Sixteen Ways to Win At The Grocery Store
Shopping smart at the grocery store can make a big impact on your health, your waistline, AND your bank account. Try following these guidelines for shopping efficiently, and you’re sure to save your bottom line (in more ways than one).
- Try to avoid temptation. When you shop with an appetite, you’ll probably buy (and eat) things you’ll wish you hadn’t. Set yourself up for success by eating a healthy snack before you shop.
- Shop with a list. Surveys of shoppers have demonstrated that off-the-list buys are usually the most fattening. Let your grocery list master everything you put into your cart.
- Plan your weekly menu. In order to make a grocery list, it helps to have a weekly menu. Plan it, write it down, and you’re ready to buy
- Pay with cash. Personal finance gurus say that paying with cash motives us to spend less. It works for healthy grocery shopping, too. If you feel your fingers peeling off actual legal tender, you’re less likely to splurge on junk, and more likely to spend on nutritional value
- Stick to the perimeter of the store. The best foods — healthy, whole, and fresh — are found on the store’s perimeter. That’s where you’ll want to spend the bulk of your shopping time. Go for the veggies, the fruit, and the healthy meats like fresh fish — foods that are still in their natural and unprocessed condition. Keep your defenses up, though! Many stores have a deli on the perimeter, too, which means that those delectable deserts may present a temptation. If you must journey into the center of the store, make sure it’s down the “grains” aisle, rather than the “snacks” or “candy” aisle.
- Shop at the same store so you are familiar with the layout and location. Knowing exactly where you’re going in the store keeps you efficient, and helps you avoid the aisles of temptation.
- Go with a friend. Safe shopping can be tough. If you need some accountability, go with a friend. You’ll be able to help each other.
- Verify health claims. Do you purchase items based on package slogans like “lite,” “low-fat,” “natural,” or “gluten-free?” Practice some healthy skepticism, and turn the package around to check the ingredients and nutritional value. Some “fat-free” foods, for example, have massive amounts of sugar! Instead of buying a label, buy food that you know is healthy.
- Befriend the butcher. Get to know the folks in the meat department. They can help you decide on the best fresh and healthy meal choices.
- Don’t go at all. If grocery shopping is too much of a challenge, perhaps you can persuade a friend or partner to go for you. Give them the list, and tell them to stick to it.
- Set a time limit. The longer you contemplate a risky purchase — like the brownie mix that’s on sale, or the B1G1 bag of M&Ms — the more likely you are to buy it. Set a time limit for your grocery shopping. Watching the clock will help you stick to your list, and fight off the urge of the extras.
- Plan to buy snacks. Don’t stiff snacks altogether. Eating every three or four hours is a great way to keep your metabolism up throughout the day. Instead of an unhealthy impulse buy, plan to purchase fruits, nuts, whole grain crackers, hummus, Greek yogurt, or other nutritious snacks.
- Buy sale items only if they are on your (already healthy) list. It may seem like a waste not to buy the “Just Reduced!” fudge bars. Think again. The real waste is going to happen later on, when you actually eat them. Sales are great, but sales that compel you to buy unhealthy eats, are not great.
- Go shopping in your yoga or workout clothes. It sounds weird, but the way we dress affects the way we feel and act. Suiting up in your gym clothes helps you feel healthy and athletic, and keeps you from purchasing fatty or sugary foods.
- Find the freezers. Frozen dinners are off-limits, but frozen fruits and veggies are a great place to stock up on healthy goodies. Because such produce is flash-frozen immediately after harvesting, it retains maximum nutritional value.
- Limit your trips to the store. I’ve found that a weekly shopping routine works great, so that I can stock up on my favorites without turning the trip into a whimsical spree. Skipping to the grocery store for an “emergency run” puts you at risk for unnecessary (and unhealthy) purchases. Plan ahead for a regular, scheduled trip to stock up on everything you need.
There is a fine art to grocery shopping safely. When you get into it, grocery shopping can be enjoyable. There’s something empowering about planning, purchasing, and eating only your favorite healthy foods. Happy and healthy shopping.