Shopping for groceries can be an exercise in frustration, fraught with experiences you'd rather avoid.
The ideal? Lots of checkout lanes, wide aisles, and consistently fresh meat and produce -- like at Wegmans, one of several stores which got top ratings in the October issue of Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports grocery store survey polled 24,000 readers to identify what they call the country's best supermarkets.
"You can start out right when you get to our store where you can drop your kids off, so parents can shop without having to take their kids with them," said Wegmans store manager Craig Franklin. "You would next maybe grab a coffee. You might take home an already prepared meal."
"People need to know that grocery shopping is a game, and if you know how to play the game you can save yourself a lot of time and a lot of money," Consumer Reports senior editor Kim Kleman told "Good Morning America Weekend Edition."
The top ranked stores were Wegmans and Trader Joe's. Top regional chains were Wegmans in the Northeast; Publix and Harris Teeter in the South; Raley's in California; and Hy-Vee in the Midwest.
"All of these stores, especially the regional ones, did well because of their selection and their produce and their convenience," Kleman said.
Super Stores Score Well
But while these stores are good for fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, don't count out super stores like Costco, another top performer in the survey.
"You go to your stores like Wal-Mart Supercenter or Costco for most of your staples -- paper towels, toilet paper, soups and cereals," Kleman said.
While Consumer Reports identified what we want to see in our supermarkets, it also found that no store was one size fits all.
"We're telling people to combine shopping," Kleman said. "Go to two stores -- one for your staples and that sort of thing where you're going to save yourself money, and another for your produce and your meats."
Smart Shopping Tips
Check out online grocery stores.
Amazon.com recently launched an online supermarket featuring more than 1,200 brands and 14,000 packaged food and nonfood items with free ground shipping on orders of more than $25. Most products are sold in multi-packs. This may make sense for people who want to stock up. For more information on online grocery stores click here.
Make a list and stick to it.
Supermarkets are designed to encourage shoppers to shop in a counterclockwise direction. Walk clockwise and you'll bypass traffic.
Beware of store ads.
Watch out for misleading messages in circulars, such as ambiguous wording and incorrect images.
Try store brands.
Store brands can be significantly cheaper than name brands. In the magazine's tests of 65 products -- from facial tissues to canned peaches -- many store brands were at least as high in quality as national brands.
Look on the top and bottom shelves.
The middle or eye-level shelves are prime selling space, which is where the more expensive items are placed.
It's worth paying extra for organic foods to minimize exposure to chemicals and potential toxins.
Look at store circulars online. You can comparison shop and save valuable in-store time.
For the full report, click here.