I did not like the amount of time I had to spend to shop in stores. I knew that the long search for items in stores, inability to check online inventory, or even stressful parking, can be left behind with a modicum of technology. The brick-and-mortar retail was lagging behind online retail in technology. But the recent leaps forward in this multi-trillion market gives consumers a number of opportunities to save time. Here are some of my favorite methods to save time when grocery shopping, which may help you to spend more time doing things you love to do.
1. Check in-store inventory online.
Many big-box retailers like Walmart, Target, and Home Depot avail their in-store inventory online now. You may check the nearby location of these stores on their websites or online apps. Google shopping allows you to search for stores around you in a single session. The trick is to check the “Available Nearby” checkbox on the left in Google Shopping search to include only local stores. The local-first startup Mantele makes in-store search easier, which searches across Walmarts and some local stores in a single search. For example, I recently found a fire-pit in the local Walmart, which was two to three times costlier on Amazon and Walmart online.
2. Find items on mobile.
A major pain I have in grocery stores is finding the item in-store. I used to walk up and down every aisle to find that one item. Now, many stores are getting better at it. Stores like Walmart, Target, and Home Depot publish their item inventories online. Though you need the mobile app of the chain to get the full functionality, these websites also offer limited searching of the items. Some even provide a map of the store with directions to lead you to the shelf.
3. Maintain a grocery list in mobile.
I run out of things like milk or sugar and end up making mid-week trips to stores to get a single item. Or worse, I forget to buy that one item which I want the most and end up driving back. There are a number of mobile apps like Out of Milk or Anylist that maintain an active grocery list. I add an item to my mobile list when I notice that it is about to finish. Further, I check and clean my refrigerator before my grocery trip and add any veggies I needed to the list. Notably, most of the items I need every week are repetitive and I can just copy the same list from last week. The best part is that my phone is always with me, so I don’t forget to take the list with me to the store!
4. Save on home delivery.
If all of these fail, I sacrifice on my freedom to choose myself and rely on home delivery. Many large players and startups like Google Express, Amazon Fresh, Walmart, and Instacart offer grocery-delivery services to your home. The delivery usually comes with a charge. But, due to intense competition in this emerging multi-billion market, many offer free delivery for the first few months (e.g. free for the first 3 months for google express, a few deliveries free for others). A perk for Amazon Prime members is that you get credit for pantry items if you opt for a slower shipping for many Prime items – credit that you can use later for free Prime-pantry delivery. Even with charges, home delivery may save more time (and time is money) if you buy everything together using your mobile list above.
5. Curb-side pickup.
The startup Curbside allows you to order online and pick up items in front of the store without getting out of the car. Though they recently lost Target, they are still active in many shopping malls and large chains. Unlike the home delivery, they do not charge consumers extra.