Let’s talk grocery shopping
Picture this: You open your fridge and see nothing but White Claws and a bottle of ketchup. You decide to see if your cabinets will provide better luck but you’re met with only a half empty, stale bag of chips and cans of tomato sauce. At this moment you have a crucial decision to make as you’re thinking, “Do I make myself a delicious plate of White Claw chips drizzled with ketchup sauce?” Nah, it’s time to shop. LET’S GO!
I may be in the minority as someone who thinks of grocery shopping as a pleasant experience and a form of therapy. So if you’re not like me, don’t worry. Going food shopping can be stressful and overwhelming for many people. Where do I start? What should I buy? How can I stay on track with my health goals with all of these options at my disposal in one place? Let’s hack the grocery store and shop with a plan.
TIPS ON HEALTHY GROCERY SHOPPING
1. Have a List Before Entering the Store: This will help prevent impulse buys, which grocery shopping is often full of. Going in without a list and seeing all the options at once can increase chances of throwing things in your cart that you may regret later or wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. Let’s say we don’t have a plan so we mosey down the snack aisle without focus. We see heavily processed Twinkies on the shelf. In that moment we may want to eat them for the immediate reward of the taste, forgetting our long term reward if we DON’T buy them: we won’t be tempted at home and will be more on track with our goals of long term health.
2. Don’t Shop While Hungry: Again, impulse buys. Store-brand mass produced donuts in a dented box never look as good as when you’re starving in the grocery store. They’re catfishing you, I promise. They don’t even look like their picture once you’re not hungry. Someone call MTV, I need to talk to Nev about this. This is another “in the moment” value bias, as people tend to value how they feel in the present over the future. Save yourself the money and any possible regret and don’t shop hungry.
3. First Stop: Produce: Shop the produce section first. In most grocery stores it’s the first section anyway, or at least in the front. Fill your cart with different colorful fruits and vegetables. Choose a mix of longer lasting items like apples, oranges, cruciferous vegetables, onions, potatoes, carrots, and celery and ones that may need to be consumed within the week like avocados, berries, mushrooms, cucumber and leafy greens for salads.
4. Shop the Perimeter: From there, shop the store’s perimeter. The perimeter consists of the produce section, the poultry, meat and seafood section, and the egg and dairy section. That’s because these products need refrigerated storage and you won’t find them on center aisle shelves. While shopping the perimeter (after you’ve snagged some produce) pick up eggs, seafood, lean meats like chicken and turkey, low fat dairy products like milk, cheese and Greek yogurt. Don’t forget to check the dates on these items.
5. Hit the Freezer Aisle: Frozen doesn’t just mean ice cream and TV dinners. Here you’ll also find frozen fruits and vegetables that were harvested and frozen at peak freshness, locking in nutrients and quality. This is great if you’re someone who’s bad at using all the fresh produce in your fridge before it goes bad, or someone who likes to always have a backup of fruits and vegetables on hand. Use frozen fruit in smoothies or low-cal desserts. Cook frozen vegetables by steaming, sautéing or roasting and serve in an omelette or as a side with lunch and dinner.
6. Center Aisle Staples: The center aisles contain your longer shelf-life foods. They include some unhealthier chips, cookies, candy and sugary cereals. But they also contain great pantry foods like healthier cereals, oatmeal, nuts and seeds, crackers, nut butters, healthy snacks, protein bars, plant oils, condiments and canned vegetables and beans. This is where the list comes in handy too. Companies pay a lot of money for their products to have prime shelf space with displays that are eye popping and eye level. Grab what you went there for and then tell the Trix Bunny to stop following you down the aisle with its eyes. CREEP!
7. Organize Your Cart: First decide to get a basket or smaller cart if your goal is to not overshop. If using a cart, place produce and other perimeter items in the largest, main part of the cart while putting processed or center aisle shelf foods in the small front part of the cart. Sectioning your cart like this can help you visualize the type of food you’re buying.
8. Stay Calm: You got this! You now have a method and a plan before walking in. You know you’re smarter than colorful advertising tricks and you know what to do to stay on track with your health goals.
General tips: Watch out for “low fat” junk food placed in health-food sections. Always read the Nutrition Facts Label. Shop produce in season. Stock up on frozen fruits and veggies, especially ones out of season, to always have on hand at home. Keep staples like oatmeal, chia and flax seeds, nut butter, popcorn, brown rice or pasta, beans and legumes, nuts and crackers in your pantry. Make sure to grab some more of these items while shopping if you’re running low. Always check for sales and discounts!
I’M HOME, NOW WHAT?
Congrats, you did it! You now have healthy groceries that will satisfy you for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. When you open your fridge and cabinets you won’t have to worry about becoming a Master Chef and transforming stale chips and cans of tomato sauce into a 5 star meal. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your shorter shelf-life foods and use your food before it goes bad. Now load up all those bags on your arms and walk them all inside at once because MAKING TWO TRIPS IS FOR THE WEAK. Unload your groceries and crack a White Claw, you’ve earned it.