I have a love/hate relationship with grocery shopping.
I enjoy the planning aspect of it. I like sitting down to plan my meals, and figuring out what I need for the week. I also like going to the grocery store and doing the actual shopping. I don’t enjoy the checkout lines – WHY does Kroger only ever have two or three cashiers on a Saturday afternoon? – or the kiddie carts made into the shape of a car. Those things may as well be tanks.
Feel free to remind me of my disdain for them when I’ve loaded my kids into one in a few years.
Tackling the grocery store when following a diet or meal plan can be daunting. It doesn’t have to be. I’ve got a few grocery shopping tips and tricks for navigating the grocery store and sticking to your nutritional goals.
Plan Your Meals
Planning your meals and snacks for the week ahead will make grocery shopping infinitely easier. Take time to sit down and plan your menu, then go through each meal and snack and list the ingredients you need to purchase.
From here, I take it one step further. Once I have my list, I re-write it group products together based on where they are located in my grocery store. All of my fruits and veggies go together, my meats, any canned goods, any bulk items… You get the idea. This makes my shopping trip more efficient.
Stick To The Perimeter
You’ve heard this one before. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store as much as possible. This is typically where you find the freshest food, and that’s what you should aim to fill your cart with. Lots of fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. In most of the grocery stores I shop at, the organic section is also on the perimeter of the store.
Of course, it’s almost impossible not to dip into the center aisles for some things, like rice and quinoa, or frozen veggies, which are a great alternative and often more cost effective if you’re on a budget. I’m all about the Bird’s Eye steamables! The trips away from the perimeter lead me to my next tip.
Read All Labels – and Ingredients
This isn’t brand new information. But it does make all the difference, even if it takes a few extra minutes. Check the nutrition label AND the ingredients. The nutrition label is informative, but the ingredients are where companies like to slip in things like hidden sugars. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to recognize all the ingredients in your food.
Compare brands as well. I do this often to determine things like which one is more natural, and, in my case, which one has more protein, because getting enough protein in my body daily is proving to be one of my greatest nutritional hurdles. I’ve been known to buy one product over another over the addition of just one gram of protein.
Protein is the way to my heart, it seems.
Don’t Go Hungry – or Take A Water Bottle
The day after Christmas, I failed at grocery shopping. I had zero food in my house, was traveling to Orlando for work the next day, and I walked through the doors of Wegman’s after a pretty heavy lifting session. I would have eaten my arm if I had salt for it. Despite the fact that I wasn’t going to be home for several days, I started wildly grabbing things. I ended up with a ton of food – not all healthy – and snacked on Swedish Fish on the car ride home. Not only did I make some not so great choices, I spent a lot more money than I usually would, and had food that would go bad before I would be home again to eat it.
If you do have to go to the grocery store hungry, take a water bottle with your, or pick up one at the store. Sip on water while you shop which should help curb your hunger until your shopping is done and you’re able to eat something.
(If you’re REALLY hungry, snag a protein bar – after you’ve read the label! – and save the wrapper for the checkout counter)
Depending on what your diet goals are, and what’s on your shopping list, it may be worth your while to shop around. It’s not the most convenient thing, but sometimes, I may go to Kroger, Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s, and/or Whole Foods in the same grocery outing. Wegman’s has a great bulk section, for instance, but Trader Joe has Greek yogurt-based guacamole and a mozzarella cheese that’s high in protein, but low in calories. Plus, Trader Joe has great frozen options, while Wegman’s has great prepared options. Kroger tends to have the best prices on vegetables and meats, and once in a while, there’s something I can only find at Whole Foods.
To make my multiple store shopping trips as efficient as they can be, I follow the list method above for each store. I use the same piece of paper and break it into columns. I know. It sounds like a lot of work. And it is. I don’t do this every week, just when my meal plan necessitates it – or a craving for Trader Joe guacamole sets in.
Grocery shopping can be overwhelming, particularly in the early days of a new diet or meal plan. But, if you go to the store with a plan – and maybe a water bottle – things will go well. And soon, you will develop a routine that works for you, and grocery shopping will be a breeze.
What are your best grocery shopping tips and tricks?