If you are like most people, navigating the grocery store can be a daunting and frustrating task especially when you are trying to make healthier meal choices. This can be especially difficult when you are in a time crunch or forget the grocery list at home. However, changing the way you think about the grocery store and the way you see food can be a helpful way to manage this task. Creating a plan and having a strategy in place when you enter the grocery store will help you avoid filling your cart with junk and instead with the foods that will help nourish your body.
Have a Plan for the Grocery Store
Prior to entering the grocery store door, you should have a plan in place to keep you focused and on track. Time and time again we enter the grocery store with one specific item in mind and walk out buying five other things and forgetting the one thing we actually needed. Having a plan for the store can not only keep you focused on purchasing only the food you need, but can save you time and money! If you are unsure on where to start with building your grocery store plan, consider these tips.
1. Create a Master Grocery List
- Have your family write down things you need throughout the week on one master list so that at the end of the week you can take the list to the store and purchase the things you need without playing the guessing game down the aisle.
- Keep the list in an easily accessible place such as the refrigerator and remember to bring it with you to the store with a pen to easily cross off items you have already put in your cart.
- Separate your list into categories such as produce, meat and protein, and dairy to increase your efficiency in the grocery store and take less time overall to get back home.
2. Look for Sales
- Before you head to the grocery store review the store’s sales ads. Look for produce that is on sale; typically, this means that it is in peak season and will be the freshest. Buying food that is currently on sale will not only save you money, but also help you plan meals based on the ingredients you purchased.
- Also, don’t forget to look for coupons as they can save you additional money at the grocery store! Stores often have additional incentives on their website or easily available on their app available on your mobile phone.
3. Prepare Yourself
- Whatever you do, avoid the grocery store when you are hungry. Chances are, we are all familiar with what occurs when we step into the grocery store when we are hungry and leave the store with double the amount of junk food which are often high in calories, sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.
- Make sure when you plan your trip to the grocery store you wear comfy shoes and allow yourself adequate time to get everything on your list.
Tips for Mastering the Aisles
We all know by the end of the week there are a lot of things that have piled up on the grocery list, so once you step into the grocery store try these tips to successfully shop.
1. Stick to the List
Your shopping list is your best friend at the grocery store and will keep you from getting into trouble at the checkout and once your shopping is complete, in your pantry.
2. Shop the Perimeter of the Store
The perimeter of the store is often where you can locate the foods you need to stay on track with properly nourishing your body and managing your weight. Foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat, seafood, and low-fat dairy products can typically all be found without stepping down a center aisle where temptations may sprout.
3. Buy in Bulk
If you have a family more than likely you understand the concept of buying in bulk when you have several mouths to feed. Buying in bulk often saves you money as the per unit price is lower with the larger quantity. Buying in bulk is especially helpful when food you regularly eat is on sale. For example, if chicken breast is on sale this week purchase extra to freeze for next week when it is no longer on sale.
4. Read the Labels
Learning to read the Nutrition Facts Label can help you gain freedom from strict diet planning as you are aware of how to make healthy choices and tell the difference between a food that is healthy and the one that only appears to be.
- Check the label for serving size, calories, total saturated fat, total sugar, and sodium content (see example to the left; Visit FDA.gov for details).
- Reading the ingredient list is also another great method to avoid buying products that appear to be healthy when they truly are not. If there is a list of ingredients you are unable to pronounce, it is not a good choice.
- In general, purchase whole foods as much as possible that have not been processed or preserved.
5. Plan to be Busy
We all know life happens and things don’t always go as planned. In addition to your grocery list make sure you:
- Add 1 or 2 healthy options that you and your family can take on the go, for example, ingredients to make a healthy snack wrap or fresh prepared salads offered in the deli section of the grocery store.
- Avoid frozen convenience foods as a go-to meal.
Tips on How to Fill Your Cart
1. Fruits and Veggies
- Fresh produce is always a winner in the grocery cart and can be incorporated into every meal or snack to provide you with essential nutrients your body needs to thrive. Aim for half your plate to be fruits and vegetables for every meal.
- If you find yourself limited on time for meal preparation, grocery stores offer pre-cut fruits and vegetables at a slightly higher price.
- Frozen steam bags are also another quick method to incorporate veggies into your diet regularly.
- Meat is a great source of protein; however, it is important to consider the saturated fat content and choose low-fat options by reading labels and looking for those that specifically say lean.
- Purchasing skinless meats, turkey, very lean beef, lean hamburger, sirloin steaks, and pork loin are great additions to your grocery cart!
- Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt can provide protein and calcium which is essential to you body.
- Look for low-fat and skim milk options to get the most benefit from this food group!
- When buying grain items like bread, cereal, or pasta choose those that are whole grain to provide you with the most nutrients and fiber.
- Make sure you read the labels to ensure that the first ingredient is whole wheat or another whole grain such as whole barley or whole buckwheat for example. Oatmeal is also another great example of a whole grain. Make sure you choose plain oats that do not have added sugar.
As times change, so does the way we shop. If you find yourself strapped for time, several grocery stores now offer a delivery service that allows you to shop from the comfort of your own home. Simply look up the food items you want to purchase and add them to the cart on your computer or smart phone and wait for them to arrive promptly at your front door. This method ensures that you cannot be tempted with store displays or hunger cravings as you get only what you placed in your cart.