Why it's not worth waiting on the express line at the grocery store

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Choosing the correct line at the grocery store can often be a decision that either makes or breaks your day. Make the wrong decision and you can be stuck behind that person. We've all been there.

Thankfully, the New York Times has laid out some great tips about how to choose the fastest checkout line. And one nugget has shattered everything we thought we knew was true.

Turns out, according to the Times, that getting on the express checkout line at the store isn't always the best idea. That's because there's a fixed amount of time a shopper spends at the checkout exchanging common courtesies, choosing what bags they want, paying, gathering their purchases, etc.

RELATED: 5 tricks grocery stores use to make you spend more

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5 tricks grocery stores use to make you spend more
1. Staples are placed in the back

Necessities such as milk and eggs are always packed in the rear, so consumers have to walk through the entirety of the store even if they just want to pick up a few things.

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2. Flowers and bakery items are in the front

These fragrant and visually appealing products are deliberately placed in the front of the store to activate shoppers' salivary glands and makes them hungry, which leads them to buy more during their trip. These are also high margin departments, so grocers place them in the front when a shopper's cart is empty and they're more likely to add to it.

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3. Fresh produce is near the front

These bright and aesthetic items excite the eye, prompting consumers to spend more.

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4. Shelving is based on adult shopping habits and children's habits

Expensive and leading brands are at eye-level, and kid-friendly products like sugary cereals are typically at kids' eye-level.

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5. Foods are paired together

Shoppers are much more likely to buy a complementing item if it's right next to it, such as chips and salsa, or bread and spreads.

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The Times spoke to Dan Meyer, a former math teacher and chief academic officer at the startup Desmos, who says this amount of time — 41 seconds on average — could slow down the express line, if there are more people waiting to pay for fewer items. The Times writes:

Think of it this way: One person with 100 items to be rung up will take an average of almost six minutes to process. If you get in a line with four people who each have 20 items, it will take an average of nearly seven minutes.

Mind-blowing, isn't it?

But the unfortunate truth is, individual checkout lines are slowing us all down, express line or not. According to Bill Hammack, an engineer who has a YouTube channel that explains how everyday things function, when a grocery lane has a number of different lanes to choose from, probability is working against you. In other words, you're most likely to choose a line that's not the fastest one.

Hammack says the solution is to get rid of checkout lanes and have one central queue that gets you to multiple registers. Many Trader Joe's stores in New York City work this way:

The New York Times' story has a lot more great tips about choosing the right line. Check them all out here. They might not solve all of your life's problems, but at least they'll give you something to think about next time you're waiting in line.

RELATED: 12 ways to slash your grocery bill

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Buy in bulk
Even if you don't think you need a bulk amount of an item, you can always find a way to use it, especially if it's a dry good or item you can store for a long time. It'll save you down the road.

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Memorize rock bottom prices
You may have to jot down the prices you pay for certain items a few times before you can gauge the maximum price you should pay every time you shop for that item.Eventually, you'll commit it to memory.

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Research specific stores' policies
Certain grocery stores will price match or honor deals from other grocery stores, while some might have certain designated deals on different items on certain days of the week. Research before you shop.

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Buy a mix of name brand and generic brand products
For dry goods and condiments, stick to generic brand. For products like meat and dairy, stick to a brand you trust.

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Skip out on anything prepared, pre-packaged or pre-sliced
It's almost always more expensive than buying bulk ingredients and using them to prepare on your own. 

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Leave the kids at home (if possible)
"How did eight boxes of fruit snacks get into the cart?"

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Don't buy boneless chicken or meat
It will cost you the price of the meat plus the cost of preparation. Buy with bone-in and prep the meat yourself.

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Take advantage of "buy one, get one" deals
Especially if they're items like meat or bread, which can be frozen and stored for quite a while.

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Plan meals around when things go on sale
Instead of planning out your meals for the week and shopping for the appropriate ingredients, figure out when certain items go on sale, buy them and plan your meals around those ingredients.

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Look at the unit price
It's possible, for example, that buying two boxes of 10 granola bars is cheaper than buying one box of 20, based on the price per unit.

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Look up, then look down
Grocery stores tend to stock their most expensive items at eye-level. Look at the top and bottom rows for cheaper items.

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Skip out on personal care items
Your best bet for these kinds of items is drugstores.

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