When Is The Best Time To Go Grocery Shopping?

When Is The Best Time To Go Grocery Shopping
Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

There are probably very few people in the world, if any, who feel comfortable shopping at peak hours of the day. Surrounded by throngs of people, moving through the aisles at a snail’s pace, anxious, checking your shopping list, checking the shelves... And if you’re shopping with your partner or children? Talk about living life on hard mode.

But it doesn't have to be that way. If you choose your shopping time and day carefully, performing this daily or weekly chore doesn't have to be stressful at all. In fact, dare we say that you might even find some hidden joy in it?

Let’s take a look at some of the best time frames to go grocery shopping to avoid crowds and out-of-stock situations.

Benefits of shopping at off-peak hours

Having some peace and quiet is not the only advantage you get when you avoid peak shopping hours. Here is what you can look forward to when you choose the best day for grocery shopping:

  • More time to read the labels - The nutritionally-conscious can take all the time they need to read the labels on their food items. When you don’t have a line of people trying to get to the same shelves as you, you can take a moment to make sure you’re choosing products that are in line with your family’s nutritional needs.
  • Most items are back in stock - During rush hour, some items are snatched off the shelves so fast that the store employees don’t get the time to restock them. This won’t be a problem if you choose a less busy time - you can enjoy aisles full to the brim with all your favorite items.
  • Opportunity to comparison shop - When you’re not stressed about getting to the cash register as fast as possible, you can take the time to compare different versions of the same item. What do you get for the price? Is it worth getting the store brand? If you choose the bigger package, will you pay less than getting the same quantity of a smaller package? You can answer all of these questions, and then some.
  • Faster run through the store - Finally, when you’re not being held back by shopper bottlenecks in the store, you can hope to finish your grocery shopping in record time. You don’t have to meander through the crowd, wait in line for meat or fish, or perhaps even wait in line at the register. When you’re one of the few people in the store, shopping becomes a breeze!

Best times to shop

Firstly, it’s important to understand that every region is different. Depending on the country, state, or even the area you live in, different grocery stores will have different shopping trends.

For example, the 2021 Google Maps Trends Report declared that, in the United States, the worst time to shop for groceries was Sunday at 1 PM, while the best time to go food shopping was Thursday around 8 PM.

One employee at a supermarket chain in the United Kingdom says that one of the busiest time periods to shop is the entire weekend - from Friday at about 3:30 PM to Sunday closing time.

Some would say that Wednesdays are a great time to shop because most stores start their ‘best deals’ sales on Wednesdays. But that cannot be true for all shops.

However, based on our extensive research, we’ve compiled a list of potentially best options for you to shop, regardless of where you live:

  • Late at night: If your store is open late, say until 10 or 11 PM, or if it is open 24/7, the best time to go shopping would be then. Most people online agree that this is indeed the prime shopping hour. You might have to deal with night shift employees who are restocking the shelves here and there, but that is nothing compared to the bustle you’d face during the day.
  • Super early in the morning: Equally as effective as shopping at night, if you step into the store the moment it opens (however early that may be), you’re likely to be just as alone as you are in the middle of the night.
  • Work days but midday: Most people have a 9 to 5 job. That means that most work days the stores are relatively comfortable to shop in from 9 to 5. To make it safer, you could set aside the middle of a work day (say, from noon to 2 PM) for your grocery trip.

If you’ve tried all of these options (or some of them are not available to you, such as shopping late at night), you could always find out when the peak hours are at your local store and shop around that time. More on how to find this out after the jump.

Times to avoid

According to research conducted by the Time Use Institute, the absolute worst day to shop for groceries is a Saturday (especially Saturday afternoon). In the United States grocery stores, it is the busiest day of the week with a staggering 41 million shoppers converging to their favorite supermarkets. Even though this research was performed in 2008 and only in the US, we have reason to believe it is still valid for most geographical locations today.

In fact, avoid the entirety of the weekend, if at all possible.

Additionally, avoid going to the store immediately after work. Unless you work odd hours, chances are that most other employed people will want to stop by the store on their way home as well. A weekday rush hour is anywhere between 4 PM to 7 PM. Going after dinner on a weekday promises a more tension-free shopping experience.

How to find the best time at your local store

Lastly, even with all our advice on when to and when not to shop, your best bet would be to just inform yourself about the peak shopping hours at the grocery shop you frequently visit.

Here are two ways you can do that:

  1. Talk to the employees or the store manager. They likely know exactly when the busiest times are, both during the week and over the weekend.
  2. If you’re not a fan of talking to people (we get it, don’t worry), you can also look up your local grocery store on Google Maps. Type in the name of the store in Google (on a desktop computer, but it should work the same on mobile), then open the Google Maps section. As you scroll down through the information about the store, you should find a graph that clearly outlines how busy it gets on any given day at any given hour.
    Screenshot of example of popular times graph

Bottom line

You can try to avoid shopping rush hour in many different ways: by not shopping on the weekends, by going in the early morning or late at night, or by taking advantage of the time everyone else seems to be at work.

However, don’t forget that each grocery store is different. By talking to an employee at your local shop, you will not only find out the best time to go there, but you might also learn a thing or two about their sales week and other shopping perks.

For even more grocery shopping tips, check out our other articles on the blog.

And, as always, don’t forget that shopping with a well thought-out grocery list is a key to a headache-free experience. Our free shopping list app Going Shopping will be of huge help with that. Download it here!

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