9 Tips for Bagging Your Own Groceries (Because We Know You’re Using the Self-Checkout)

If you've always wondered how to bag your groceries we can help! We have the tips to help you keep things efficient, organized and mess-free.

Male carrying bag in his hand after shopping.Shutterstock / ARIMAG

You’re a grocery expert. You not only have your own grocery bags, but you know exactly what you want to shop for before you enter the store because you’re a list-making genius. Exercising masterful discipline and efficiency, you’re in and out of the store in 10 minutes flat—partially thanks to the magic of the self-checkout.

And that’s great. But while the convenience of bagging your own groceries gets you out of the store quickly (and helps you go green), it also means you’re losing out on the speed and expertise of an experienced grocery clerk. Here are a few tips for bagging groceries when you’re doing it yourself:

1. Think Like a Grocer

Grocery bags are dirtier than you realize. Raw chicken, dirt from fresh produce, dust from boxes—it all adds up. That’s why you need to think like an experienced grocery clerk when you bag. Don’t cram your wares indiscriminately into the bag. Give it some forethought. A little planning doesn’t only go a long way—it also spares you an unpleasant mess when you finally unload the groceries on your kitchen counter at home.

2. Categorize!

A package of raw chicken should not make contact with your finger foods. And we shouldn’t have to tell you why. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid making that chicken noodle casserole, either. The first rule of effective bagging is categorization. Separate your raw meats from your bakery goods. Keep toiletries and bathroom items together. This compartmentalization might seem excessive at first, but eventually it will become a habit that makes unpacking your groceries a cinch.

3. Start Heavy, End Small

Go ahead—just try putting a loaf of bread at the bottom of a bag. OK, this is a list of tips for bagging groceries, not ruining them. We don’t really want you to do that. If you start with the light food, the heavy food is inevitably going to crush it to smithereens. Instead, start loading by the heaviest items first.

4. Separate the Delicate Items

Ever hear the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”? Nonsense. You want your eggs in their own container—and their own container alone. Eggs are a classic “delicate” item, which means you want them separate and protected. Other fragile items—such as a glass vase you picked up at the superstore—should also be packed separately. Now…are you taking eggs out of the carton the right way?

5. Use the Cart If You Have To

When you push yourself beyond your capacity (see below), you start making mistakes. Don’t try strong-arming everything for quickness’s sake. Instead, use the cart—that’s what they’re there for.

6. Don’t Push It

Pushing a bag to its maximum capacity might seem efficient, but it’s not. Instead, it makes carrying your groceries awkward—and even makes spillage a downright inevitability. When it comes to bagging convenience, think smart, not heavy.

7. Wrap Your Meats First

Wrap up your meats in a plastic bag to ensure they don’t leak and spill into your bag—or make unwanted contact with delicate items like fresh produce and vegetables.

8. Reuse When Possible

Re-using your own grocery bag is a great way to go green. But even if you use the self-checkout with plastic bags, store them in the kitchen for later use.

9. Learn From Mistakes

You may not get it right the first time. Or even the second time. But as you bag your own groceries, remember the mistakes you made. You’ll be rewarded with fresh, uncontaminated, properly organized food when you finally make it home.

If anyone else ever bags your groceries again, make sure you’re not making these annoying mistakes.

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Dan Kenitz
Dan Kenitz is a freelance writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has published both fiction and non-fiction and has been writing freelance since 2009.