As long as you follow these tips for smart grocery shopping, the grocery store can seem like a much less daunting place! With a well thought out plan, a trip to the grocery store doesn’t have to be time consuming and expensive. Instead, it can be an in-and-out place where you pick up all of the delicious items that you need to stay healthy! Before I came up with my own grocery store plan of attack, I used to spend hours in the grocery store, only to come home with a cart full of processed junk, an empty wallet, and a larger than preferred waistline. Here are 7 tips for smart grocery shopping that you can apply today in order to stay healthy in 2014.
1. Make a List
Before you even step foot into the grocery store, one of the first tips for smart grocery shopping is to make a list. Although it can be hard to stick strictly to your list, a list provides a great skeleton and prevents multiple trips to the store because you forgot that easy-to-forget thing for three weeks in a row. I like to make my list in the same order that my grocery store is lined out so that my list doesn’t send me all over the store. I group my foods and items into the following categories: produce (fruits and vegetables), meats, dairy cooler (almond milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, etc.), dried goods (crackers, dried beans, grains, oats, etc.), canned/jarred items (vegetables, beans, peanut butter, vegetable broth, rice cakes, nuts, seeds, etc.), frozen foods (veggies, fruits, bread, etc.), beverages (sparkling water, wine, etc.), misc. (specially items), and household items (paper towels, laundry detergent, cleaning products, etc.). By making my list as though I am walking through my grocery store I can make a quick trip without forgetting anything!
2. Eat before You Go
You have probably heard this tip before but it really is a necessity! If you go into a grocery store hungry, not only are you likely to buy more, but you are also likely to eat an unhealthy snack while you are there. Is anyone else guilty of enjoying a few too many Costco samples? If you eat a small snack before you go grocery shopping, such as an apple dipped in some peanut butter, you will be able to concentrate on what you really need, rather than shopping with your growling stomach!
3. Shop the Perimeter
Another tip for smarter grocery shopping is to keep your cart on the outer walls of the store. Think about it: with the exception of a few items, most of the healthy food is on the perimeter of the store – produce, lean proteins, etc. There are only a few items that you should have to enter the scary middle section of the store for, like dried beans, unsalted canned tomatoes (in the winter), frozen veggies, frozen fruits, nuts and nut butter, grains, etc. Leave your cart at the end of the isle and quickly grab what you need – this trick works especially if you have children, in order to prevent them from grabbing every colorful box that meets the eye!
4. Read Labels
Even though the majority of the food that you eat should be label-free (fruits and veggies!), I’m a realist and know that it can certainly be hard to avoid all labeled food. And, not to mention, not all of it is bad! Greek yogurt, dried beans, nut butters, etc. all have labels and are perfectly good foods! Regardless of the product, it is still very important to read your labels on everything that you purchase. Companies like to sneak in unnecessary ingredients like artificial sweeteners, preservatives, trans fats and other chemicals that make your favorite healthy foods unhealthy after all. Be sure to read your labels in order to ensure that you are eating what you actually think you are eating!
5. Stock up on Frozen Fruits and Veggies
The freezer section is my favorite place in the grocery store because of the wide variety of fruits and vegetables available. Frozen fruits and veggies can be just as healthy, if not healthier, than their fresh alternatives and can often come at a much cheaper price – especially in the off-season! I like to stock up on frozen berries and frozen spinach for my morning smoothies and then other frozen vegetables to throw together a quick dinner at night!
6. Buy Dry
One of the best grocery store tip that has saved my grocery budget is to buy dried beans and grains. Compared to their canned varieties, dried beans can save you a lot of money when you add it up. A bag of dried beans is often much cheaper than one can of beans and the bag of dried beans has several more servings than the can. Not only that, but dried beans will also be free of BPA, a known carcinogenic found in the lining of canned products.
7. Focus on Plants
Contrary to popular belief, plant based foods like fruits and vegetables are not near as expensive as a processed food diet. Think about the price of a bag of chips and compare it to a pound of apples or a bag of carrots. Processed foods really aren’t as cheap as they may seem. Not only that, but the apple will do wonders for your health compared to the chips, which will only leave you reaching in your pockets in the years to come for health care and medical bills. Eating plants is a positive investment in your health today, tomorrow and always!
The grocery store doesn’t have to be a daunting place as long as you enter with a plan. Take a little bit of time before the week begins and plan out what your family will eat for the week. Make a list from that plan, including all three meals, snacks and beverages, and then you will be able to conquer the grocery store in a very small amount of time! Do you dread going into the grocery store like I used to do?