Grocery shopping hacks for upper-floor apartment
June 25, 2021 9:09 AM   Subscribe

We are about to move into a high-rise apartment for the first time (high enough that we'll probably never use the stairs). I'm considering a collapsible wheeled cart along these lines so as to minimize back-and-forth elevator trips to the car. Those of you with experience: are there better options? or similar types of shopping-/stuff-hauling-related lifehacks we should be aware of?

Our current car is a typical-size SUV and we may downgrade a bit in the future, to say Subaru Forester size. We won't be within walking distance of any grocery options, though there are various other types of stores that we may walk to at times.

It's just my wife and I and two cats, so our weekly grocery volume isn't as massive as it could be. We are nevertheless planning on getting a Costco membership (which will also be a first for us; I've perused many old Costco-related AskMes already).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil to Shopping (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We used to use those clips that let you attached many plastic bags to them, to carry them easier.

Lately, a friend bought some Target hand baskets at a secondhand store. They are so insanely comfortable to walk with, and now we have 3 of them we keep in the car. We get funny looks sometimes (and we don't take them into target!) but they are just fantastic for bringing in groceries!
posted by bbqturtle at 9:12 AM on June 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm currently on the 3rd floor of a stairs-only condo, and was previously on the 7th floor of a building with two elevators that were usually working but sometimes not. I have parking in a nearby lot now but in the 7th floor building sometimes had to walk a few blocks from my car with groceries. I've always relied on sturdy reusable bags with handles (like this, but not quite as bulky) for shopping and hauling in groceries. I can't imagine attempting to haul plastic bags of groceries up stairs -- rectangular reusables, especially the structured ones, are the way to go.
posted by jabes at 9:16 AM on June 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

We got a small lightweight one from the Container Store that looks flimsy but has lasted for over a decade. How much load do you need, really? It is lighter and cheaper than the one you posted. But I think most people who live in highrises get grocery delivery. Dense populations have options that suburbs don't.
posted by wnissen at 9:16 AM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Something to consider: is your building gonna get all het up about the cart and make you take a freight elevator or less convenient entrance or something with it.

Personally for short distance grocery schlepping I really like giant bags. Like ikea blue bag size bags. Just throw everything in there and then haul it in like a pack mule. I've always had stairs to deal with so a cart would just introduce unnecessary hassle for me, and anyway my giant bags have always suited just fine, even for my costco trips.
posted by phunniemee at 9:18 AM on June 25, 2021 [8 favorites]

I have this one and used it all the time when I lived in a condo. I walked a lot and it was great for on-foot grocery trips and also to lug stuff from a car to the unit.
posted by Lescha at 9:20 AM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think you should get a cart. It makes things just unbelievably easier if you have an elevator. The other option is a small hand truck - you'll need a box on it to carry bags but it's more versatile if you ever need to haul furniture or boxes up and down.
posted by entropyiswinning at 9:20 AM on June 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Seconding jabes. The tiny foldables that fit in a pocket or purse are a great backup if you realize you need to pick up one or two items on your way home and you forgot to put the sturdy bags back in your car trunk. But otherwise, go with the sturdy cube bags; most of them zip, and many provide better insulation for things that need to be kept cold. If any given grocery trip is going to require more than two of those bags per person making the grocery run, the granny carts are useful for corralling the bags into a more maneuverable mass for the trip from garage to apartment; otherwise, one sturdy bag per hand is doable without a cart, generally speaking, depending on what you bought (any liquids, especially in large quantities or glass bottles, will eat through your carrying capacity). As the last step of any grocery trip, just run the bags back down to your car trunk after unpacking your groceries.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:25 AM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Nthing granny cart. There are even designs that help you lug them up stairs, though I just have a traditional one.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:30 AM on June 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Hah, I was going to offer tips from living in a 4th floor walkup and then saw you had an elevator!

In that case, if you're at all worried about what management thinks, maybe the bag to get is a HULKEN. It's got European pedigree. Anthropologie approves!
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:30 AM on June 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

We used an old lady shopping trolly. You want something you can store in the trunk in any case.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:30 AM on June 25, 2021

It’s a bit more pricey, but if you can find a cart that has triple wheels (mine’s from Rolser, I got it used from a friend) i highly recommend. They can go up and down stairs (in case the elevator goes out!) and maneuver on bumpier sidewalks/curbs/etc. I’ve had cheaper ones that break but this one has helped me haul a lot over the last 8 or so years. I’ll often strap grocery bags onto it for extra oomph.
posted by actionpact at 9:32 AM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

A folding wagon is much more maneuverable than a cart IME. Carts can go up a flight of stairs, kinda, with sweating and wagons can't, but the wagon is easier to load and swerve on flat ground.
posted by travertina at 9:32 AM on June 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

You want what we call a "Granny Trolley".

posted by pompomtom at 9:32 AM on June 25, 2021

My building - granted it is Very Corporate Owned - has luggage trolleys you can borrow, like the ones in hotels. Yours might as well!
posted by wellred at 9:34 AM on June 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

That seems a bit pricey for a glorified granny cart to me, but you have the right concept.

For somewhat smaller loads, j'adore my Tom Bihn Truck and Monster Truck (the latter requires a bit more care in packing so as not to overload).
posted by praemunire at 9:34 AM on June 25, 2021

I live in a 3rd floor (4th floor in USA) flat with no elevator. I put my heavy groceries in a big rucksack and the rest in re usable shopping bags - ideally ones which can go over your shoulder. Then you have rucksack, one over shoulder, one in hand and a free hand for doors and locks!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 9:36 AM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Check with your building concierge before you buy anything ... my high-rise has a couple of hotel-type luggage carts just for this purpose.
posted by cyndigo at 9:55 AM on June 25, 2021 [5 favorites]

The metal carts can be rattly... Larger wheels are much better than small ones... An extra wheel for going over curbs will be an advantage... A long/retractable handle that reaches a comfortable height to pull it... A rolling zip-top tote bag aka carry-on airline bag holds a little more than a paper sack of groceries (loose, no need to bag at grocery store)
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:02 AM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Does your building have shopping carts available? We’ve lived in two buildings with elevators that had them available (usually). I generally just carry regular groceries in big tote bags, but the carts are essential for Costco trips and if we end up buying a lot of heavy beverages etc.
posted by MadamM at 10:08 AM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

We use a rolling bag like this Olympia one for this purpose (bonus is that it doubles as extra luggage for weekend trips, etc..)
posted by gudrun at 10:18 AM on June 25, 2021

Talk to other people in the building. There may be carts you can use, but it may be a pain in the ass (you'd have to go inside, bring the cart to your car, then take an extra trip to return the cart when you're done).
posted by disconnect at 10:19 AM on June 25, 2021

I use those huge blue plastic ikea bags to haul groceries from the car. I can get three large paper bags of groceries in them.
posted by gt2 at 10:32 AM on June 25, 2021

If you have to have it fold, I recommend a folding cart... with TWO layers.

They also make one with 3 layers but it's like 200.
posted by kschang at 10:33 AM on June 25, 2021

We lived on the 44th floor of a high rise until recently. We used a folding wagon like the ones linked to above, and it was enormously useful. Costco has them! I think it was around $50. It was much sturdier than the rolling wire baskets, and the shape is handier too - no stacking of bags.

Yes, our building had hotel type trolleys available for our use, but using them entailed parking the car, going to the lobby area to borrow one, pushing it back into the parking garage to the car, loading our things and taking them upstairs, then returning the trolley to the lobby. It was a nice to occasionally use, but generally a pain. With the wagon, we could just keep it in the back of our car, unload it in the apartment, fold it up, and return it to the car the next time we were going down there. That wagon made my life easier many many times. Go for it!
posted by MelissaSimon at 10:37 AM on June 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

If you are not taking a car, consider locking the cart up outside the store with a bike lock. Some stores won't you bring it in, plus it's easier on your back to do the shopping with a regular store cart.
posted by prewar lemonade at 10:45 AM on June 25, 2021

Ici Europe: can you fix up a hoist from the window?
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:28 PM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hello from past you! We lived on the 26th floor for 6 years. Same situation as MelissaSimon, where the building had carts but it was so much extra effort to use them. We went with this cart over the wire versions because we preferred the canvas sides for privacy (please don't judge my groceries!) and to prevent small items from falling through the holes. I tell you what, that little cart is AMAZING. Folds down to the size of an umbrella stroller and can carry an obscene amount of stuff. Love it so much that even though we're now in a single story house with attached garage, we haven't been able to give it away because WHAT IF WE NEED IT.
ps I just looked at the link and the price is obnoxious - I think we only paid $40-50 - but it gives you an idea of what to look for
pps if you're within a reasonable distance of Tampa I'd be willing to give her to a new home.
posted by spinturtle at 12:30 PM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

I used this wagon when I was living in an elevator service high-rise. It was strong enough to hold even a fairly large pantry stocking order, it was easy to maneuver and it folded up reasonably. It wouldn’t work well with small or crowded elevators, but it worked great with large and relatively empty elevators.

That said, I paid about 1/2 the current price, so I wouldn’t buy from my link.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 2:22 PM on June 25, 2021

Many high rise buildings that are staffed have hotel luggage carts available for residents. Worth checking. That’s what I use for exactly similar purposes. 19th floor. One truly loaded cart equals one hatchback.
posted by spitbull at 2:28 PM on June 25, 2021

When I was in high school, we moved from a house to an apartment and used a gardening cart for bringing groceries upstairs. The cart lived in an alcove next to the car in the parking garage (this was made much easier because our unit had two parking spaces and we had one car). It was not this cart, but that was the approximate shape/size (ours actually collapsed along the long axis so it could be stored against a garage wall).
posted by hoyland at 3:11 PM on June 25, 2021

+1 to seeing if the building has carts you can use and that are easily accessible. Maybe worth trying before buying something.

I live on the 12th floor, and my grocery runs have become much easier since I bought a VersaCart Transit (Amazon link). I like it because it folds up neatly, and can stand up in the hallway closet when not in use. I have an Ikea zippable cooler that works great for transporting things that need to stay cool, and a few square-bottomed sturdy reusable grocery bags for other things. I can usually fit up to four bags and the cooler into the cart, and it is so much better than lugging a bunch of bags around from the parking lot.

If you have a store that allows you to use a portable self-scanner as you fill your grocery bags (and then pay for it all without taking it out of the bags as you leave), you can easily fill all the bags with an eye to how they will fit in the cart, which makes it even smoother.
posted by gemmy at 8:24 PM on June 25, 2021

The folding wagon is way easier to load/unload because it's shallow and flat, especially if groceries are heavy but heavier than the granny cart.
We have one sort of like this. It can fold up to fit ok in the car.,-gray.product.100518869.html

The granny carts are much lighter so easier to lift but less sturdy than the wagon. Folded flat it might be harder to fit in the car, big flat shape vs. smaller cube for the wagon. I've found it can be harder to find the really sturdy versions depending on the city you live in. I find them a pain to unload and use them now for lighter tasks.
posted by oneear at 10:21 PM on June 25, 2021

Ikea bag!
posted by mathiu at 12:27 AM on June 26, 2021

Best answer: I've been using this suitcase. Originally bought it for traveling back in January 2020, and we all know how that went.... So anyway, I repurposed it as a grocery cart.
posted by ambulatorybird at 4:26 PM on June 26, 2021

FWIW, the 19-gallon Frakta aka "Ikea Blue Bag" is $0.99 on right now. They also have a smaller 10 gallon Frakta

I've been using the large one, which may be a bit TOO large. Hahaha.
posted by kschang at 4:48 PM on June 29, 2021

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