Kelley Vargo by Kelley Vargo

The grocery store can be an overwhelming place, requiring time, navigation skills, money and patience. Despite this, it doesn’t have to be a CHORE every time you head out to the store. The following five steps will help streamline your weekly visit to the grocery store and keep you on track with your health and fitness goals, effectively turning you into a “grocery shopping” guru.

1. Create a standard list. A standardized grocery list is one of the best things you can do to keep your nutrition and your budget in check. Creating a list provides direction and a purpose for your trip to the grocery store. It also prevents mysterious junk-food items from finding a home in your pantry. Start your list with the staples—items you know you will likely need every week. For example, my standard list contains eggs, almond milk, spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, oats, chicken and fish. Keep this list in a place that is accessible, such as the notes app on your phone. This way you can easily pull it up at any time to amend or check your list. If you decide to write your list on paper, don’t forget to bring it with you! (I cannot tell you how many times I would write one out only to leave it on the kitchen counter!) Besides providing a blueprint for a healthy diet, having a grocery list can make shopping more efficient.

2. Make an appointment. Ok, we might not be going to the doctor, but many of us can easily find an excuse to skip the grocery store if we don’t commit to going. Try to find one day a week where going to the store can become a weekly ritual. Choose a day that makes the most sense for you. It’s understandable that life happens, and schedules change—that is okay! For the most part, if we stay consistent with our grocery appointment, it becomes habitual and takes less and less time out of our day.

3. Have a roadmap. No need to go online and find the floor plan for your local store, but ideally have an idea of where you are going in the store. Most healthy grocery shopping will be accomplished around the perimeter of the store. If you were to visualize most major grocery stores, the produce, dairy and meats align the periphery. This is where most of your time should be spent. It is okay to venture to the middle of the store to find things like condiments, nut butters and oats, but be conscious when shopping through the aisles because it is easy to become distracted and buy unnecessary items (keep referencing your list!).

4. Don’t go on E. As simple as this may sound, it is good to have a full stomach when heading to the store. Not only is it hard to focus when your stomach is growling, but the likelihood of straying from the grocery list is much greater.

5. Manage your groceries. How many times have you bought fresh produce and meat at the start of the week, only to find out that by the end of the week the meat has expired or the produce is wilted? Don’t fret, there are a couple of ways around this. First, plan to prepare food following the trip from the grocery store. Chopping vegetables, marinating meat or packing storage containers for the start of the week can not only help save time, it can help prevent wasting food. Second, freeze some of what you have bought. For example, if I know I will be out of town part of a week I will cut back on some of the produce I normally buy and freeze half of the meat I purchased. Lastly, buy frozen products as well. This provides some healthy options that they will not go to waste so quickly.

I hope these were helpful and keep you on track with your health and fitness goals! Good luck at the store this week!