Grocery-shopping sucks – it’s a pretty ubiquitous opinion. On at least one occasion, we’ve all spent 2+ hours in the grocery store doing a massive, pain-staking food haul, only to come home so exhausted that we end up neglecting the grocery bags on the counter in favour of takeout (I, personally, have become so close to my pizza delivery guy that I should probably buy him a Christmas present).
Yes, grocery shopping is a tedious chore – but there are things you can do to make your trip to the market less frustrating and more fruitful (no pun intended). We’ve gathered some grocery shopping hacks to help you shop healthier, cheaper, and faster.
Rule number one, and if you have little ones accompanying you, the rule applies to them too (this should dramatically decrease the amount of Pop-Tarts and Twinkies that seem to magically fall into the cart when you aren’t looking). Hungry shoppers tend to not only buy more calorie-heavy foods, but also end up purchasing more non-food items and spending more money overall than their satiated counterparts. Snacking before grocery shopping can prevent you from straying into the chips and chocolate isle, save you money and time, and will also probably make you way less cranky.
Before you stock up at the grocery store, you should be taking note of what you already have sitting in your freezer and at the back of your pantry. You’ll be surprised at how much money you end up saving and how much less food goes to waste when you start actively checking on what you already have.
Meal plans help you stick to a healthy diet, but they’re also good for keeping you on track at the grocery store. Basing a shopping list off of your meal plan can save time by making your trip to the grocery store more structured. You’ll know where to look, you’ll know what to buy, and you won’t have an excuse to go aimlessly wandering down the treats isles. Because you’ll be shopping for foods that are necessary for your planned recipes, you’re also less likely to get home and realize you forgot one of your kitchen staples.
This one is a great rule of thumb. While ready-made food can be tempting because of its convenience, it’s best to avoid. Processed foods usually feature alarming amounts of sodium, fat, added sugar, artificial ingredients, and preservatives that may cause adverse reactions in some people. By following the simple rule of avoiding packaged foods, you’ll be eliminating a lot of harmful stuff from your diet. You’ll end up feeling a lot better and will ultimately be reducing your chances of developing health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes.
When you do buy packaged food, make sure you’re carefully reading the label. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients listed, the better. Being able to recognize and pronounce the items on the label is also a hint that it’s probably safe to add to your cart. Another tip is to pay attention to the serving sizes. A food’s nutrition information is based on serving sizes, but if you’re not aware of what the box actually lists as a serving size, the nutrition info ends up being very misleading. Many instant ramen packages, for example, list one serving size as half the package. This means that, though the label might state the noodles contain 25% of your recommended daily sodium intake, you’re actually ingesting double that amount if you’re eating the whole package (like a normal person). Lastly, beware of foods that are marketed as low fat. They’re not always bad, but a lot of the time, manufacturers will compensate for a decrease in fat by increasing the amount of sugar, which isn’t really better.
Buying local, in-season fruits and veggies means that they haven’t travelled as far to get to your grocery store. They’re, fresher, which makes them tastier and more nutritious (the longer fruits and vegetables sit after they’ve been harvested, the more nutrients they lose). In-season produce also tends to be easier on the wallet.
Contrary to popular belief, frozen produce is very healthy, as freezing fruits and vegetables helps to retain their nutrients. Go for quick-frozen stuff – the less time it has been sitting before it’s been frozen, the more nutritious it will be. Going for frozen produce is especially helpful for those who live in winter climates and don’t have access to many fresh fruits and vegetables, or those who are shopping for only themselves and can’t seem to finish perishables on time. Frozen fruits and veggies can be steamed, baked or pan-fried just like fresh vegetables, and they’re also great for making smoothies.
It’s possible to be both healthy and budget-friendly. Healthy foods like potatoes, beans, nuts, canned tomatoes, whole-grain rice, olive oil, and frozen fruits and vegetables can be bought in bulk – just remember to check the label for any detrimental added ingredients, especially when it comes to canned food.