Hassle-Proof Your Errands: 20 Little Tips That Will Make Life So Much Better

Save time and make your trips to the grocery store or post office a breeze.

Run errands during the week

iStock/Steve Debenport

More than 90 percent of people do errands on the weekends, meaning stores will be packed and traffic will be a nightmare. Running out on a weeknight will get you in and out in half the time. Once the kids are in bed, have one parent stay home while the other drives to the store. You’ll miss the crowds and keep your weekend free for fun and family. Here's how shopping in the morning can save money.

Turn on a podcast

iStock/Courtney Keating

Radio music—and its deejays and commercials—can get intense. Switch off the FM and plug in your phone so you can listen to a podcast or audio book. You’ll be more relaxed, and the time will fly as you get engrossed in the story.

Keep a cooler and basket in the trunk


A cooler will keep your cold and frozen groceries at the right temperature as you finish your shopping, while a basket makes it easy to carry lots of bags into the house in a single trip. Here are more neat tricks for organizing your car.

Make the most of your time


Never run out for just one task. Save time, gas, and stress by getting more than one thing done when you’re out of the house. After dropping your kid off at soccer practice, drop off your dry cleaning or pick up a gallon of milk from the grocery store.

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Store water bottles in the freezer


When you need to run errands in the heat of summer, you’ll want cool water waiting for you. Keep a few bottles of water frozen at all times so you can grab a drink that will stay cold while you’re running from store to store. These are other genius ways to use your freezer.

Set up an errand center in your home


Keeping all the objects you’ll need to complete your errands—packages to be mailed, dry cleaning to be delivered, library books to be returned—in one place will make it easy to get out the door when you get the chance. Designate a space by the door or in your car as a visual reminder of what needs to get done.

Buy in bulk


Picking up big batches of items like toilet paper, dog food, and tampons means fewer trips to the store and less time running errands. Plus, you save money by buying bulk packages or stocking up while the items are on sale. Here's what to always (and never) buy at big-box stores.

Use long lines for “me time”


Instead of griping about how long your wait to the cash register is, think of it as a few peaceful moments to yourself. Close your eyes (don’t be self-conscious!) and imagine yourself sitting on a quiet beach or getting a massage. Take several deep breaths while you mentally escape to that place. You’ll be much more relaxed, and you can wait in line with less frustration. P.S.: Here's why your line seems slower than everyone's.

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Practice mindfulness


Performing a “walking meditation” while you shop will keep you engaged with your task instead of letting your mind wander to other stressors. By the end of your trip, you’ll have more energy and less frustration. Pay attention to the bright colors of the produce, the scents wafting from the bakery, and the feeling of each step you take.

Do someone else’s errands


If you have an elderly neighbor or know a mother with young kids, offer to add some of their tasks to your to-do list. Studies have shown that helping others can reduce stress.

Tune out


Instead of drowning out your thoughts with music, keep the radio off when you’re driving and allow your own thoughts to come to you. The stimuli of everyday life can be overwhelming, so this is your chance to recharge your energy in the silence.

Make toting your kids less of a headache


Figure out the best time of day for your kid to be out running errands. For toddlers, that’s probably in the morning, before naptime. Stock your car with snacks, juices, toys, diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes. Keep the errands interesting for your child by playing peekaboo while shopping, or ask if a post office worker or dry cleaner will give your kid a tour to make it a learning experience.

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Stash an “errand bag” in your car


Keep greeting cards and envelopes, bills to be paid, and unread magazines in your car. Whenever you find yourself waiting for soccer practice to end or the nurse to call you in, you can spend your time productively.

Keep a grocery list on your phone


You probably buy the same things on most of your grocery runs. Instead of writing a new list every week, keep an ongoing list on your phone, which makes it easy to add and remove items. Organize your list in the order you’ll find them at the store. For instance, if you start near the produce section, write the fruits and vegetables first. Here's what nutritionists always do at the grocery store (that you might not).

Reward yourself

iStock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

To keep yourself motivated while you’re out, add a little luxury to your shopping list. Treat yourself with nice bath soap, a bouquet of flowers, or your favorite craft beer.

Keep yourself entertained


Errands will seem like less of a chore if you mix in something you enjoy. Stash a book in your purse so you can dig it out when waiting in line or download an e-reader app on your phone.

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Keep an ongoing errands list


Write down your usual tasks, along with the ones you keep forgetting to do, like buying socks for your kid or making a vet appointment for the dog, in a notepad. Carry it with you so you don’t miss anything when you’re out. When you’re home, stash it where the rest of your family can access it and jot down their needs.

Buy online as much as possible

iStock/Sasa Dinic

The possibilities are endless: order groceries, buy stamps, cash checks, and renew library books online. Giving your credit card number over a secured server is safer than stating your number over the phone, and sometimes safer than handing your card over at a store.

Alternate tasks with your neighbor

iStock/Izabela Habur

Make a deal with your neighbors in which you do the grocery shopping one week, and they take care of it the next. You can watch each other’s kids when it’s your turn to stay home, and both of you will make fewer trips to the supermarket. Or plan to go grocery shopping with a friend. You’ll have more fun with the social support, and your kids might behave better with someone else present.

Have dad run errands with the kids


Kids who cook, clean, and run errands with their dads have more friends and are better behaved, according to a University of California study. Make sure your partner (or you, if you’re a dad) takes the kids along every now and then. As a bonus, wives of men who do chores with their kids find their husbands more attractive.

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