Tips to have a successful grocery trip

So, the other day I went shopping late at night since I hadn't been able to go on my normal Saturday trip and I wanted to avoid having to take a toddler after day care when he just wants to go home and play.  I've been disappointed in general by the customer service at my local Safeway, but I save a lot of money by shopping there, so I put up with it.

So, I'm cruising around the store at 9pm gathering what I need and finding, to no great surprise, that grocery stores aren't very well stocked at 9pm.  Many of the cheaper items that I was hoping to pick up were stripped from the shelves by earlier shoppers and their (slightly) pricier analogs were sitting there waiting for me.  Rather than causing a fuss over my 20 cents, I picked up the can of name brand chilies and carried on. 

As I did, I thought back to my experience as a grocery employee and thought I'd share my 5 tips to ensuring that you have a pleasant experience at the grocery store:
1) Make a list.  I especially recommend this if you have a toddler or child with you.  My mother taught me the life-changing trick of writing produce on one side, meat/dairy products in the middle, dry goods and frozen goods on the other side.  This way, you can see if you've gotten everything you need as you walk down each aisle rather than realizing you missed something and continuing to wander in circles. 

2) Fill your cart the same way.  Put like items together.  I put cans at the bottom/back of my cart and produce up front.  Eggs and bread go on top.  Then, when you unload your groceries, you'll already have them sorted for easy bagging - this will speed up the checkout process for you and ensure that your bread doesn't get bagged with your frozen veggies. 

3) Think about when you shop.  If you shop on Saturday morning (my usual time), it's going to be busier.  If you shop late at night, it's going to be quieter - but you won't have the full selection or ease in finding an employee to help you (if needed).   So, find a time that works for you and make sure you aren't expecting an experience that can't be provided at that time of day (like me just buying the more expensive item rather than trying to hunt down an employee and send them to the back to save me 20 cents - but, if having the cheaper item is important to you, shop at another time or be prepared to be patient).

4) Be kind to your checker.  If you've had a problem with your shopping experience - share it with the manager at the service desk after you are done checking out.  Getting mad at your checker, for whatever reason, isn't going to be productive.  It's just going to make you look like a jerk to everyone else in line.  If the lady on aisle 4 was rude to you or the line was too long, your checker won't be able to fix that for you.  If you are mad because there was no Chobani vanilla yogurt,
handle that in the back of the store with an associate when you notice it's missing, not when you get to the check out.  Your checker can call an associate to go look for vanilla Chobani, but now you are mad and delayed - and so it everyone else in line.

5) Be careful when you go express.  Unless it is a very slow day at the supermarket, don't go through the express line if you have a cart or plan to write a check (but, seriously, don't use checks at the grocery store).  If your items fit in your arms or a basket, you are safe to go through the express lane.  If what you want required a cart, you should let the people with fewer items use the express lane.  Odds are they are picking up that one item they forgot last time or the milk they need for a cranky baby at home or the dessert for a party and truly are in a hurry.

Bottom line, be considerate.  The workers (well, most of them) are really doing their best to get you in and out with what you need with as little hassle as possible. 

The grocery store is there to provide you with an important product.  Food.  If you are making it out with at least that much - then you accomplished your goal when you walked in.