Grocery shopping: You either love it or you hate it. Either way, you've got to eat. Cooking and preparing more food at home is a great way to shape up your diet. When it comes time to cruise your supermarket's aisles, here are six simple steps to become a better grocery shopper.
Don't Forget About Frozen and Canned Foods
Have you heard the recommendation to "shop the perimeter" at your grocery store? The idea here is that more fresh produce, lean meats and wholesome dairy foods are found on the outer aisles of the store and that processed and packaged less healthful food line the inner aisles. But don’t forget that the middle aisles harbor some really good options, too, especially when it comes to frozen and canned foods.
Not all frozen and canned foods are created equal and you’ll want to steer clear of the high sodium convenience foods in these sections. But the freezer aisle can be your best friend if you’re looking to pump up your produce intake. Frozen fruits and vegetables (without added sauces, sugar or salt) are a great way to get year-round produce. Look for frozen berries, which are great for smoothies, and frozen bagged vegetables and legumes such as edamame (soybeans), black eyed peas, frozen broccoli, corn and lima beans. Most commercial frozen vegetables have been harvested at their peak season and then immediately flash frozen, locking in key nutrients and great flavors.
As far as cans are concerned, skip canned vegetables such as carrots and beans, which are nutritionally stripped down and sitting in salt water. Instead, seek out canned legumes such as black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans and white beans. They save a ton of time vs. soaking and cooking them at home, plus they provide plant protein and fiber. If you’re concerned about sodium, rinsing these products under the faucet can reduce sodium by about 30%.
Look Down Low
Food brands pay a premium price to be at eye level on the shelf in your grocery store. Often times you’re paying marked-up prices for exactly the same foods you can find below. So next time you’re at the store, don’t forget to look down low.
The lower shelves are where generic or less-expensive versions of foods or brands are found, which are likely to have similar quality standards with cheaper prices. Then reinvest the money you save from shopping the lower middle aisles into a few more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Seek Out Seasonal Produce
We're lucky to live in a land of plenty where most foods are available to us whenever we want. But there’s something to be said about purchasing peak-season produce. When you buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, you not only save money (because produce is more affordable when it’s in abundance), but those foods will taste better and are actually better for the environment.
Shipping out-of-season produce to you from halfway around the world not only costs more money, but it also takes its toll on nonrenewable resources. To learn what foods are in season now so you can shop seasonally, visit www.seasonalfoodguide.org.
Shop the Circular
You probably get your local grocery store’s circular in the mail, and if you’re like most people, you immediately throw it in the trash. But take a second look at your weekly supermarket ad. Using the ad or circular is a great way to help plan your meals. You can take a glance at what’s on sale and available in your store, before you even get there. Many larger stores also have their ads online or offer online coupons, so you can cross-reference with recipes for the week and streamline your meal planning by using the circular as your grocery store guide.
Don't Shop With a Growling Stomach
It's a good idea to fuel up before you head out to the grocery store. Shopping on an empty stomach is the last thing you want to do, as it leads to impulse buys and less healthful store selections. And extra credit for you if, along with a snack, you also pack your grocery list.
Shopping with a list helps you stay on task and makes you more likely to buy the wholesome foods you know you need. Pick out recipes you want to make for the upcoming week before you hit the store, and use their ingredient lists to help shape your grocery list.
Let the Internet Shop for You
With the advent of all sorts of online shopping tools, if you really despise grocery shopping, you don’t even have to physically go to the store anymore. Online apps, services and personal shoppers can help save you some serious time if you just can't get yourself to the store. Shopping from the comfort of your own home means you can quickly survey what foods you have on hand, select the ingredients you absolutely need and, with a click of the mouse, let someone else do the shopping for you.
So there you have it, a few simple steps to make you a savvier grocery store shopper!