Over the last fourteen years, I have continually grown and changed my food habits. In my growth, I have learned as much from looking in other people’s carts as I have my own. I decided I should share some grocery store hacks to help you in your journey.
Broken record message by now, but still gonna say it, you need to start with a meal plan. You will not be successful in eating healthy, with limited waste, without some semblance of a plan. So many people fight this part, but I’ve yet to hear a success story that has not included a plan. Your plan does not need to be perfect, or intricate. In fact, I recommend you keep it simple. Our plan often includes a night of leftovers and a “sale” nite. When we shop, we pick a fresh veggie that looks good and is reasonably priced. From the meat department, we pair our veggie with a lean protein source that is on sale. That is how we create our sale nite, and it is generally a baked or grilled meal.
If you are more budget conscious, use sales ads to make your plan. It is easier now than ever to go onto a website or app to check prices before you ever get to the store. From a time stand point, it will take a little bit develop your process. Eventually, you will find your groove and you will decrease the time you spend planning.
Walking into a grocery store can be so overwhelming. It is important to remember that stores spend time and money figuring out how to get you to spend more money than you planned. From putting the most expensive brand at eye level, to having a sale bin just before the checkout lane.
The more disciplined you are to your list, the more successful you will be in purchasing what you need. Also, never grocery shop while hungry, as it is easier to give into temptation. I like to be in a, reasonable, time crunch. Then browsing the aisles and shelves isn’t a draw for me. If the crunch is too short, I may panic buy easy and convenient foods though, so be careful.
I’m sure by now that you have heard to shop the exterior. While I wouldn’t say that’s an end all be all for healthy, it is good to stock up on fresh stuff first. To that end, I always go in the door closest to the produce section. In my quest for healthy, organic has its draw. Along the overwhelm end, how do you know what to buy organic and what is not as necessary? I try to stick to the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists. They are updated every year, to reflect current farming practices. It is not a live or die list, just a good guide.
Beck, I heard that bananas are bad. Should I stay away from carrots? When it comes to the nutritional density of fruits and vegetables, they are not all created equal. The max daily serving suggestion for a type II diabetic is half a banana, and that is due to the sugar content. Carrots, peas, beans, and potatoes are all high on the high sugar/starch list of vegetables. If you are an average person looking to put better food in your body, I will take your daily banana and carrots over canned soup with a bag of chips any day.
Ok, I made my plan, started in the produce section, now what? There is some comparison you can do in a lunch meat, dairy, canned/boxed items, and bacon/sausage type meat sections. Pick what your biggest struggle is. Are you choosing the food with the least ingredients added? Sodium content of concern to you? Maybe you are going to compare how much sugar is in one yogurt compared to another. Do not overwhelm yourself with which yogurt is the best to buy. Pick a couple brands, read the ingredients and nutrition label. Then decide which part is most important to you in your journey, right now.
If your budget doesn’t allow for all your produce to be fresh, the quality of ingredients in frozen is going to be higher than the canned vegetables on the shelf. This is not a judgement of those who still need to buy canned vegetables, again there is not a perfect, one way to eat healthy. Canned vegetables beats no vegetables every day.
I mentioned earlier that I don’t allow time to browse the store. You will not find me wandering up and down each aisle. I read the aisle description and decide if I need to go down that one. Generally speaking, you will not find me in a drink, candy, cookie, cracker aisle. In the frozen section, staying out of the dessert section is key to not being swayed by a sale.
If you are using an app for delivery or pickup, they are still subtly encouraging you to spend more than you planned. I was strictly a Shipt order person for quite a while, and I would create my meal plan first. Then I would go through my house to create a grocery list. When I opened the app, I would look at sale items to cross off my list, but I do not put items in that are not in the plan.
Does this make the grocery store seem a little less overwhelming? What habits and tricks have you created around grocery buying?