How to bag groceries

With Covid-19 raging across the land, grocery shopping has changed. More people are ordering online for pickup or home delivery, but in-store shopping has changed, too.

Many people shop less often to minimize their potential exposure, and have more in their carts at the checkout line. Once-weekly shopping trips have replaced frequent trips for a few items.

If you’re not using a self-checkout line, and there’s no bagger, you can help the checker and speed up the line by bagging your own groceries. It’s not hard, but there’s a technique. Instead of throwing items willy-nilly into bags:

Put canned goods, bottles, milk cartons, and other heavy items on the bottom. Think of them as ballast, like on a boat. If there’s a lot of them, spread them among several bags.

Put boxed goods in the middle and eggs, produce, and light bulbs on top. Obviously so you don’t crush the eggs and lettuce, or breakables, but also because a grocery bag balances better with the lighter stuff on top. A top-heavy bag is prone to tip over when set down.

Group similar items. For example, keep freezer items and refrigerator together. They’ll keep each other cold. This also makes it easier to put them away when you get home.

Fill bags 3/4ths full, not to overflowing. So they don’t overflow. Otherwise the contents may spill in the parking lot or your car trunk.

Use bags that are strong enough. Many stores won’t let you bring in reusable grocery bags for the duration, which means using in their paper or plastic (where allowed) bags. If you fill a flimsy paper bag with cans, expect it to rip. If a bag seems doubtful, carry it from car to kitchen with one arm around it and one hand under it.

Think about weight distribution. Don’t just throw stuff in; think like a backpacker. Layer the contents with items of similar weight. You want a well-balanced load. This keeps the bag from tipping over when you set it down.

Use space well. Throwing in items willy-nilly wastes space and uses unnecessary bags. Pack it, like you would a backpack or dishwasher. You can get more pots, pans, and dishes into dishwasher racks if you arrange them neatly. Same is true of bagging groceries.

Work fast. Remember, the point of bagging your groceries is to speed up the line, so the people behind you don’t have to wait as long, and to get out of the store quicker to lessen your exposure to their germs. It’s pointless to do it yourself if you’re slow as a slug.

Don’t expect to bag like a pro at first. (Actually, most checkers and baggers I’ve watched aren’t very good, so this isn’t asking for much.) It takes practice, and you get better with experience. Make a conscious effort to keep improving your technique. And remember, if you need instruction about how to do something, there’s YouTube.

Top photo: Make a checker happy by bagging your own groceries if he doesn’t have a bagger working with him, to speed up the line and so he doesn’t have to do it. Bottom photo: You don’t want to spend any more time in THIS line than you absolutely have to! Bag your groceries fast and get the hell out of there before somebody starts coughing!  

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