The grocery store is loaded with food, both good for you and bad. When you go in with an empty cart, what you come out with can dictate your health.
Now, obviously it’s okay to snack and have treats in moderation. But when you walk into a store full of shelves with yummy looking food, it can be easy to get distracted — leaving you wondering why you bought what you did when it comes time to unpack the grocery bags.
It’s also a bit tougher on the wallet to shop this way.
This is why we’ve come up with a list of 11 grocery shopping tips to help you have an efficient and healthy grocery shop — even on a budget!
1. Make a list
Let’s be honest, grocery shopping can be a bit of a chore. Sometimes you just want to get it over with as soon as possible without giving it much thought.
But if you go without a list, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Because here’s what can happen…
– You could miss important things you need, meaning you either have to go without or go back again sooner.
– You could get distracted or fall victim to impulse buys and purchase a bunch of things you don’t need, or aren’t good for you — leaving you with a bigger bill and less of what you need.
– You will likely be in there longer — going from one end of the store to another as you try to remember what you need.
If you have a list, you can get in and out faster, get everything you need, and not buy any unnecessary items.
2. Don’t go when you’re hungry
This is a big one. If you go to the grocery store when you’re hungry, you’re much more likely to give into those impulse buys. You’ll also spend more money filling up your cart with things you don’t need (and that are likely not overly healthy for you).
If you don’t have time to have a meal before going to the store (or if you don’t have much food and that’s why you need to go!) just have a snack that can tie you over until after.
And remember, stick to your list!
3. Stick to the perimeter
When you first walk into a grocery store, chances are the produce department is right there. It’s usually the first department you travel through on your grocery shopping journey. One reason for this is that the produce department relies on people with empty carts and good intentions to impulse buy healthy foods.
It’s a good opportunity to start your shop off on a healthy foot! And if you continue along the perimeter of the store, you’ll also find the other fresher departments like deli, bakery, meat, dairy, and so on.
These departments are your bread and butter (literally!). Try to focus your shop on these departments, because it is there that you’ll find most of your whole foods. Most of the aisles contain processed foods that may be tempting due to their simplicity.
Of course, there are healthy foods down the aisles, but just be mindful. You don’t need to go down every single one!
4. Read labels
When you do find yourself in the aisles, take a look at the labels.
Most sauces and canned goods are totally fine, with not much filler. But you may be surprised by some that are loaded with all sorts of ingredients that seem unnecessary. If so, check a different brand, or shop for homemade recipes instead. It’s easier than you might think to make a homemade pasta sauce, skipping the salt, sugar, and preservatives that can come in the jars!
5. Produce — fresh, frozen, or local
Frozen fruits and vegetables tend to get a bad rep, which kind of makes sense. When you think about it, frozen produce has been sitting around for longer than it should. But, of course, the important thing is that it’s frozen.
In fact, it’s thought that frozen produce may be healthier than unfrozen produce. Though this is up for debate, here is the reasoning:
Fresh produce is often picked before it’s fully ripened so that it can be ripe by the time it hits the store’s shelves. This means that they have less time to fully develop their nutritional value while on the vine, in the tree, in the ground, etc.
Then they are shipped to a packaging facility, distribution center, warehouse, and so on until they reach the supermarket. During this time, they may be treated with chemicals to keep them fresh.
On the other hand, frozen produce is picked at its ripest stage, meaning it has fully developed its nutrients. They are then frozen and shipped, maintaining their potency for an extended period of time (some say after a year the produce may begin to degrade nutritionally).
However, before vegetables are frozen, they are blanched. This is simply the process of being boiled for a few minutes to kill bacteria. But it has been shown to reduce the amount of nutrients leftover afterwards.
The same thing is not done to fruits. Instead, fruit is treated with a form of vitamin C — or sometimes sugar — to help them keep their texture and freshness.
For these reasons, the best way to buy produce is to buy local. Supermarkets often carry some items locally, so be sure to check the origin. Or, if you can, hit up a farmer’s market!
6. Try something new
Remember when we said grocery shopping can be a bit of a chore? Well, it could be made more enjoyable if you try something new every week! Try to find a recipe that contains something you’ve never had before. Or wander the produce department and choose a new fruit or vegetable. Then eat it as is, or find a recipe for it!
7. Use the rewards programs!
Most grocery stores have a rewards program. They’re usually tailored to what you like to buy. Generally speaking, these are well worth it and can potentially even save you hundreds of dollars a year!
Just make sure you don’t buy something because you will get points for it or a discount (unless of course you need it!) Because then you’re just losing money.
8. Take inventory of what you have
Even if you make a list, it’s best to take a mental inventory of your fridge and pantry before you head out to the store. Otherwise, you could be standing in the grocery store wondering if you have enough onions for your stir-fry recipe. This is how you end up with three bottles of ranch or multiple packages of chili powder.
A good and easy way to do this is to snap a picture with your smartphone, so you can quickly check if need be!
9. Avoid end caps
End caps are the displays at the each of each aisle. Now, these aren’t always bad. Sometimes they have good deals on things like toilet paper or laundry detergent. But too often they are nice displays of junk food at a great price.
It’s okay to buy some goodies for your sweet tooth (especially at a deal!), but certainly be mindful that these are strategically made for you to make an impulse buy.
The same is true for the small displays beside the checkout.
10. Use a smaller cart
This one may not be practical if you’re going in for a lot of stuff or for some big items, but it could be good to keep in mind.
Sometimes if your big cart isn’t very full, you may feel like you need to fill it up with stuff (like the chips on that end display!) to justify your grocery trip. But if you use one of the smaller carts, you won’t run into this issue.
11. Check out the reduced goods
Most departments — like produce or bakery — will likely have their own little area with their reduced food items. Sometimes these can be up to 50% off!
It’s worth it to look these over. For produce, it’s usually because the product is too ripe for the displays, maybe slightly damaged or bruised, or sometimes it’s just because the store had an excess amount.
For bakery, it’s likely something that’s going to expire soon, but you can always freeze that bread or eat it the same night.
For general items, it’s usually overstock or items that are being discontinued (a lot of times only for rebranding purposes).
And remember when we mentioned it could be fun to find something new every time you go to the store? You could select it from the reduced rack to save!
Grocery shopping can be fun. It’s an opportunity to discover new foods. But, admittedly, it can be difficult to perceive the supermarket as fun after years of going every week. We hope this list can not only help you have a more efficient and healthy trip to the store, but a more enjoyable one as well!
Do you have any grocery store hacks that we missed? We’d love to hear them! Email us at email@example.com!