Grocery shopping – one of the unavoidable errands of the week. Navigating the grocery store can be challenging, time consuming and often frustrating. There are so many options, which can make it seem overwhelming and confusing. I could sit and preach about reading every single label and inspecting each piece of fruit, but I recognize that may not be a reality. Here are some simple things you can do to help make this process less stressful and more efficient.
Go with a game plan: Make a list and stick to it. Not a mental list, either. An actual list where you write down items and check off as you go. Food companies are in business to make money and use your lack of preparation against you. They hope that the shiny packaging with claims of all natural, quick and easy, or low calorie will convince you to add their product to your cart. To make it easy, keep a running grocery list in your kitchen. When you’re low on something at your house, add it to the list. Pro tip: Keep the empty container of whatever you ran out of on the counter until you write it down.
Empty your cabinet of misfit ingredients: I know there is a sense of satisfaction having fully stocked cabinets, but don’t be a doomsday prepper every week. Try slimming down your cabinets by forcing yourself to use every item you can. If you are not sure what to create with these random ingredients, use the internet to inspire you with a new recipe.
Your phone can be your lifesaver: Take a photo of your fridge and cabinets before you leave. If something catches your eye or you can’t remember if you need a new jar of pickles, simply check your photo. This prevents you from purchasing unnecessary items.
Shop in a square: The inside aisles are saturated with the less healthy options. Stick to the perimeter of the store to find the freshest and least processed foods. Don’t give your food time to spoil. Put your meat and dairy items in the cart last.
Eye level is prime real estate in a grocery store: Companies pay for superior product placement. Look up and down before you make your selection. There are plenty of great options that require you to move your body. Pro tip: you can get in a few squats bending down and some calf raises reaching for that top shelf item.
Less IS better: Don’t over-buy vegetables. This is something that is a challenge for me. I always have the best intentions of eating that entire super-size bin of organic fresh washed spinach (in reality, I end up feeding it to the chickens). Look for organic whenever possible. It is worth the extra money to keep your body healthy, and it tastes better, too. When in season, co-ops, community-supported agriculture and farmers markets are completely worth it!
Skip the bakery: I mean it. Don’t even browse, pretend to squish the bread or look at the bargain price of frosted cookies. Just. Keep. Walking.
Don’t let the five for $5 swindle you into buying more than you need: Humans are wired to look for a “good deal” and can easily get suckered into a sale. Most times the sales don’t require you to purchase five of that item. Read the sign carefully.
Frozen chopped vegetables are your friend: The frozen food aisle has more than just pizzas and ice cream. Look for pre-chopped, sliced and diced vegetables that have no other ingredients. They save time and money. When making a sauce, soup or crustless quiche, I always start with pre-chopped onions, peppers and spinach.
Out of sight, out of mind: It is literally how our brains work. Eat before you leave your house and try to not shop hungry. You will be less tempted to buy that bag of chips, or extra sugar-laden snacks.
Avoid crowds: Shop during slow times. Be the first or last customer of the day. It will save you the hassle of long lines and you will decrease your chances of playing bumper carts with overfilled aisles.
There is not one thing you NEED in the checkout aisle: Don’t be fooled by the chocolate bar that claims it is sugar-free or 100 percent cacao. Just turn your back toward the entire display and engage in a friendly conversation with your cashier.
(Crystal Reynolds is an owner of 43° North Athletic Club and creates her grocery list with emojis.)