So you finally got yourself into the grocery game. Been coming for years with mom and now it’s finally time to see what life’s like from the other side of the conveyor belt? Sure the tabloid headlines may get a little boring after a while, but it’s good work that moves you quickly through your day. There’s just one problem: you have no idea how to bag groceries.
You may have thought that it was all pretty much common sense—don’t bruise the bananas or crush the bread. But all it takes is one boastful employee talking about their bagging abilities, or one cross customer who didn’t like the way you handled their eggs.
If you’ve gotten yourself into a jar of pickles at your new grocery store job, have no fear: we’ve got all the tips you need to go from zero to produce-hero in just a few quick steps. Sure, some of it is intuitive, but a lot of it just comes from experience—and when you don’t have that, you have to read about it here.
Follow these steps below and tomorrow your boss will surely notice a major difference in the way you handle your loaves. Good luck!
Choose Your Bag
It’s simple: paper or plastic?
Some stores in different states have banned certain bags, and question might now have become: did you bring your own bags today sir/ma’am?
Either way, it’s important to tackle that upfront because people are specific about that sort of thing.
Pro tip: know when to double bag. Almost always with plastic bags, and sometimes a paper bag with “sweaty” frozen products that are sure to drain all over the long car ride home. Use your discretion, just make sure the bag doesn’t break before it goes in the car.
Separate and Sort Items
This one can be tricky, but we’ll try to handle it together: group the groceries as best as you can by raw meats, cooked meats, produce & ready-to-eat items, dairy, cleaning products, eggs and other fragile items.
There’s a lot of reasoning behind how and why you do this, but what’s primarily important to know is that you want to keep like foods together.
Beyond the health benefits that we’re about to dive into, this will help you to somewhat plan out your bagging strategy. That’s going to make it easier to load everything into the cart later, and leave you feeling like King of the Aisle.
Pack Like Items In Bags & Avoid Cross Contamination
The main reason that you pack items in separate groups is to avoid what’s called cross-contamination. Pathogens from raw meat may get onto fresh produce if they’re knocking around in the same bag. That can lead to transmission of harmful diseases from the raw meat.
Similarly, eggs, if cracked, can drip Salmonella onto your bread if you’re not careful, and cleaning products can transmit chemicals into your fruit.
Here’s a tricky one: If there is only one bag, because they “went green” and brought their own canvas tote, what do you do?
For starters, wrap raw meats and other raw/perishable foods in plastic bags and tie them. Then stuff them to the bottom. This will help keep them safe and you looking savvy.
Pack the Heaviest & Most Durable Items First
That said, it’s important that you don’t just throw produce down at the bottom of a bag, especially when you’ve got some canned peaches left to be packed. This one may seem like common sense to some, but is far too often a problem for young baggers.
Don’t let the soft, light stuff go in first. You’re going to end up with deformed groceries at home, and some sweet little old lady who’s all broken up about her now-flat baguette.
In short: make sure that the most durable items are in first so that you can plan properly for weight and also so that you can protect the grapes from certain squishy wrath.
Don’t Overstuff a Bag
While it can be tempting to see how much you can expertly pack into one bag, don’t get caught up in the game. It’s not worth it. Because while you may be able to lift two bags full of Newman’s Own tomato sauce over your head with ease, the aforementioned little old lady may have a harder time.
When you overstuff the bag you run into two problems: the first being that it inconveniences the customer who then has to lift that heavy bag in and out of their car. The second is that you’re running the risk of spills. Things could fall out, break, or draw negative attention to the customer on their way out.
Be smart: don’t overdo it.
Ask if the Customer Would Like Assistance
Finally, the last bit of common sense that can escape many a bagger: ask if your customer needs help. Even if you’re jammed up with a line, there’s sure to be an employee close by that can lend your full-cart customer a hand to their car.
It goes a long way in terms of customer service, and they’re sure to remember your friendly face next Monday when they’re back for more.