How many times have you made a trip to your local grocery story, only to leave feeling incredibly guilty for throwing that pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food Ice Cream in your cart, or for spending $20 more than you had anticipated? If you’re anything like me, this is a regular occurrence. Maybe it’s just my unwavering love for food, but browsing the aisles of Whole Foods or Trader Joes, chock full of sweet and savory flavors, just gets me way too excited.
Recently though, I’ve made a conscious effort to be more strategic with my grocery shopping, in an attempt to save on money and calories. I put together a little list of rules for myself, and have definitely noticed a difference in my wallet and waist. Here are my five best tips:
1. Shop the perimeters. Literally. You see, the perimeter of most grocery stores is home to the healthiest foods. On one end, you have your fresh produce and dairy like skim milk and Greek yogurt, and on the other end you have your lean proteins (hello turkey and chicken breast), and your freshly baked whole grain bread. Those aisles in the middle of the store are full of chemically processed cakes, cookies, and chips. So keep to those edges and the scale will thank you!
2. Take advantage of farmers markets. One of my favorite things about the warmer seasons are the awesome weekly farmers markets around town. It’s unbelievable the difference fresh, locally grown produce has in making fruits and veggies so flavorful. Every Saturday morning, I set out for the market downtown with a crisp $20 bill in my purse, and nothing else. This way, I’ll stick to my budget, and don’t get carried away buying every tasty thing I see. I find that I can get a lot more produce for my money at a farmer’s market. Always at the top of my list? Freshly baked breads, sweet corn, juicy heirloom tomatoes, and crisp red apples.
3. Shop with a grocery list, and stick to it! I know, I know, this is the oldest trick in the book- but for good reason! Because you’re only shopping for one, it’s easy to fill your cart with too much food that will end up going bad and being thrown out. Before you head to the store, sit down and think about the meals you’ll make that week. A lot of times, I’ll make a few pieces of grilled chicken or fish on Sunday, that I can use on salads throughout the week. Group similar food items together (produce, dairy, meats, etc.) to make it easier once you get to the store.
4. Read the nutrition label. This might seem like an obvious way to choose healthy foods, but a lot of times people are looking for the wrong things. Instead of going straight to the calorie count, try reading the ingredients. A good rule of thumb- if it contains something that you couldn’t grow yourself, don’t buy it. For example, a lot of packaged foods contain “partially hydrogenated oil.” Instead, look for simple ingredients like sprouted whole wheat, sea salt, barley, etc.
5. Treat yourself. Depriving yourself of the things you love most is never the answer. Stick to a diet of fresh produce, whole grains, and lean protein, but a taste of your favorite ice cream or salty treat every once in awhile won’t hurt. You deserve it!