Chicago mom: How to get out of Costco in 20 minutes

Wholesale shopping can be hugely time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. You’re not at Costco (or Sam’s Club or wherever you buy bulk light bulbs) for your health or happiness, so I’m here to get you in, out, and back to your soap operas and bubble baths (or whatever it is that people think stay-at-home parents do all day).

First up: Stop thinking about those soap operas and bubble baths. They’re not gonna happen for you right now.

OK. So. You’re at the store and you’ve parked. My advice is to take the first spot you spy, regardless of how far away it actually is. You’ll save half an hour by not circling for that first row space like a vulture, and besides, you’ll have a fully functional shopping cart with you upon your return; it’s not like you’re hefting a slain bison on your back.

Hugely important: Be nice to those membership card checkers. Those folks have the ability to make or break your exit from the establishment. And ooh, do they remember you. Don’t believe me? Watch and notice the difference between patrons who get the peace sign upon their exit and the ones who have Every. Item. In. Their. Cart. Checked. Yet again, it really pays to just be nice.

Actually in the store now? Stroll up the electronics aisle to better scope the rest of the foot traffic. Because seriously, have you ever seen a crush of people jamming the camera counter or, for that matter, the jewelry department? No. No, you haven’t.

And keep walking past the wine fridges and water filtration systems. That’s not why you’re here. Stop it.

Sprint through the bakery and yes, absolutely, grab a tray of croissants (for the catered event I call Eating Half Of Them In My Car), but don’t get bogged down staring at the sheet cakes. Do you really need a sheet cake? No.

Welcome to the dairy section! If you have kids, this is probably why you’re shopping here in the first place. I’m glad we freed up some minutes in the other departments; you’re gonna need them here, what with choosing between the 15 kinds of milk, not to mention preparing for the downright Arctic conditions in this room. (Also, why is the milk being stored in its own sub-zero room? I’ve been buying milk from grocery stores for years; I’ve never before felt the need to be part of the refrigeration experience.)

Knock some paper towels and toilet paper into your cart. Ignore the five-box carton of Lucky Charms oddly being stored over said paper goods. Ignore them. (Go back for them.)

Keep running. Grab some hunks of lamb and maybe a wheel of cheese on your way by the free-for-all called ‘sample carts.’ I know you want to stop; I do too. But fight the urge to see why folks, five-deep, are elbowing each other in the face. I realize that we, as a competitive society, never want to feel as though we’re missing out on “our share,” but honestly. They’re handing out rigatoni in Dixie cups and spoonfuls of instant oatmeal. Have some pride.

Halloween costume aisle! Here’s a handy tip to see whether or not this section is worth your time: ask yourself, is it Halloween? If not, avoid! (Same applies for pre-lit Christmas trees. And unless you’re planning to dress 11 of your differently sized children in matching fleece pajamas, you can probably nix the entire center of the store.)

Next, grab an oddly shaped loaf of bread that’ll never fit anywhere except your countertop (where it’ll take up space until it molds – it is so much bread). Swing by the diaper aisle and pick up a box so embarrassingly large that you’ll immediately feel the need to go plant a tree.

Now race back towards the electronics aisle (trust me) and hop into the checkout line closest to the entrance. Boom. Say see ya later to the people crammed into the first three checkout lines at the back of the store.

And there, you did it! Out of Costco in 20 minutes with only the basics . . . and that thousand count box of Raisinets.

Baby steps.

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