Grocery shopping may not be your favorite chore, but nonetheless it’s a requirement if you want to keep you and your family nourished and healthy. To complicate the task, you’re often faced with store shelves jam-packed with convenience and processed foods that can tempt even the healthiest whole food enthusiasts.
Fortunately, your weekly shopping trip doesn’t have to be the most dreaded item on your to-do list, particularly when you focus on the end result: Preparing healthy meals that your family will love.
Healthy Shopping Game Plan
A key component of leading a healthy lifestyle is stocking your kitchen with high-quality, fresh, flavorful ingredients — and that requires a trip to the grocery store. Want to make your shopping expedition more efficient? Follow these five strategies:
- Make a plan. If you want to ensure you have the food you need in your house (and that you’re getting the best price), you have to plan ahead. Think you don’t have time to pre-plan? Think again. If you plot out what you need at the store in advance, you’ll save time on the back end. And you’ll be less stressed! Instead of dashing to the store at the last minute for necessary ingredients, you’ll have everything you need on hand.
- Take inventory. Most of us eat some variation of the same meals each week. So you shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you shop. Instead, keep a master shopping list with the staples you regularly use. Then take stock of your pantry, fridge and freezer before you hit the supermarket to ensure you’re not purchasing ingredients you already have and cut down on waste. You can also keep a blank sheet of paper or white board posted in the kitchen to jot down items you’re getting low on.
- Think long-term. If you’re only shopping once each week, consider loading up on frozen and canned produce rather than fresh. You won’t have to worry about food spoiling before you have a chance to eat it. You’ll minimize waste and save money in the process.
- Go it alone. Whether you’re with your kids, your spouse or a friend, you’re more likely to get talked into purchasing items that you don’t need. You might even find yourself soothing your child with food items just to get through the store.
- Shop after a meal. Everything looks tasty when you’re hungry. So plan your shopping trips closely after meal times. You’re less likely to give into tempting impulse buys if you visit the store when you’re satiated.
Beware Of Grocery Store Traps
Before you take a shopping trip, keep in mind that store managers strategically place products in certain locations to encourage shoppers to spend more money.
Rotisserie chickens, baked goods and flowers assault your eyes and nose the moment you enter the store. And candy, convenience foods and magazines are ripe for the picking in checkout lanes. So it’s important to enter the store committed to buying only what you need.
Before you go, consider how much you’re willing to pay for convenience. You’ll save money if you purchase a whole watermelon versus the pre-cut variety, but if you have a busy week ahead, spending a little extra to pluck a fresh wedge out of the fridge may be worth it.
Most important, remember that you won’t be able to eat unhealthy foods, if you don’t buy them in the first place. You’ll boost your odds of shopping success if you stock your pantry with healthful whole foods and snacks.
Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN, is the director of the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Learn more about Bethany.