8 tips for bagging groceries, according to someone who does it every day

McIninch/iStockThe number one rule: bag like items with other like items.
  • INSIDER spoke with a grocery store employee to determine the best way to bag groceries.
  • All like items should be bagged together.
  • Some items should be bagged separately from everything else to ensure no cross-contamination or damage.
  • Setting your bagger up for success can result in a quicker checkout process and less damaged items.

Whether working at a grocery store or shopping for yourself, learning the correct way to bag groceries is super helpful in making the grocery shopping process more efficient.

Proper bagging technique is also essential to keep perishable foods safe, delicate foods unbroken, and heavy items from breaking your bag (or your back).

INSIDER spoke with an employee with six years of experience at HEB, a supermarket chain with over 350 stores throughout Texas and Mexico, to find out what is the best way to bag groceries.

According to Jennifer Galliardt, a customer service representative and member of the curbside grocery department at HEB in Boerne, Texas, the most important rule to bagging is that like items go with one another in separate bags.

Raw meat should always be bagged separately from other items.

Getty Images/William Thomas CainPutting meat in its own bag prevents cross-contamination.

When dealing with raw meat, shoppers always need to be aware of two things – temperature and cross-contamination.

Jennifer told INSIDER that it is best to “bag cold meat together, making sure all meat is individually placed in [its] own clear plastic bag.” This reduces the risk of cross-contamination of bacteria to other items. It is especially important to make sure raw meat never comes in contact with fresh, un-packaged products like produce or bakery items.

Bagging cold meat together also helps keep it at a cooler temperature, which is essential to keeping it safe to eat.

Cold items like frozen and dairy products should be bagged together.

baibaz/ iStockThe best way to keep things cold is to put them with other cold things.

For dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt, and sour cream, the best way to keep items at the proper temperature is to bag them together. The same goes for frozen items like frozen dinners, ice cream, and ice.

An insulated bag with ice packs is the best way to transport cold and frozen items from the store to your home, especially if you have a long drive home or have planned a stop after your shopping.

However, for a short trip home using standard grocery bags, bagging all cold and frozen groceries in one bag will help the products stay cooler longer.

Produce should be bagged together and separately from other items, with heavy produce on the bottom.

Flickr/Jason ParisProduce should be kept with other produce.

Since we often eat the skin of fruits and vegetables, it’s very important that produce is placed in a bag separate from anything that could cause harm if ingested, such as toiletries, household cleaners, and raw meat.

Many produce items are delicate, so to avoid damaging soft fruits and vegetables, its best to bag produce with the heaviest items (potatoes, melons, etc.) in the bottom of the bag and place soft items (avocado, bananas, tomatoes, etc.) on top.

Toiletries and household items should be placed in their own bags.

Radu Bercan/ShutterstockSomething might leak.

You never know when your shampoo bottle will leak or a bathroom cleanser will pop open, so to avoid damaging or contaminating any food, all household items and toiletries should be bagged separately.

For dry groceries, there is a special “wall” method you can use.

Mike Mozart/FlickrYou can protect more delicate groceries.

Jennifer told INSIDER that the secret to bagging dry groceries (pasta, cereal, jars, snacks, etc.) is to “build walls with boxes on [the] outside” of your bag and “fill in the middle” with fragile items such as chips.

This method not only ensures that your fragile items don’t get damaged by heavy jars and boxes but also maximizes bag space.

When it comes to heavy items, less is more.

When bagging heavy groceries such as cans, juice, soda, and jars, the temptation can be to pack all heavy items together. However, this can result in a bag that is too heavy to carry and may potentially rip.

Since no one wants their groceries strewn across the footpath, Jennifer advises to “bag no more than six cans per bag” to avoid overloading. By adding lighter items on top, this evenly distributes the weight of the heaviest items across all of your grocery bags, making them easier to carry.

To ensure delicate items make it home safely, bag them separately from everything else.

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesBag delicate things separately.

Crushed eggs and smushed bread are every shopper’s nightmare. So, to make sure these fragile groceries arrive home undamaged, Jennifer suggests bagging eggs alone and putting all bakery products (bread, buns, tortillas, pastries, etc.) in a bag together.

This way, shoppers know exactly which bags contain the most delicate items and can better protect them during transit.

For shoppers looking to make their checkout experience go more quickly, set your bagger up for success.

tetmc/ iStockOrganisation starts in the grocery basket.

Jennifer’s best tip is to make things easier for your bagger by “keeping everything organised together in [your] basket as you would bag [it].”

This way, you can unload the items onto the conveyor belt in groups that coincide with how the items should be bagged. Frozen items with frozen items, meat with meat, dairy with dairy, etc. The bagger can then work quickly to get your items in their respective bags and get you on your way as quickly as possible.

If you leave the store and find that your items aren’t bagged perfectly, Galliardt told INSIDER that baggers “hope you can understand … we are timed.”

Many grocery store chains use metrics such as how long transactions take from start to finish to determine how well their staff is doing and to track a store location’s efficiency. Often grocery store staff is encouraged to meet a certain transaction time.

If shoppers keep this in mind and do their best to organise their groceries prior to checkout, the process can be faster and easier for everyone involved.

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