What’s the best day to go to the grocery store?
It’s a simple question, but there is a surprising array of possible answers.
Are you looking for the best prices? Or the best product selection? What’s the best shopping day if you’re looking for the freshest produce, dairy, meat and seafood? Or the shortest check-out lines?
Ultimately, say the shopping experts we consulted, the best day for grocery shopping depends on you and what you want from the store.
We consider the question in a handful of different ways so read on to learn how to plan a grocery shopping trip that’s best for you.
The best time for the lowest prices
If finding the best grocery prices is your goal, the best day is when your local grocery store begins its weekly sales and discounts, says Leah Ingram, who writes about consumer issues at Real Sophisticated Consumer.
“I’ve lived in places where new discounts for the week started on a Sunday, and other places where they started on Wednesdays,” Ingram tells Money Talks News. Many grocery stores drop their new specials on Wednesdays or Thursdays, tied to their newspaper ads and other marketing outreach, she says.
Here’s a tip from Ingram: Shop sales and BOGO (buy one get one) events on the day those weekly discounts begin. This assures you access to the discounted products before others scoop them up. Wait too long, and you may encounter limited choices. What’s more, after sale items are depleted, your store may not offer old-fashioned “rain checks” that let you use the discount after the sale is over and the product is back in stock at normal prices.
The best time to beat crowds
The middle of the week is a good bet when it comes to beating the crowds, says The Supermarket Guru, Phil Lempert, who tracks the retail industry, consumer behavior and marketing trends.
He finds that the least-frenzied days for grocery shopping are Tuesdays or Wednesdays. On Mondays, he points out, you’ll find stores restocking shelves after the madness of weekend shopping.
Is there a best time of day for a grocery run? Yes, according to Lempert.
“You’ll typically find grocery stores less crowded between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” he tells Money Talks News.
The best time to beat crowds at specific stores
If you’re heading to a particular grocery store location — say, the Trader Joe’s around the corner from your home — Google likely can give you a better idea of when it’s least busy.
Google Search and Google Maps both offer a feature called “Popular times.” It’s a graph that shows up when you do a web search for a particular business or select a particular business on Google Maps. As Google explains the feature:
“This graph shows how busy your location typically is during different times of the day. Popular times are based on average popularity over the last few months. Popularity for any given hour is shown relative to the typical peak popularity for the business for the week.”
The best time for the best selection
To learn when product selection is best in a store, Ingram likes to chat with the supermarket’s manager, asking when the fresh supplies arrive.
Often that coincides with the start of sales — often a Wednesday or Thursday, she says.
The best time to snag marked-down food
There are several reasons to do your grocery shopping early in the day, says Shannon McCaig, store deals specialist at Passionate Penny Pincher.
Early morning is when McCaig finds deals on newly expired meat, seafood, dairy products and produce.
“I’ve asked in my stores’ meat departments many times and they tell me that when they get there in the mornings they look at what’s going to expire and mark it down,” she tells Money Talks News. Those marked-down items usually sell quickly to the first shoppers who spot them.
Also, shopping early gives you the first crack at the freshest produce and foods in the cold cases. And checkout lines are shorter then, with fewer shoppers in the store.
The best time to hit Costco
Ingram has been a Costco shopper since 2015. “I’ve learned that the best day of the week there is Monday and the best time of the day is first thing in the morning,” she says.
“That’s because weekends are nuts at Costco. Inventory gets cleared out,” she finds.
By Monday morning, however, the crowds are gone and the shelves are full again.
The best time for affordable produce
Shopping seasonally is another way to think about timing your grocery shopping.
You can lower grocery costs down by sticking with produce that’s in-season, says Ingram. That can mean, for instance (depending on where you live), buying apples and pears in winter and waiting until summer to buy cherries, melons and peaches, even if you do find them in your produce department in January.
“For example, if you want cucumbers in your salad in the middle of winter, you’re going to pay a premium for them,” Ingram says. “However, in summer, you’re likely to find cheaper prices at grocery stores on things like cucumbers because rather than shipping them in from overseas, they’re likely grown locally.”