Look to your favorite store's sales cycle, especially if you're trying to stick to a budget.

By Dana McMahan
February 07, 2020

If you've ever walked into a grocery store then wanted to turn around and walk out when you saw the mob scene—all the while wondering, "How can there be no carts left?"—you may have wished you knew the secret timing for when you should shop. Many of us end up grocery shopping on the weekend by default, especially if we work from Monday through Friday, nine to five. The trouble with that is, it seems like everybody else is there at the same time.

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Now, weekend shopping does have its advantages, says shopping expert Joanie Demer of Krazy Coupon Lady. On Sundays, "with new manufacturer coupons coming out in newspaper inserts and special pricing, this is a great day for deals on food." But there are definite downfalls, says meal planner Jess Dang, the founder of Cook Smarts, who recommends avoiding shopping on the weekends—especially on Sundays if possible. "You're dealing with more crowds, which means two things: a longer wait time for checkout and the likelihood that what you need won't be in stock," she says.

Related: Here's How to Shop for Groceries Like Martha

Prices may actually be higher on certain items on Sundays. Shopping app Ibotta's three-year case study found that Sunday was the worst day to buy snacks (which are seven percent cheaper on Fridays on average), ice cream (nine percent cheaper on Mondays), and beauty products (11 percent cheaper on Mondays). Ibotta's Millennial Shopping Report found several items quite a bit less expensive on one particular day of the week. Avocados are 25 percent cheaper on Wednesday versus Sunday; coffee is eight percent cheaper on Wednesday than Sunday; kombucha is 16 percent cheaper on Wednesday than Tuesday, the worst day to buy; and rosé is nine percent cheaper on Wednesday versus Tuesday.

So, where does that leave you, the shopper? Look to your favorite store's sales cycle, says Dang, especially if you're trying to stick to a budget, and try to plan around their weekday sales. "My personal preference is to shop on a weekday night or weekday afternoon," she says. "I'll duck out of work early one day and do it without my kids because shopping with kids is not the most productive use of my time." Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews, seconds the weekday approach. If you have some flexibility, "your best bet is to shop Monday through Thursday in the early morning or midday hours," she says. And while individual stores vary, "in general, these times tend to be less popular, so it's better for browsing or shopping at a leisurely pace."

As for which weekday is best? "The consensus for the best day to shop seems to be on Wednesday, in the morning," Ramhold says. "New deals will be out, produce and bakery selections will be fresh, and the selection should be solid. The more time that passes, the more selection and inventory will dwindle, so by the next Tuesday, there might be certain things sold out, or just a lesser selection in general."

Now, the only question is what you'll do with that time on the weekend that you're not elbowing crowds at the grocery store.

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