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Smart Grocery Shopping Tips

Family selecting produce at a grocery store

Grocery shopping is one chore that everyone has to do at some point, but not many people enjoy it.

It can feel like there are so many choices, yet not enough time to choose healthy items that don’t cost a fortune or create enough meals to get you through the week.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s how to make the most out of your trip to the grocery store so you end up with more nutritious food, less stress and money left over.

Grocery Shopping Tips for a Healthier You

Plan Ahead

Making sure your fridge and pantry are stocked with healthy foods you enjoy begins before well before you step into the grocery store.

A well-planned grocery list gets you in and out of the store quickly, and helps prevent impulse buys that can be bad for your waistline and your budget. Multiple studies have found that using a list while grocery shopping can lead to healthier food choices and even weight loss.

If you’re having a hard time deciding what should go on your grocery list, start by making a food menu for the week and go from there. Be sure to include plans for breakfast, lunches, dinners and snacks.

As you write your list, try separating it by category or how your grocery store is laid out. This will keep you focused on the items you’ve planned, streamline your shopping trip and help you avoid unhealthy items.

Eat Before You Go

Grocery shopping on an empty stomach is a recipe for poor decisions. When you’re hungry and wandering the aisles, you’re more likely to act on impulse and add unhealthy foods to your cart. You’ll also have a harder time resisting in-store samples or opening up a snack to tide you over as you shop.

Before you grab a cart, fuel up with some water and a snack that will keep you satisfied. Try a snack that contains fiber and protein to help you feel full and keep your blood sugar levels in check. An apple with peanut butter, a cup of veggies with hummus or a handful of crackers with cheese are great options.

Read the Labels

Even products that claim to be “all natural” or “organic” can still be loaded with hidden fats, sugar, sodium or calories. Learning how to read and understand nutirition labels will help you pick foods that are good for you and your family.

When reading nutrition labels, look for items that have fewer ingredients – and ones you recognize and can pronounce. That’s because sugar, sodium and fat are often disguised different names. If you’re not sure what something like “anhydrous dextrose” really is (it’s another name for sugar), there are apps that can help you. With the Fooducate app, you can scan an item’s bar code, and the app will show you precisely what’s in the item. Fooducate will also give the item a grade so you can judge just how healthy (or unhealthy) it is.

Consider Canned and Frozen Options

While purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables may be ideal, it can be frustrating if they go bad before you have a chance to use them. Frozen and canned fruits and veggies are often equally nutritious, and many products are budget friendly.

Just make sure you’re reading the product labels before you chose a canned or frozen option. Steer clear of canned fruits and vegetables that are sitting in sugary syrup or salty water. Instead, look for ones with no additional ingredients. Avoid any items that have also been processed with sugar, sodium and preservatives.

Buy in Bulk

If you have the space, buying in bulk can be an excellent budget-friendly way to fill your pantry and freezer with your favorite healthy foods. The key is to purchase items you use most often, not jumbo-sized quantities of foods you’ve never tried and may not like.

Wholesale clubs like Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s Club are easy places to find bulk items. Many standard grocery stores also have bulk sections, and you can purchase larger quantities when items are on sale to ensure you get the best deals while stocking up.

Some of the best healthy items to buy in bulk include:

  • Dry beans and lentils
  • Rice and pasta
  • Canned meats and fish, like chicken and tuna
  • Dried fruits
  • Raw nuts in the shell
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables
  • Olive and coconut oils

Budget Wisely

If you’re sticking to a budget, the idea of choosing the healthiest options can seem overwhelming and costly. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to fill your cart with nutritious foods.

Before you head out to the store, scan your store’s weekly circular, which can usually be found online. Use that info to plan out your weekly meals and create your shopping list.

Consider purchasing generic or store brands rather than the similar brand-name items on your list. They often taste the same (and even have the same ingredients) but are usually less expensive.

Lastly, opt for fresh, in-season produce. Not only will they taste the best, fresh fruits and vegetables are less expensive when they are in season. You can also stock up and freeze or can extras to use later.

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