Grocery shopping…you either love it or you hate it, but we all have to do it. I actually really love grocery shopping…I think it’s being surrounded by all that delicious food that just makes me happy. It has taken me a long time to learn how to navigate the enormous buildings that have become grocery stores, and come away with a healthy load of food for my family. I still learn new tips all the time too. So if you hate grocery shopping, or just feel overwhelmed by the task, read on for some simple tips that can lessen the stress, and even make it somewhat enjoyable.
Tip #1 – Make a plan.
I know that there are some people out there who can just go buy some random groceries and then throw dinners together from them during the week, but I don’t find that to be the best way to have a successful, healthy week. I need to know what meals I am going to be preparing and consuming before I go into that grocery store. This is where menu planning comes in. If you are new to menu planning, check out this post for some beginner tips. Planning out your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and even snacks for the week makes life so much easier when the hectic work and school week get going. And it helps ensure that you are going to stick with a healthy eating plan.
**added by Tammy**
Plan to Eat is my favorite meal planning resource. For less than what it costs for Starbucks you can save and organize all of your recipes and then easily drag and drop them into a meal planner. This website seriously cut my meal planning time in half. You can also see nutritional information for recipes as you put them into the planner. See my post on that here. This is especially helpful if you are trying to eat healthier and lose weight. After your menu is planned for the week you can print out a grocery list with one click. They offer a 30-day free trial so I highly recommend giving Plan to Eat a shot.
Tip #2 – Make a list.
Once you have your menu plan in place, it’s time to make your list. Check to see what you already have at home, and what you need to buy. I like to make my list in order of the way my grocery store is set up. That way I can literally just go right down the list, and I’m not skipping around with the chance of forgetting something. You could also make your list by category, whatever works for you. If you go into the grocery store without your list, not only will you forget something, but you will also most likely end up buying items that you never intended to buy either. These items will most likely be unhealthy items that are not on your meal plan for the week. Look for future posts where I test out some different apps for generating grocery shopping lists.
Tip #3 – Shop the perimeter.
Most grocery stores are set up in a similar layout. You want to try to buy most of your food items from the perimeter of the store, rather than from the center aisles. On the perimeter, you will find the produce section, which is chock full of every fruit and veggie imaginable. Fill your cart up with a nice variety of whatever produce is in season and/or on sale. Usually in the back of the store, you will find the meat and fish counters. Opt for chicken breasts, lean ground beef and pork, and sustainable fish. Buy organic whenever your budget allows. Not only is it better for the environment and your body, but it tastes better too! Along the other side of the grocery store, you will find the dairy section. Stock up on skim milk or almond milk, nonfat Greek yogurt, eggs, and low-fat cheeses. The middle aisles are where you will find all of the processed, pre-packaged foods. These tend to contain additives, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients. Your best bet is to avoid these foods as much as possible. However, look for future posts on how to read labels and choose these types of food smarter.
Tip #4 – Eat before you shop
Don’t ever walk into a grocery store when you are starving. No matter how good your intentions are, this scenario will always result in disaster. There’s too much tempting, unhealthy food that will win when you try to shop on an empty stomach. Even if you have a list and know what you need to get, don’t make it harder on yourself. Always keep a healthy snack in your car or purse, like a serving of almonds. That way if it’s been a while since your last meal, you can at least get a little something in your stomach before you brave the food aisles.
How to Create a Healthy Snack Bin in Your Refrigerator <- this will help for easy on the go snacks.
Tip #5 – Try something new
When you eat healthy, that doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing over and over again every single day. If all you do is eat oatmeal for breakfast, turkey and baby carrots with lunch, and chicken and broccoli for dinner, you are going to get bored. When you get bored, you will most likely reach for something unhealthy because you feel like you are being deprived of good food. Instead, mix up your usual purchases and try some new healthy foods. Instead of oatmeal, try cooking up some quinoa for breakfast. Tammy put together two amazing quinoa breakfast bowl recipes – Kale and Bacon Quinoa Bowl and Sausage and Cheese Quinoa Bowl. Instead of baby carrots and broccoli, try a vegetable you normally wouldn’t eat. Maybe it’s just switching to bell pepper strips instead of baby carrots, and Brussels sprouts instead of broccoli. The grocery store is the place to experiment, so explore your healthy options!
What are your tips for a healthy shopping trip to the grocery store? How do you keep from buying the junk?