Think you’re running out of minutes in the day to get some writing done? Here’s one place you can shave off a few minutes of wait time and get back to writing sooner: The Grocery Store!

You may not normally consider how much time you waste at the grocery store, but a chunk of this could be time better spent writing. Here are 10 things you can start doing today that will shave some serious time off your multi-daily, weekly, or monthly grocery outing.

1. Make a List, Check It Twice, and STICK TO IT!

Distractions are a writer’s worst enemies (well, when it comes to time management anyway) and can turn a seek-and-destroy mission into a wild goose chase. Make a (short) list of the things that you need from the store and bring it with you. Use a sticky note, phone app, voice recording, self-email or self-text.

And don’t casually wander into the bakery, ice cream, or candy areas just because you happen to be walking past it. Stay focused!

2. Grab a Hand Basket or Smaller Cart

Going into the store with a monstrous cart is like sitting down in front notebook with 100 empty page–you’re gonna want to fill it up! Or, best case scenario, you won’t realize how off track you’ve gotten with your shopping because every time you see the cart it won’t look full…and won’t look full…and won’t look full, until it is. Using smaller carts helps you stop shopping faster when your load starts to get too heavy or you quickly run out of room to hold items.

3. Frequent an Establishment

When you go to the same store every time you shop, you gradually begin to learn where everything is. This cuts down on you having to wander aimlessly or find an employee to help you look for something that you want.

4. Stick with Boxes and Cans

How does this save time? Because these scan the most quickly and reliably. When you buy things in bags, sacks, tiny packages, or oddly shaped containers, the bar code isn’t as easy for the scanner to read, and often isn’t even easy for the cashier to find. Precious time is wasted. If you are a big junk food eater, this isn’t much of an issue since a lot of junk comes in boxes. However, if you’re big on fresh produce, you may be wondering how you’re going to save time. The best a fresh producer fiend can do is opt for bags and plastic containers instead of items that are loose or only tied with twine or wire (meaning the cashier has to search for or ask for the PLU code to be able to ring it up). Also remember that, some loose produce items (such as potatoes or garlic) must be weighed, which takes even more time). For example, instead of a fresh bunch of wet cilantro, just buy the cilantro that comes in a jar or clear plastic box that has a clear, easy-to-read bar code on it. Instead of loose garlic, get the garlic in a box or jar.

5. Estimate As You Go

Estimating the price of your order as you go helps you keep from being surprised at the register. It also helps you know how much cash to prepare (as suggested in tip 7). Remember to always round up. $4.99 is $5, $3.23 is $4, and so on. And still add a few dollars onto the running total before you head to the checkout for tax. You’d rather be under budget than over budget.

6. Unload

Don’t just sit your order on the belt and start texting or daydreaming. Make checking out a process in which you are fully participatory. Unload your items and put your basket away under the conveyor built or hand it to the bagger when it’s your turn to be checked out.

7. Unload Intelligently

When it comes time to hit the register, put your items on the belt with the bar codes either facing you or facing down. Grocery scanners have a plate on the bottom and mirrors on the side opposite the cashier. So, if you place your bar codes like this, you won’t have to wait for the cashier to find it, and it’s more likely to be registered quickly by the terminal.

8. Prep (your coupons, school cards, discount cards, gift certificates, etc.) 

Translation: Get your shit together before it’s time to check out. Don’t wait for the cashier to ask you if you have a shopping card or coupons. Often, you’ll be standing in line waiting to be rung up anyway. Instead of staring a magazine covers, browsing candy labels, or texting on your phone, use this time wisely. Check your pockets for coupons. If you have partner or loyalty cards on your keychain, have them out and ready to hand to the cashier the moment the order before you is complete.

9. Start Paying As Soon As Possible

If you’re paying with plastic, most terminals are able to complete the early parts (and sometimes most) of the payment process as soon as it’s your turn to check out. Do this so that you utilize your time well while your items are being rung up. Just step up to the card reader and insert your chip (or slide, if you still have to do that).

If you’re paying with cash, open your wallet and pull out at least $5.00 more than you think your . Pull out four pennies. If you have four pennies to give, you won’t get any back. For example, if your total is $44.04 and you give $50.04, the pennies get absorbed. Then, as the total for your order rises, start pulling out bills. When you get the final total, you should have everything you need to hand the cashier exact (or near exact) change within about three seconds.

10. Bag

It may be difficult emotionally, but try to set your pride aside and help yourself get out of that store as quickly as possible. Lots of grocery stores may have times during the day when they don’t have a bagger around to help out (and the manager is with a belligerent customer and the other cashier is in the bathroom and the customer service is swamped, and so on). When this happens, jump in and get it done. As soon as you’ve followed the previous step with your credit or debit card, slide to the end of the check lane and start bagging up what your cashier has rung out. If a bagger steps in before you’re done, by all means, step aside and let the expert handle it. But don’t let poor staffing at a store keep you there any longer than necessary.



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