6 Mindful Tips for a Smart Grocery Store Experience

  1. Let’s Talk About Carts

Choose the size of grocery cart that best fits your height and length of grocery list. When my local grocery store recently got on board with the petit size grocery carts, (I call it the mini-cart), I was elated. I am 5’2”, and this mini-cart fits me. I love these little carts! Originally the store only ordered 50 of them, so knowing there’s a shortage, if I see one stored in the parking lot, I grab it. I can push and pull the mini-cart with complete control, it has a BMW-comparable turning radius, I can quickly whiz past a nosey neighbor, and I can stop that cart on a dime in front of the lemon cookies. (I once had to run to beat out another woman and grab the last available mini-cart. When I reached the cart first, I owned it by tossing in my purse, and then I sauntered into the store feeling like a trophy winner. Thinking back now, I must have looked like my 2-year-old granddaughter with her doll stroller). Full of prideful ownership that day, I found the store manager and thanked him for his insightful procurement of the mini-carts, and then I told him there weren’t enough of them. I said that I had witnessed tall, fury, sweater-growing men wearing wife-beater T-shirts and who were buying steaks, beer and charcoal, deliberately bypassing the large (SUV) carts and grabbing a mini-cart! He reassured me that another 50 minis had been ordered and would be there before Christmas season. I was glad to hear that, but still, men were stealing the mini-carts. So I asked if he thought attaching a handicap plate on the mini-carts might be possible, (for people like me with carpel tunnel and vertical challenge). He said no, that would involve legal stuff and the state. So I asked him what he thought about maybe having the new mini-carts painted pink? He dropped his smile and slowly inhaled, (I swear I saw him grit his teeth). He started to say something but he got an overhead page and just blazed off. Hateful. Whey didn’t he just cross himself and answer me?

  1. Grocery Shop With a List

I keep a large Post-it note pad in my kitchen strategically for listing food items as I run out of them. I like using Post-it notes because I can stick them onto the handle of my mini-cart for easy access while shopping. And because I know the layout of my grocery store, I write my list accordingly. This minimizes the minutes I spend in the store. Statistics have proven that the longer we are in the store, the more money we will spend. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but when one is faithful to the month grocery budget, time is money, and I have a guard-railed budget of $300 a month for both of us!

Being organized about grocery shopping only takes time and discipline, but there is one thing the store does that devastates my plan and effort every time, and that’s when they do an overnight store reset! A what? A complete store reset. This is when they claim they are getting new shelving and end caps, and they move sections of food to new locations on different aisles. They claim they are organizing products that are usually purchased together, and for my convenience, they are now on the same aisle. To break it down, this is what it looks like: jelly has been moved near bread, canned beans are now beside cereal, flour & sugar are now where tampons used to be, and bottled water is now beside charcoal. We can’t quickly find our stuff, so we end up spending an hour longer and $75 more, just as headquarters & marketing planned!

  1. Shop Right After Eating a Meal

So why shop right after a meal? It’s not just to move around helping the food to digest, it’s about buying only what’s on the list. I have shopped when I’m hungry before and I spent more time and money because every stinkin’ thing looked fresh, moist and gourmet to me. Grocery shopping is not a casual pastime for me, I take it seriously, which brings me to another point about the mini-cart: it holds only so much food!

And I’ll throw this tip in for free: Don’t trust anyone to buy groceries for you when they have your checkbook: After getting home from the hospital with our first baby, my dear excited baby-daddy-husband offered to run to the pharmacy and grocery store for me. How sweet! I wrote a short list, gave him the checkbook, and sent him on his way. I took a nap. I awoke not to the baby crying, but to him going in and out of the house, from the car to the kitchen, closing the door each time. So many bags of groceries! He bought everything on the list, AND a few surprises for me: he brought kitchen towels with embroidered baby squirrels on them, a 24 piece set of glasses, a new crockpot, picture frames, candles, and an ice tea maker. He $aid he had $o much fun!

  1. It’s Just Like the Highway, Stay in Your Lane

Rarely do I encounter shoppers pushing their cart on the wrong side of the aisle, but when I do see it, it is usually a person looking bewildered or delighted: I have decided that the bewildered-looking is a person who got sent to the store and has probably been there for hours, clueless and actually shopping in circles. They usually have a weary, haggard look, a hungry look, and should probably stop for a snack. Not meaning to judge here, but honestly these shoppers are usually men, men sent out to grab a few things on a list, but their carts are mostly overrun with beer, chips, beef jerky, charcoal, and sometimes diapers and Preparation H. If the bewildered shopper’s cart is on your side of the aisle, your lane, mindlessly headed straight for your mini-cart, just stop. Pretend to be looking at the light bulb selection on your right. The bewildered shopper will stop his cart before ramming yours, and eventually will veer to his right and pass you. The other “wrong-side driver,” the delighted one, would be a new father sent to the store by his wife, and he just wants to be on the wrong side of the aisle to have a broader view of the floor lamps. Just go around him and be sure to say, “Excuse me.”

  1. Choose the Appropriate Checkout Lane

Don’t even pretend that you don’t know what I’m talking about here. Grocery stores give special training to employees who will become checkers. They greet you then quickly ask if you found everything you were looking for. That’s just their way of trying to make you remember more things to buy. But I win every time by telling them, “indeed I did.” Then they ask you how your day is, but I just tell them, “I’m happy because I’ll be under budget when I pay you.” But this is not what #5 is about. #5 is about choosing the right lane for the amount of groceries in your cart. When I arrive at the “15 Items or Less” aisle with my 14 items, I slide right through, pay with cash from my envelope and move on. What miffs me off is to see some irresponsible slob who has mindlessly pulled in there with a large (SUV) cart brimming with bags of charcoal, beer, dog food, chips, butt wipes and frozen chicken wings, totally ignoring the posted “15 Items or Less.” Maybe that sign should be flashing.

Another frustrating situation is the self-checkout. Those registers are meant for shoppers who have a few items and hope to get in and get out quickly, like people who buy a small lunch and need to get back to work. Occasionally there will be a senior who has an SUV cart full of frozen corn, animal crackers, chocolate milk, vitamins and adult diapers, and she’s trying to keep things honest by scanning her own groceries.

  1. Be Alert in the Parking Lot and Put Your Cart AWAY!

In this rant, I have covered the most important grocery store behaviors, and you probably have a list of your own. But in all seriousness a very important one is your grocery store parking lot behavior. Sometimes our money is spent, and our emotions are as well. Don’t be hair-brained in the parking lot, either!

After unloading groceries into your car, please put the cart away in the cart park. Please don’t leave them in the parking stall or on sidewalks. The Kansas wind can and does blow hard enough to push carts into vehicles causing expensive dings and damage. It is very sad to watch Aunt Edna crying because a loose cannon SUV cart punched her Jag.


A couple of years ago I drove to my grocery store and parked my car. As I was walking in the parking lot, a car backing out hit me and knocked me down. I screamed bloody murder and I thank God that the driver heard me and stopped her vehicle. People came running to check on me, and soon the store manager was on the scene to care for me and help me up. I was OK, (later had some bruising, but I was blessed to be OK). The driver was overwhelmed and apologized repeatedly. She said she had pulled in crookedly and was backing out a little to straighten up her car in the parking spot; she admitted that she had not looked behind her to check again for pedestrians. We must stay alert while moving our vehicles when so many people are walking nearby.

I hope these tips and reminders have educated, enlightened and entertained you so your grocery shopping experience is successful and the best!

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