Retail experts share the best days and times to head to your favorite grocery stores.
As much as our shopping habits are changing (can you imagine a time without Instacart or Shipt?), there's one thing that remains the same—nobody likes a long checkout line. And while we were hopeful that a new service provided by Google Maps would help us avoid busy times at the grocery store, it seems that only insiders know when crowds are low at places like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods.
Would you be willing to tweak your schedule if you could have the aisles all to yourself and a chance to whizz through the checkout line? If so, you'll be happy to know that a few retail pros at each of the leading grocery stores have shared secrets to finding the perfect times to shop.
Our friends at EatingWell magazine uncovered one particularly revealing Reddit thread (an "Ask Me Anything (AMA)" section) where Trader Joe's managers confirmed our suspicions—Saturdays and Sundays are the worst days to shop at Trader Joe's. But another employee revealed when Trader Joe's is most likely to get fresh products as well as when they're least busy.
"Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days. Early morning… right when we open is honestly the best time to go," the employee writes. "We get fresh produce in every morning so you can get the best products, and some stuff actually will sell out for the day around 2 to 4 p.m., including perishable and nonperishable items."
You're most likely to find fully stocked seasonal items (like these fall-themed finds) and shelves full of healthy frozen meals that all TJ's fans love. And because you have more time to browse, you can carefully avoid these high-sodium meals that are hiding in the frozen section, too.
Wade Taylor, a store team leader at a particularly large Whole Foods in Austin, Texas, revealed that Amazon's sale promotions for Prime members begin on Wednesdays, according an interview with NBC's Today.
"Sales vary by store, you’ll usually find items anywhere from 20 to 50 percent off. For example, during a September sale in Berkeley, California, whole chicken legs were $2 per pound (normally $4) and Horizon Organic Milk Boxes were $10 (usually priced at $15 per pack)."
Prime members can enjoy many discounts and promotions on their Whole Foods purchases all week long, but the busiest times at Whole Foods actually aren't weekends—it's dinnertime on weeknights, when many come by to pick up hot items like rotisserie chickens or meals from the hot bar, Taylor says. Those in urban areas will also see a rush during lunchtime at the hot bar as well.
Local suppliers will often come into Whole Foods on weekends to perform demos, making this period busy as well—leaving just weekday mornings the best time to beat the crowd.
If you shop at Kroger, or any of their stores, including Baker's, Smith's, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, and Harris Teeter, their weekly sales also kick off on Wednesdays. And on Friday, the grocery chain releases a new coupon for a free item at Kroger.com—you can redeem one each week, and they normally last for up to two weeks.
Kristal Howard, a corporate communications and media relations executive at the Kroger Co., told Today that all Kroger stores stock their shelves in the early morning hours, meaning the freshest products are available first thing in the morning.
Weekday afternoons between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. are often the busiest times for foot traffic, Howard said. Mornings and weekends are your best best.
Aldi is known for its ominous checkout line, which is often long given that shoppers must bring reusable bags (or buy plastic ones) before self-bagging their purchases. But if you remember to bring your favorite shopping bags (and a quarter for your cart), you can pay for your purchases much more quickly.
Weekends are more often more busy at suburban stores, but the best times to shop at Aldi coincide with when new products arrive in stores—especially limited-time groceries and home items, which are known as Aldi "Finds."
On a trip to Aldi's U.S. headquarters earlier this year, executives told Cooking Light that Aldi Finds land in stores on Wednesday or Sunday—you'll have to check your local store's website to confirm which of the two applies for your area.
Many Costco members will tell you that their local warehouses are always busy—especially since many choose to eat at Costco's food court before their shopping trip. There are more than 500 stores across the nation, but many are strategically placed to serve entire communities, so finding a perfect time to shop isn't easy.
“It is common for locations to feature additional samples and roadshows on the weekends," one Costco customer service representative tells Today. "Our high volume sales allow us to replenish merchandise quickly, which means our members can shop with confidence any day of the week.”
But this Business Insider article, which features input from nearly 50 Costco employees from across the nation, says Tuesday is the best day to shop at local warehouses. Just remember that Costco doesn't have express checkout lanes, so even if you're shopping for just one item, be prepared to wait in line behind those who are buying in bulk.
And remember, have your membership information ready. If you're not a Costco member, you can still shop at this members-only store using this under-the-radar hack.
There are two different memberships you can buy at Walmart's members-only wholesale store, Sam's Club—but one of them actually lets you come into stores before they've actually opened to the public.
The Sam's Club Plus membership is more than double the price of a standard membership, clocking in at $100 for an entire year—but this membership comes with so many more perks, including free shipping on all orders and exclusive discounts.
The best perk, however, is that Plus members can shop "early bird" hours Monday through Friday in the mornings, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., according to Laura Ladd Poff, a senior manager of corporate communications at Sam's Club.