For many of us, grocery shopping can easily turn into a major headache. With so many different stores offering so many different products, deciding what to buy, where to buy it and whether or not it’s healthy can feel like an uphill battle. Worse yet, it seems like all the junk food is always on sale, while nothing healthy ever is.
But not to worry —there are a few tips and tricks you can utilize to make shopping much easier. With a few apps, a clearer understanding of nutrition and a will to eat right, you can make the process enjoyable and productive.
Have you heard the expression ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’? If you’re properly prepared, there is no reason grocery shopping needs to be a nightmare. Here are some simple ways to get ready to shop so that you can have the best experience possible.
Heading straight to the store without a clear strategy is bound to end in nutritional disaster. It’s exactly the reason some of us reach the checkout line only to realize we haven’t bought anything substantial to eat. The shock is even worse when you head to the fridge and all you can find are rubbishy snacks and condiments.
To prevent this from happening, start by tooling up with the latest and greatest shopping assistants. Grocery iQ is a favorite of many shoppers because it works for both iOS and Android and helps to create lists. It also searches for coupons and deals to make sure you’re getting the best bargain.
Epicurious is another option for the self-proclaimed chefs out there. Beyond making a list, it has tons of recipes to browse through to help you figure out what to cook. For the environmentally conscious, Farmstand is a fantastic app that lets you find local farmer’s markets and vendors. It’s a good way to save money too, as it cuts out the middle man and helps you find seasonal produce.
Finally, rebate shoppers may have interest in apps such as Ibotta, which can be used to scan receipts in exchange for product refunds. Though the process can be tedious, it can be a good way to score a few dollars back from each shopping trip.
(Just a note of caution, if you use supermarket WiFi to connect to these apps, privacy aiding apps, such as VPNs, are a good idea, since Public WiFi tends to be a big target for data thieves. Getting your personal information stolen is a surefire way to turn grocery shopping into a nightmare).
Know Where to Go
Figuring out where to actually find good food at the store isn’t too difficult. The absolute easiest way is just to avoid going down any of the inner aisles. Grocery stores, for stocking purposes, generally keep fresh goods such as meat, produce and dairy on the “outer horseshoe” of the store. In general, this is where the healthy food is.
But only use that as a rule of thumb. Also on the horseshoe you’ll find your store’s bakery aisle (mostly refined flours and sugars), the deli (processed and preserved meats) and prepackaged meats. With a few exceptions, many of these items should be avoided. There are a few brands offering better options, such as Applegate and Annie’s (for meat at least), but stick with raw ingredients as much as possible.
Your grocery store’s natural/organic section may be tempting, but don’t forget to read the ingredients. Though most foods found here will be made with whole foods ingredients, there are still plenty of sugary goods with almost no nutritional value (an organic chocolate chip cookie is still a chocolate chip cookie!)
And finally these tips on avoiding food FOMO might also help 🙂
Set Dietary Goals
What you buy at the store depends heavily on the lifestyle you lead. Someone who visits the gym five days a week and spends every morning running or cycling will have very different nutritional requirements than someone with a sedentary lifestyle.
Consider shopping for all three meals in the day. Many of us fall victim to light or absent breakfasts, medium-sized lunches and huge dinners. But research shows loading all of your protein and nutrients into one end of the day meal is far from beneficial.
One reason for this is insulin. When you consume carbohydrates before bed, insulin is released. As you sleep, insulin causes your blood sugar to drop, but it also drops your blood protein. This results in muscle catabolism (break down) and actually inhibits healing. This is especially bad for athletes trying to build muscle.
Be very clear about what you need to meet your diet before going into the store. This will make you more focused and ensure you get exactly what you need, which will ultimately lead to a better experience.
Plan Your Meals
For best results, your breakfast should be high in protein with some auxiliary carbs and fats. Yogurt, especially Greek varieties, with granola is a good start. Those avoiding meats or dairy may consider oatmeal with some coconut oil and fruit instead.
Don’t forget the snacks either; maintaining small amounts of protein throughout the day can help curb hunger and aid in muscle development, particularly for strength trainers. It’s also critical for children, as protein is the key component in making new cells. Be cautious about protein bars, since many are loaded with sugar.
Lunch is tricky for some of us, as we’re frequently at work or running errands. Purchasing ingredients for salads and preparing containers with pre-mixed ingredients can save time and still allow for a healthy meal. Just be sure to include something other than green leaves. Lettuce on its own doesn’t have the most impressive nutritional profile and you’ll be scratching around for more food within an hour of lunch.
Consider darker greens such as kale or spinach, and add nuts or meat for a more balanced meal. Olive oil, your choice of vinegar/vinaigrette and seasonings to taste makes for a much healthier option than creamy dressings. But always be sure to include some type of fat with greens, as fat-soluble (A, D, E, K) vitamins actually require fat for proper absorption.
Dinner has endless possibilities, but just remember not to make it larger than your other meals.
Having a clear idea about your meals will help to go into the store with a clear plan, which will make you a better, happier and healthier shopper.
With some practice and a good eye, your trips to the grocery store will be defined by you breezing by unhealthy foods and packing in the good ones without so much as a second thought. There may be a bit of a learning curve, but it’s worth it!
Have questions? Leave us a comment below.
About the Author: Cassie is a nutritional enthusiast and lover of all healthy foods. As a shopper, she prefers to buy foods fresh and local and is always searching for seasonal produce for her latest recipes. Cassie is also a tech specialist, frequently utilizing the latest gadgets to make things easier.
P.S. All images sourced from Bigstock.com