When are grocery stores least crowded? Google has the stats

Mother and three kids shopping for produce
Photo: Andersen Ross (Getty Images)

It’s 2020, which means a trip to the grocery store involves a few extra steps. We wear masks. We sanitize our carts. We do our best to avoid that one lawless individual cruising the wrong way down the socially-distanced snack foods aisle. And now, thanks to a new report from Google, we can further reduce human contact by shopping during proven low-traffic hours.


Google recently published a roundup of Google Maps insights. The stats analyze how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed consumers’ shopping, driving, and dining habits, projecting trends for this holiday season. The company also dug into consumer foot traffic patterns, and the findings are pretty useful: according to the report, grocery stores tend to be the busiest on Saturday afternoons between 1 and 3 p.m., and they’re the least crowded on Mondays around 8 a.m. Another fun note: the report found that coffee shops tend be the busiest Saturdays at 10 a.m. and the least busy on Tuesdays at 4 p.m., which is something to consider if you’ve been hesitant to pop out for a Starbucks run during the pandemic.

Overall, Google’s findings are helpful for those of us who get the willies puttering around the potentially bacteria-ridden grocery store, but don’t qualify to shop during designated reduced-capacity hours. At my local Jewel, those low-traffic hours are reserved for seniors and immunocompromised shoppers. And while grocery shopping during normal hours is pretty hard to avoid, the CDC does caution customers to limit visits whenever possible. Personally, I do a weekly Big Shop on Sundays—but Google’s findings might just prompt me to switch up my routine and stock up on the essentials on Monday mornings before work. Seems like a practical way to start the work week—plus, there’s nothing like the smell of fresh produce in the morning.

Staff writer @ The Takeout, joke writer elsewhere. Wrangling dogs and pork shoulder in Chicago.


Lars Vargas is still suspicious of 2021's motives

I grocery shop once a week. Did it before the pandemic, so nothing has really changed except for wearing a mask and carrying hand sanitizer.

I’ve found Sunday 7:00am to 7:30am is ideal. (The store I go to opens at 7:00am on Sunday.) Anything later and “the cattle” have started to wake and get out and about.

I hate to be the pedantic bearer of bad news, but grocery stores have always been bacteria-laden. They were pretty dirty places before the pandemic and a good bit of the Covid prevention stuff (Covid being caused by a virus, and not a bacteria) hasn’t changed that. Some has, however, so they’re probably cleaner from that perspective.

The good news is most of those bacteria are harmless or even helpful, so no biggie on that front. Killing any Covid-19 virus present and preventing the spread of it is why we’re wearing masks, sanitizing carts, keeping our hands drunk, and avoiding other humans.

I guess the best part is that it’s still quiet at “my” grocery store at 7:00am Sundays.