Let’s talk about grocery shopping. Everyone has to do it (unless you’re Donald Trump, probably) and if you’re not careful, it can be a huge roadblock on your journey to eating healthy. This used to be a HUGE issue for me until I learned a few simple tricks to getting out of the grocery store without ending up with a cart full of Rolos. Because of that, I’ve put together an easy to use survival guide that will help you become a grocery shopping ninja!
Start with Healthy Recipes: Make a List!
Grocery shopping actually starts at home. Going in with a gameplan is the #1 most important strategy you can have. The good news is, with the beautiful lovechild that blogs and Pinterest make, we have TONS of healthy recipes available right at our fingertips. I have a lot of favorite blogs for healthy meal ideas but my go-tos are Skinnytaste, Picky Palate’s Skinny Palate Section and Gimme Some Oven. Check out my Good Food, Good Life board for lots of tasty, healthy recipe ideas!
Now take those recipes and MAKE A LIST. This is so crucial! If you’re just cruising around the store with no plan, you’re going to end up with potato chips and pizza rolls. (Which are delicious, but let’s face it, not the best choices you can make.) I usually make my lists in the morning before work after that first cup of coffee when my brain is really running on all cylinders. You can use a grocery list app or just plain old paper, but make sure you do it!
A long-lived grocery store enemy is hunger. Scene: It’s Monday night, you didn’t get your shopping done on the weekend, so you’re heading to the store after work. You’ve had a long day and you need to pick up a few things for the week. The problem is that you haven’t eaten since lunch. All of the sudden you get into the store and those iced cookies (you know the really soft ones with the sprinkles?) start looking like manna from Heaven and you pop a dozen into your cart just to snack on while you shop. Sound familiar? No? Just me? I’m really a sucker for those damn cookies. Anyway, pretty soon you’re loading anything and everything into your cart and you’ve veered so far off course you can’t find your way back. Trust me, it’s science.
My trick to avoiding going all Supermarket Sweep in the store is to keep a snack in my bag or in my car. If you work in an office, keep some healthy stuff at your desk. Ideas for healthy snacks here, here and here. Eat something before you leave work or on the way to the store and you’re golden.
Shop the Outside
This may be the tip that you already know. If you’re looking for healthy food, stay on the perimeter of the grocery store. Generally, supermarkets pack all of the high calorie, high dollar items in the aisles and leave all of the healthy, affordable stuff on the outside. Grocery stores have a built-in reason to influence you to shop the center. They want you to spend as much money as possible while you’re there! Why do you think the eggs are all the way at the back? The supermarket planner guy is hoping that you’ll walk down the aisles (instead of around the outside) and add a bunch of nonessential stuff to your cart. And it works! To avoid this trap, stick to the outside where you can get fresh meat, dairy and produce without getting sucked into the world of boxed food that awaits inside the aisles. If you do have to go in the aisles (for spices or canned food) go back to #1 and STICK TO THE LIST.
Steer Clear of Advertising
Advertising is another grocery store trick to get you to buy things that aren’t the best for your health You never see advertisements for carrots or lean ground beef. The reason is, that those advertisements are paid for by food companies who want you to buy their processed food products. This is the stuff you see advertised on television and on all of the flyers that you get with your newspaper and it’s really just not that good for you. Examples: chips, boxed mac and cheese, frozen foods, etc. Most processed food (the stuff in the middle of the grocery store) is engineered to be as tasty and addictive as possible. One of the real reasons that Americans have trouble choosing healthy food; and the reason I started this blog is because the food industry has really messed up what we consider “health food.” This targeted marketing is especially effective on children. I could honestly talk about this all day, but we’ll leave it for another post.
To put this point in action: When you see an advertisement for something that you think seems tasty and healthy, do your research. You can look up the ingredients online or just read the label while you’re in the store. If the ingredient list has a lot of crazy stuff that you feel like you probably studied in your high school chemistry class, put it back on the shelf. Then head back to the perimeter where it’s safe.
This section is close to my heart. There are actually places out there that will do your grocery shopping for you. This is the best way to avoid purchasing things you don’t need because you don’t even have to go into the store at all! My current favorite is Wal-Mart Grocery Pickup. You sign up for an account, search for the stuff on your list, add it to your cart, pick a pickup time and then just show up at the store at your allotted time. Someone will come to your car and even help you load your groceries! I can imagine this being very helpful for moms with small children. As long as your order is over $30, there is no charge for the service. Amazing!
Another option (not available in my area yet) is Instacart. This one seems nice because they will shop lots of different stores for you and then deliver it to your house. I believe there is currently an offer that will get you $10 off of your first order. If you’ve used instacart and have an opinion, leave it in the comments! I’d love to hear about it!
Ok, you have the tools to grocery shop like a pro and you’re a certified grocery store ninja. Now get out there and shop!