The Worst Time To Go Grocery Shopping Is Sadly The Most Convenient

So many of us have had a perfectly pleasant, relaxing weekend day ruined by this sudden realization: We have to go grocery shopping. With busy weekdays full of school, work, and not enough sleep, it's no surprise that this chore often slides to the weekends, and therein lies the problem. 

That dread that comes just before embarking on a trip to the store is not only because we'd rather be doing something else. It's because of the inevitable frustration of crowded aisles, half-empty store shelves, settling for lackluster produce and meats, and wasting time in long checkout lines. But all of that is a result of shopping at the worst possible time: weekend afternoons. It's so much easier to roll out of bed and into the store on Saturday or Sunday around 1 or 2 p.m. rather than squeezing a trip into the few hours you have after work, but that's what everybody else is thinking too. It inevitably leads to an unpleasant experience. 

It's such a shame because grocery shopping really does have the potential to be a satisfying and yes, even an enjoyable errand; you get to restock on your favorite snacks and ingredients and check out new-to-you products hiding on the shelves. And think of how good it feels to find sale items and keep a few extra dollars in your wallet. A fun, not-frustrating grocery shopping trip doesn't happen by accident or by going only when it's convenient: It happens with planning and smart strategies to shop at the best possible time and with minimal distractions. 

Shop during off-hours to avoid strife

You're not the only one who lets all of their errands slide to the weekend ... that's why on Saturdays and Sundays grocery stores are almost guaranteed to be crowded and hectic — whether it's Costco, Trader Joe's, or a local supermarket. Not only are people shopping for the upcoming week, but there'll also be folks stocking up for that weekend's parties, beach trips, and get-togethers. 

Our advice? Avoid a weekend shop at all costs. But, if that truly is the only option, then it's worth your time and sanity to do it during the off hours. Set your alarm and get to the store early in the morning; not only will the aisles be blissfully empty, but you'll find that produce, meats, bread, and pantry staples have not yet been ravaged and picked over. You'll have a fully-stocked selection of food, plus the time, calm atmosphere, and space to comparison shop. 

If you are able to switch to weekday grocery shopping, this advice still applies. Late afternoons after parents pick up kids from school and early evenings when everyone is heading home from work are always the busiest. Again, aim for morning grocery shopping if your schedule allows. If not, make the trip later in the evening when other shoppers are settled at home for the night. 

The best day for new sales depends on your store

For those who want to go grocery shopping just as the new cycle of sales has begun, or just as shelves are restocked, the best day or time to go really depends on where you shop. Some sources claim that supermarkets always begin new sales on Wednesdays, but the truth is that this isn't the case for every single store. The best thing to do is to ask your grocery store which day of the week they restock, and when their new sales begin. You can also find out new sales info in weekly flyers, on the store app, or on their website. Then, time your shopping trip accordingly. 

Another smart, money-saving move is to check with individual departments at the store to learn when items get marked down for quick turnover. That day is another great time to shop and pick up discounted meats, produce, and bakery items that you know you can use up quickly. These items can also be prepped and stashed in the freezer, to have on hand for future meal planning. 

Even when grocery shoppers have found the perfect day, the perfect time, and the perfect sales, there are still plenty of other distractions –like children, other errands, and hunger — that can keep you from shopping efficiently, filling up your cart with impulse buys, and draining your energy as the trip drags on longer than it should. Still, a little planning and strategy means this can be the year you finally turn grocery shopping into a pleasure rather than a pain.