You walk into a grocery store. You see an abundance of food, large red advertisements screaming to check out weekly sales, and a huge chaos of other busy shoppers desperate to get out of there as soon as possible. And then you’ll see those who stare at products for the entire length of time you’ve allotted to complete “grocery shopping”. It’s not uncommon to see kids catapulting products across the store, witness screaming tantrums, or dodge running around the store uncontrollably. HELP! Needless to say… grocery shopping can be a real struggle for many. No need to fret, you’ll be an expert navigator travelling from point A to point B in no time!
Here are my top 9 tips for easy grocery shopping:
1. Navigating the Aisles
Where do you start your shopping? One helpful tip is to focus your shopping around the perimeter of the store. This is where all your fresh ingredients like fruits and vegetables will be. Staple foods are strategically placed in the back (eggs, dairy, meats, etc.), forcing many to navigate through store aisles to get there.
2. Shop with Your Head, Not Stomach
Create a grocery list throughout the week and before you head out the house or get to the grocery store. But to stick to the list, you’ll need to make sure to have a snack or a meal before! When hungry, any and every food that comes to mind seems delicious. Perhaps you came to buy eggs but your empty stomach is eager for frozen cheese pizza. Of course this frozen meal will always have a pizza of my heart, but it’s better to stick with the grocery list.
3. Bottoms Up!
Ever take the time to look at the very bottom shelf? Packaged bulk foods and generic brands will be found here and are often cheaper than their brand-name competitors on the middle shelf. This is because the bottom-tier spot costs companies less to have their products placed there. Grocery clerks know that all the savvy shoppers will have their eye on the bottom shelf to seek out all the best deals.
4. Bulk Vs. Pre-packaged
I love trying new recipes and new ingredients. However, if I’m not sure I’m going to love those ingredients, or use them sporadically, it’s much better to buy in small amounts. Especially for those ingredients that become stale and less flavourful with time, like spices (about 6 months). One helpful tip to avoid this dilemma is to shop from the bulk goods section. There, you can buy ingredients in any quantity you wish for (usually) a cheaper price!
5. Frozen Vs. Fresh
Some days, you’ll just want an easy minimal-effort meal from the freezer. Contrary to popular belief, frozen produce is quite nutritious! These crops are picked at their prime and immediately frozen. Buying ingredients that will help you make a faster meal, is much superior to buying pre-prepared and commercially packaged frozen meals (i.e. buying frozen broccoli and fish, instead of a TV dinner). So don’t be scared to shop for frozen vegetables and fruits because they are a great alternative when fresh foods are not seasonally available.
Nowadays there are so many varieties to choose from. No longer just white and brown, but there’s multi-grain, sprouted grain, quinoa, rye and many more. When your eye catches the word “multigrain,” it sounds super healthy, but is it really? In reality, the variety of grains used in these products are still missing the most nutritious parts of the grain: the germ and bran. Instead, “whole grain” breads may be a better option because these include the entire grain and a greater variety of nutrients.
7. Fat-free, what? More Like Flavour-free!
Fats are essential nutrients for your health and provide flavor to your dish. Fat-abulous! Food labels often advertise foods as “fat-free” or “low-fat” to attract buyers. The problem is, when you remove fat content from foods, you jeopardize the flavor profile as well. Before you buy one of these products, take a look at the ingredient label to learn what products have been added to make up for the loss flavor. These will often be stabilizers and sugars and can make the product less healthy overall!
8. The Nutrition Facts Table may be Misleading
You might be thinking: “Hm..I can read the labels, but how do I know what’s actually good for me?”. It’s best to focus on the ingredients rather than the nutrition facts table unless you have a specific restriction (for diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, etc…). Numbers on the nutrition facts table may look higher than you’d like depending on what’s in the product, but the bigger concern is about WHAT’s IN the food. Ingredients are always listed in order from greatest to least quantity within the food. One helpful tip is to avoid foods with a long list of ingredients, especially if you can’t even pronounce the majority of the ingredient names! Mystery meat? Ummm…
9. Budget-friendly Tricks
Want to make your dollar last? It may not be hard as much as it takes some smart, simple, shopping strategies. When the cashier asks you to sign up for a store rewards card, perhaps consider doing it. For several grocery stores, this may mean member exclusive offers, cash-backs or discounts. Sign up for email alerts or pick up the daily flyer to catch all the best deals. If you’re making a stir fry, stew, baked goods… buying perfectly selected fresh veggies and fruits may actually be a waste of your money. Inside the grocery store, the very ends of the aisles are called end-caps: 9 times out of 10 feature sale products. Get familiar with your store to find those hidden spots.
BONUS: Deceptive Marketing
The majority of the nutrition information we receive comes from marketers rather than health professionals, which can result in misleading facts. Check out Ashley Linkletter’s post on the marketing behind grocery-shopping. This post is hosted by Healthy Way, a creative hub for lifestyle and wellness. Also for more about Ashley, visit her food & photography blog & portfolio.