Maybe double fudge brownies? Or salt and vinegar chips?  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer that we should indulge in treat foods from time to time.  But the more times each week you have to resist that package of kryptonite, the harder it is to say no!  Our will power has its limits after all. The more frequently you shop, the more “treats” and packaged foods you’ll buy.

3 Ways to Spend Less Time Grocery Shopping

Now that we are on the same page on why to shop less frequently, let’s discuss the details of how to make that a reality.  Yes, it takes a bit of planning upfront to win back time, but it’s time well spent.

#1: Meal Planning

Have you heard of Meal Planning?  Boy it’s a game changer!

The concept is very simple.  It’s just writing out a menu of what your going to eat.  It can be comprehensive and include every meal and snack for each day.  Or it can be simple and just include dinners. If you’re new to Meal Planning, I’d recommend starting with just dinners.  Your Meal Plan can cover the next three days, the whole week, etc. You’ll find what works for you.

Here’s a picture of my very own Meal Plan for this week.  What works for me right now is to grocery shop on Sundays for meals Sunday - Thursday.  Then I give myself a day off from cooking dinner on Friday (we order *healthier* pizza). On Saturday, we brainstorm what weekend culinary projects we want take on and do the second shop of the week.


Once you have your Menu (aka Meal Plan) written out, make a shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need.

What I love about Meal Planning:

  • I never worry “what’s for dinner?”  It’s already decided.

  • It cuts my trips to the store down to two per week.

  • My husband knows what to make for dinner if he gets home first because I post the Meal Plan on the frig.

  • It helps me preview the week and plan simple meals for nights where we have activities.

  • Once I have a Meal Plan written out, I save it and re-use it.  Rotating through them ensures dinner variety from week to week. It also keeps me from inventing a new Menu each week.

  • There are even Online Services to help you with Meal Planning.  My fav is That Clean Life.

Do you want to master the skill of Meal Planning?  I teach a class about it! Check out my class page for Meal Prep Made Easy and my Upcoming Classes and Events listing for dates I’ll be teaching this class.

#2: Making a List, Checking it Twice

If you already make a shopping list before entering the grocery store, well done.  You are saving time and avoiding impulse buys. If you currently shop by memory, I bet the tips and tricks below will convert you into a lister.


Shopping List 1

Here’s what a typical shopping list looks like, right?  All the ingredients jumbled together in no particular order. When shopping from a list like this one, you bounce all over the store from one department to the next. The result is often forgetting something or buying stuff you don’t need.  Not to mention, wasting time. We want grocery shopping to be like a military exercise: get in and get out.

Aha Moment!  Why not try formatting your shopping list by grocery store department?  No more bouncing around the store like a ping pong ball.

We want grocery shopping to be like a military exercise: get in and get out.

Shopping List 2

I’ve been using this by department format for my shopping lists since I read about it in Real Simple magazine back in college.  (Yes, I was a weird college kid.)

Reformatting your handwritten shopping list this way will save valuable time in the store.  Want to take it a bit further?


Shopping List 3


If you’re like me, you have certain ingredients you buy each week. Why waste time writing them down each week? Instead, type them up once and print a bunch of copies!

I’m sharing my Shopping List Template with you.  It’s an editable Google Document so you do need to sign into your Google account when prompted to get a copy of it.

Here’s how to use it:

  • Click this link to make a copy of my template onto your Google Drive account. From there you can also download it as a Word Document if you prefer.

  • Consider making one of these lists for each store you shop at (for example, I have a second one for Costco).

  • Type in the ingredients you always buy.

  • Print a bunch of copies and use this as the starting place for your shopping list.

  • Don’t need a particular ingredient this week? Cross it out.

  • Write in all other ingredients you need for the week.

Yes, it does take about 15-20 minutes to get your list(s) set up.  But by investing some time upfront, you will save 10-15 minutes each week.

Never Run to the Store for One Ingredient Again

Anyone else get crazy frustrated when you realize you are out of something right when you need it?  Not to mention, it causes one more trip to the store which we are trying desperately to avoid! Here are two options to make sure you don’t find yourself in this position again.

As soon as you run out of an ingredient (or are even just running low), write it down.  You can use:

  • Refrigerator List - use a magnetic dry erase board or a sticky note

  • Digital List - if you prefer digital, try the app called Wunderlist.  One perk? You can collaborate on lists with others.

When you  write out your weekly shopping list, include any items on your refrigerator/digital list. Problem solved.

#3: Time Your Shopping Trip Carefully

Crowded parking lot, carts ramming into each other, long lines at check-out - Argh!  Not only is it a waste of time to shop in a crowded grocery store but it causes immense frustration. Kinda like sitting in traffic! Ditch this experience by timing your shopping trips strategically.

Avoid Shopping:

  • Sundays late afternoon to evening (3pm - 7:30pm)

  • Any day during the lunch rush (11am - 1 pm)

  • Any day during the dinner rush (4pm - 7:30pm)

Aim for Shopping:

  • Early mornings (7am - 10:30am)

  • Nights (7:30 pm - closing)

  • Wednesdays for double ad cost savings!

  • Ask someone in the produce section which days they get fresh deliveries

By shopping when the store is less busy, you’ll save time. Not to mention the quiet solitude of having the store all to yourself.

Consider shopping on Wednesdays since many stores overlap weekly discounts = more products on sale.

And there you have it friends! By doing a bit of Meal Planning, list writing, and scheduling shopping trips wisely, you can easily save 90 minutes per week. If you give any of these tips a try, please come back and leave a comment. I’d love to know how they work for you.