I was asked an interesting question the other day: “Does it matter in what order you do the grocery shopping?”
Most grocery stores are set up so that you don’t really have too much choice in the matter. The stores do this for convenience and also (mostly) to get you to buy more. Ever notice how the dairy section – particularly the milk – is located at the back of the store? This is because the vast majority of shopping lists include milk. By putting the milk at the back of the store, it forces you to walk past as much product as possible on your way to the milk and then on your way back to the checkout. Up to two thirds of what we buy is not what we intended on buying and the stores want to take full advantage of impulse shopping habits. I find that the key to healthy and frugal shopping is shopping the perimeter of the store first. Stock your cart with fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, dairy and fresh fish and meats. Avoid the aisles if possible because that is where the more processed, and in a lot of cases, less healthy and more expensive choices are. Once you have shopped the perimeter, you will often find that you have everything you need, especially if you make a meal plan for the week ahead of time.
When I am doing shopping for a client, impulse shopping is not a concern because I am going by the list, the whole list and nothing but the list (lol). If this is also the way you are shopping, I find that the thing that affects my choice as to where in the store I start the shopping is the type of shopping carts the store has. If the store has the old-style one-big-bin shopping carts, I will avoid starting in the produce or bakery areas because the first items picked are going to end up at the bottom of the bin where they get squished. Not good for fruits and veggies and breads. Fortunately most stores now feature the newer two level carts that in essence have two shallower bins. With these carts, I like to start with produce and put it in the top hopper followed by baked goods. Meats go on the bottom level as well as heavier products like bags of milk. I usually shop in the frozen foods section last regardless of which type of cart because even though frozen product is always stored in a cooler for transport, it is just better to keep the time out of an actual freezer to a minimum.
A well planned and well choreographed shopping trip can save you both time and money.