Studies show that many of today’s consumers are re-learning how to grocery shop to save money, time and effort, says executive editor Marina Mayer.

Grocery shopping can be quite a tedious task. First, you have to, what we call in my house, “take inventory,” then create that never-ending grocery list, then clip coupons and then compare prices once you’re inside the store. I almost need a nap just thinking about it.

However, grocery shopping doesn’t have to be this long drawn-out process or even one that requires a minimum of two hours’ prep time.

According to a study produced by Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group, many shoppers have already accrued the get-in-and-get-out method of grocery shopping.

Presented in SymphonyIRI’sTimes & Trends report, “The New Path to Purchase: An Escalation of Channel & Consumption Migration,” the study indicates that consumers are re-learning how to grocery shop by visiting a smaller number of stores in fewer trips and spending less money during each trip.

“Shoppers won’t enjoy the same financial success as corporations this spring and summer, and their continued search for lower-cost retail channels reflects this,” says John McIndoe, senior vice president of marketing for SymphonyIRI. “In addition to potential pressure on retailer revenues and margins, these trends point to managers having fewer chances to ‘get it right’ with shoppers. If a shopper visits a store and is unhappy with the experience, [he or] she will quickly go elsewhere.”

Grocery remains the dominant channel, with a 98.4% penetration rate, ending June 27, 2010, the study says. However, other channels experienced a decline in penetration points, such as mass merchandise (2.3), convenience (1.9) and drug (0.5).

Meanwhile, trip frequency consistently declined nearly 2% in the second quarter of 2010, resulting from a decrease in trips to other channels, such as convenience stores (9%) and mass merchandise (7%) outlets. The exception to this rule is quick trips, or “need-it-now” excursions, which dramatically jumped in the second quarter of 2010.

On the other hand, convenience, dollar and drug stores enjoyed significant increases in sales, the report shows, proving that when today’s shoppers want something, they want it now.

As a result, retailers are instituting aggressive pricing, merchandising and promotion strategies, while many mass merchandisers are shifting to a super-center format, the study says. Similarly, channels known for their low prices, such as dollar stores, are showing consistent performance improvement.

In a study conducted by Harrison Group for Deloitte titled, “The 2010 American Pantry Study: the New Rules of The Shopping Game,” consumers are changing the rules of the game when it comes to grocery shopping, but it’s not necessarily always about saving money.

For instance, 65% of those surveyed don’t feel like they are sacrificing much from switching from brands to private label. In addition, 79% reported feeling smarter about the way they shop, while 93% will remain cautious about their spending, even once the economy improves.

“What we continue to witness are consumers creating a whole new rule book and skill set for shopping that’s based on value, not boasting of brands,” says Pat Conroy, vice chairman and U.S. consumer products practice leader for Deloitte LLP, based in New York. “Our analysis has found that personal gratification and a desire to feel smart about what’s going in their carts are trumping brand satisfaction, and that price-consciousness, value orientation and price hunting will remain prevalent for years to come.”

To play in the new grocery-shopping game, shoppers are taking advantage of super-saving options, such as coupons or in-store specials, as well as sacrificing by making definitive changes in their buying behavior, switching brands and shopping on a more need-to-shop basis rather than for convenience. In addition, consumers are “taking inventory,” by planning out meals in advance and buying in bulk.

Furthermore, 84% of shoppers own and use at least one loyalty card, while 67% of those surveyed have increased their coupon usage through various outlets, such as newspapers (59%), mail (54%), store (53%) and online (41%).

When it comes to grocery shopping, it can be as cumbersome as you make it, but re-learning how to shop can be key in saving some time and money and may even allow you to sneak in a nap or two.