You eat what you buy, so it’s time to stock up and make it worth your while (and wallet)!
Why is something so necessary to survival, such a hassle?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone on this one! Society has made our shopping experience increasingly difficult with all of the different options available. To go organic, or not? What does “all-natural” actually mean, anyway? We could talk about this topic, forever, but to start, we’re going to lay out some basic tips for improving your shopping experience. Master these strategies first and then we can get more specific!
Preparation is everything! One of the best ways to figure out what you need to buy at the store is to plan out what you’re going to eat for the upcoming week. Who are you cooking for? What recipes are you going to make? How many healthy snacks do you need? Sit down, figure out what the coming days hold for you, and make a plan.
Many of you have probably heard the age old advice to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Well I’m going to reinforce this. The produce department should be the first stop on your shopping excursion. And just like you should fill up the majority of your dinner plate with veggies, fresh produce should take priority in your cart. Load up on cauliflower (for ricing), zucchini (for noodles), and spaghetti squash (spaghetti swap), and you’ll realize you don’t need that calorie-dense rice and pasta.
Fresh food is fantastic, but frozen and canned versions are often just as nutritious and more affordable. When it comes to fish and meat counters, most of that stuff was frozen then thawed at some point. So unless you’re going to cook it right away, you might be better off grabbing it from the freezer. And frozen fruit and vegetables are typically flash frozen at their peak, so they may be even more nutrient dense than their produce department counterparts. As for canned foods, beans are a quick-cooking must, tomatoes are a recipe staple, and tuna is a ready-to-eat protein source we can’t do without. If you’re concerned about contaminants, look for cans labeled BPA-free.
Read the nutrition information carefully!
Regardless of how busy you are (or how quickly you are trying to finish your groceries), always take the time to read over nutritional panels and ingredient lists before tossing products into your cart. Many people think they absorb the info on the panels, but they only quickly scan the text, and then miss the servings per container and/or serving size. That “low fat” label on the front of the container could equal twice as much sodium or sugar you planned on having for the day!
Have you ever stopped at the store on your way home from work before dinner and come home with twice as much as you planned? Never go shopping when you are hungry! When you are hungry, you get cravings and if you go shopping when you have cravings, you will end up buying a lot of more food, especially unhealthy junk food. When you are at your hungriest, everything is much more appetizing than normal. This will kill both your diet and budget.
Like the grocery shopping no-no above, when you’re distracted (e.g. on the phone, trying to answer emails etc.) you’re more likely to make spontaneous “bad-for-you” purchases. Talking on the phone? Chances are, you’ll neglect reading those labels. Crunched for time, and focused on getting out fast? You’re likely to forget the staples you really need. Avoid multi-tasking, so you can stick to your plan and get the food items you NEED!
Check out these quick swaps to spice up your shopping cart without sending you awry.
- Instead of regular dairy milk, use unsweetened almond milk.
- Instead of whole eggs, use real egg whites or egg substitutes.
- Instead of mayo or sour cream, use fat-free Greek yogurt.
- Instead of oil or artificial sprays, use natural non-stick cooking spray.
- Instead of rice, make cauliflower rice.
- Instead of cornstarch, use arrowroot powder.
- Instead of standard sugar or artificial sweetener, use natural no-calorie sweetener like stevia.
- Instead of pasta, use spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles.
- Instead of peanut butter, use powdered peanut butter or natural, no additive almond/ nut butter.
- Instead of ketchup, try pasta sauce or tomato paste mixed with a bit of apple cider vinegar.