Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a trip to the supermarket has almost become a military operation. Have I got my shopping list ready so I can be speedy in the store? And when is the quietest time to go? Over the past few months, the major supermarkets have seen a pattern to their busiest times and it's helpful to know this information in advance to plan your shop. Social distancing in food aisles is a lot easier with fewer people.
With the British public once again being encouraged to stay at home and save lives, we've rounded up the best times to visit the supermarket - from Sainsbury's to Aldi and Asda.
See our guide to supermarket shopping times below…
Tesco told HELLO! that busy shopping times vary from store to store - however, customers have adapted their shopping habits since lockdown. More people are doing their food shopping in the week, instead of leaving it to weekends, meaning the flow of customers is more evenly spread out throughout the week.
To get specific information on your nearest store's quieter times, you can use the nifty 'Popular times' feature on Google. Simply type the name of the store and location into the Google search bar and a bar graph will appear under the address details. This tells you the busy times of each day of the week and even has a 'live' function so you can see if the store is busy or quiet at that moment. Life-changing!
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Supermarkets reveal when is the best time to get your groceries
The Aldi website has some helpful information on its busiest times with a brilliant clock chart system for customers. The supermarket says that between 8am and 10am it is 'quite busy', while late morning is its busiest time. Midday to mid-afternoon is a little quieter and 7pm to 10pm is the quietest times in the stores. Cue evening shopping excursions…
To control the number of people in stores throughout the day, Aldi has also implemented a new automated traffic light system. Set up at the entrances are red lights that only turn green when there is enough space inside for customers to enter and continue to follow the two-metre social distancing rules. Aldi explained they calculate the number of people allowed inside based on the size of individual shops.
READ: 10 ways to stay safe when shopping at the supermarket
Like most supermarkets, Morrisons is quieter later in the day. At the start of April, the company tweeted: "Thank you to our customers for continuing to shop considerately. We're generally less busy later in the day so if you'd like to shop when it's quieter, and are able to, try visiting us in the afternoon to get the essentials you need."
Lidl has introduced a great traffic light system on its website so we can find the quietest time to shop. They reveal that 8am to 11am is their busiest time, 11am to 2pm is average and 2pm until close is quiet. The company does point out that some stores will differ so we advise checking on the Google feature we mentioned above plus local store opening hours.
Social distancing in food aisles is a lot easier if you time your food shop for when there is fewer people
A Sainsbury's spokesperson told HELLO!: "(Busy) times will vary depending on the store but our customers are seeing good availability and can get most products at any time throughout the day."
We used the Google 'Popular Times' feature to check a Sainsbury's supermarket's busy times – our example was in Surrey – and quiet times are first thing in the morning and the evenings.
CEO Mike Couple said in a newsletter to customers: "We are doing our best to reduce queuing times both inside and outside our stores. To help with this, we have been extending our opening hours. By Monday the vast majority of our supermarkets will be open from 08.00-22.00." He added: "We are also extending opening hours in many Convenience stores to 10pm or 11pm. You can check the latest opening hours in your area before shopping here."
MORE: Essential supermarket rules to know: Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and more
Asda doesn't have information on specific quiet times, however, you can use the Google feature as detailed above for information on your nearest store.
The Asda website states: "Where necessary, the number of customers in our stores will be limited at any one time so social distancing can be observed." The supermarket has also requested 'one adult per trolley' where possible.
Many Asda supermarkets are now open 24 hours a day, meaning stores are less crowded. They have also launched a virtual queuing app, Quidini, for all 421 superstores, meaning you can wait comfortably in your car for a slot if the store is busy.
The quietest time to shop at M&S Foodhalls is midweek and late in the afternoons, according to Google data. In addition, the supermarket has introduced a new Sparks Book & Shop service, available in participating stores nationwide, which allows you to book a specific shopping slot to avoid the crowds.
"Our Sparks Book & Shop service allows customers to reserve a shopping slot at a time that suits them and removes the need to queue outside", they explained.
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