Food

How to pick the fastest grocery store checkout line

You know how to speed shop through the aisles at the supermarket, but are you savvy when it comes to checking out quickly? Rather than coveting thy neighbor’s speedy checkout, why not learn how to choose the fast line yourself? To help you navigate that last part of shopping, TODAY quizzed Fun, Cheap or Free blogger Jordan Page for her top grocery store checkout tips.

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Be smart about self-checkout

1. Do self-check if the lines are long at cashier check-outs

Even if you never tried it before, if a DIY checkout is open, give it a try. They always have “coaches” on hand to walk you through occasional problems.

RELATED: 10 tips for saving money (and your sanity) at Costco and big box stores

2. Don't self check if you have a lot of produce

Think twice about self-checking if you’ve got lots of fruits and veggies. Entering produce codes slows you down and is nearly impossible if you forgot your glasses.

3. Avoid self-check if you're an avid coupon-clipper

If you have a lot of coupons, opt out of self-checking. Cashing them in can be confusing and time-consuming.

4. Know that self-check can’t handle every transaction

If you’re buying alcohol, cigarettes or lottery tickets, all require proof of age and must be handled by a cashier.

5. Make sure the self-checkout handles cash

If you need cash back or are paying in cash, make sure the self-check allows for that. Some only take credit or debit cards, others do not give cash back.

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Here's how to pick the fastest lane at the supermarket

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Here's how to pick the fastest lane at the supermarket

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Choose the right cashier

6. Avoid new cashiers or cashiers in training

If you see double staff at a checkout, that’s a sign someone’s in training. Avoid that line if you’re in a hurry.

7. Stay away from chatty cashiers

Smiling cashiers are great, but if you see one engaged in a heart-to-heart with a customer, stay away. Look for a cashier that smiles but is not too chatty.

RELATED: 17 healthy Trader Joe's items we're obsessed with

8. Avoid cashiers that sell specific items

Some cashiers are designated to also sell specific items like lottery tickets, cigarettes or alcohol. These transactions add to the check-out time.

9. Keep passing if the light’s flashing

Never go to a line with a flashing light. The cashier is either waiting for a supervisor, a price check or there’s a problem with the equipment.

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Grocery bagging championships are real-- Sheinelle and Craig show their skills

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Grocery bagging championships are real-- Sheinelle and Craig show their skills

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Eyeball your fellow customers and their carts

10. Assess the queue

You might be surprised to learn that full baskets aren’t always a bad sign. Since the average time each person spends paying for his or her purchases is fairly consistent (30 to 40 seconds), you shouldn't automatically pass a line because someone has a full basket. You may do better to stand behind a full basket as opposed to waiting for several customers to each check out a few items.

11. Look for signs of swiftness

Look for shoppers who are unloading their carts swiftly. Shoppers who are propping bottles in baby’s mouth or deep in conversation with the cashier are best avoided if you're in a hurry. And if you see a stack of coupons in a shopper’s hand, find another line. It takes time for the cashier to make sure the shopper bought that specific item, check the expiration date, then scan and store the coupon.

12. Avoid lines where shoppers have lots of fresh produce

It takes more time to weigh, count and enter UPC codes than it does to scan a can, so if time’s an issue, stand behind someone without lots of fruits and veggies.

RELATED: Shopping at big box stores with kids? Here are 8 ways to keep your sanity

13. Avoid baskets full of clothing items

Especially in big box stores, stay away from carts with lots of clothing items. These need to be taken off hangers, scanned and folded.

14. Watch out for super-large items in the cart

Someone purchasing a single, oversize item won’t cause that much of a delay. But, if the cart is already filled with groceries and the bottom is laden with large bags of dog food, that means the cashier has to leave her station and go to the basket to scan it in addition to scanning all the other groceries. Time wasted.

Do your part for smooth sailing

15. Make sure produce has a product code sticker on it

When selecting produce, make sure it has a product code sticker — even if you have to swipe one from a similar item. That saves the cashier time looking up the code, especially on unusual items like ginger root.

16. Check for price tags on seasonal and clothing items

When shopping big box stores, make sure clothing and seasonal goods have price tags on them. Nothing says s-l-o-w like hearing “Price check on lane three.”

17. Be smart when loading items onto the conveyor belt

As you load groceries onto the conveyor belt, place refrigerated items together so it’s easy for the cashier to bag them in the same bag(s). While you’re at it, put coupons with appropriate items so cashiers don’t have to double check for them at the end.

18. Load bags as they’re filled

Place bags into the shopping cart as they’re filled to keep the process flowing. If it makes sense, you can also help out by bagging your own items.

19. Swipe your card before the cashier finishes scanning

Most checkouts allow customers to insert or swipe credit or debit cards after the cashier begins scanning items. You don’t have to wait until the complete order is tallied to do so. As a courtesy, mention that you’re paying with a card so the cashier can process the payment efficiently. (This doesn’t help, however, if your card has a chip. These have to sit in place until the complete order is processed.)

RELATED: Is it safe to eat? New food labels will make it easier to know

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