Clearly I believe that one of the components of living a healthier lifestyle is to eat well. In order to eat well, you have to shop for that better food. Grocery shopping can be an intimidating task for some people. There are so many options, so many different choices, so many things that it can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What do you choose? How do you ignore the things that aren’t good for you? How do you know what is and isn’t good for you? Whew! If you are going to live healthier you HAVE to eat healthier and I don’t want you to feel intimidated by that. I want it to be easy for you to shop and eat well, so I am going to give you some of my grocery shopping tips that help me stick to what I need and bypass everything I don’t. Some of my tips might not apply to you or your grocery store, but there should be something in my list that will help you out and every little bit helps when it comes to eating better.
Make a menu for the week. Try to plan ahead as much as possible. I grocery shop Friday morning, so I like to write out a dinner menu through Thursday. If you can’t handle a whole week just do a few days in advance. Writing out a menu helps you to think about what ingredients you will need for your meals and what you will need to shop for.
Take inventory of your kitchen and make a list. Check your fridge, your pantry, and your cabinets. What things do you have and what things do you need? I check my supply of dried goods like beans, rice, quinoa, and things like that. I check my supply of canned goods like diced tomatoes. I also check things like potatoes, garlic, and onions as well as spices. If I am low on any of my staples, I put it onto my grocery list. Anything that I need for my weekly dinner that I don’t already have also goes on the list. I also tend to arrange my list in the order that I will shop for it at the store. For example, I put all my fresh produce on the list first because at my grocery store that is the first thing I get. This helps to streamline the process as well as helps avoid any aisle that I do not need to be in. Some people just wander up and down the aisles throwing whatever they think looks good into their cart. They tend to end up with a lot more food than they need as well as the unhealthier fare that the store offers. By preparing a list you can avoid all that!
Get to know the store. Yeah I know this is kind of an obvious tip, but I’m including it anyway. If you’re relatively new to grocery shopping don’t be frustrated if it takes a little longer to shop. As you get to know your store and get to know the products offered, your shopping time will go down.
Shop for fresh produce first. This is a personal preference, but I find that buying all the fresh stuff first is a little easier because there aren’t 5,000 different types of broccoli to choose from. Broccoli is broccoli and you don’t have to compare ingredient lists or wonder which head of broccoli is better. Plus I like to try and fill up my cart with good stuff first so it is easier to avoid the “bad” food because there is no room in the cart.
Don’t let the aisles scare you. A lot of people tell you to avoid the aisles and only shop the perimeter when you are trying to shop healthier. While it is true that the aisles host pretty much all of the processed junk that you shouldn’t be eating, they also have some really good and healthy staples. The aisles are where I get my canned/jarred tomatoes, rice, condiments like mustard, and occasionally salsa if I don’t have any homemade in my pantry. My grocery store has a bulk section where I get all my spices, dried beans, and flour, but you can also find those things in the aisles at your store. The key is to not go down every single aisle, this is where knowing how your grocery store is set up and what aisles contain the things you need on your list comes in handy. Only go down the aisles that you need items from and you won’t have to worry about being tempted by the processed food.
Get your meat/dairy/eggs/frozen foods at the end. I get my eggs, almond milk, and frozen vegetables last so they aren’t sitting in my cart getting warm the whole time. The frozen section can be another tempting place as it houses all the ice cream/frozen treats as well as frozen dinners. This is where having a menu planned out will help. If you already know what you are going to eat for the week you will be less tempted by the convenience meals in the frozen section. Let’s be honest, anything you make will be a lot tastier and healthier than anything you can get in a box, even if it does seem easier to just throw your dinner in the microwave and hit start. Just stick to your frozen vegetables and fruit, which usually are in the same aisle so you don’t have to go down any other aisles.
Get to know the products you use most. For the foods that you do purchase in packages make sure you know the ingredients and are ok with them. The first few times you shop this way you might have to spend some time comparing products and choosing the one you feel best about. Once you get that down you can just go in and choose your regular product. I know there are a few apps like In R Food and Zipongo let you scan bar codes and compare products based on ingredients. You can also look up a lot of products online and look at ingredient lists and nutrition facts before you even go to the store so you don’t have to even look at any other product.
Those are just a few tips that have helped me stick to healthy and easy grocery shopping. Trust me I know it’s really easy to get lost in all the aisles and products offered at the store. If you prepare as much as you can beforehand it will make your actual shopping trip that much easier. That way you can just go in, get exactly what you need, and head on out. My best piece of advice for new healthy grocery shoppers is to take your time. Plan to spend a few extra minutes at the store when you are first starting out. It will take some time for you to get used to your store, the products that work best for you, and a new way of shopping. As time goes on you will get faster and be a grocery shopping wizard! Just stay calm and know that you are shopping for better health!