A smart grocery shopping strategy leads to smart eating.
Sticking with a healthy eating plan while hitting up the grocery store can sometimes be a struggle, something our staff knows all too well. That's why we polled our editors, finding out their best tips and tricks for buying good food (and actually cooking with it). Read below to learn our best strategies for being a smart shopper:
Go with a Plan (and a Full Stomach)
A list is essential for shopping—without one you'll end up with a cart of mismatched items and no plan for how to use them. Planning ahead, whether it's just choosing pillar ingredients to base easy meals off of or making a full list of the recipes you're going to cook during the week, will make a huge difference in how you shop. Another must-do before shopping is making sure you're not hungry. Hitting up the store on an empty stomach can make it hard to shop smart, and you'll probably leave with a plethora of unintended snacks or poor food choices due to your rumbling tummy.
Shop the Perimeter
Having a strategy when traversing the grocery store can make a world of difference. If you know that the chip or soda aisle is your downfall, make sure that you take steps to avoid these temptations. An easy way to do this, and ensure that you're focusing on more whole foods, is to shop the perimeter of the store. Around the edges are where more fresh ingredients (produce, meats, dairy, etc.) are located and less packaged junk is presented.
There's no shame in picking up a package of pre-chopped or pre-cooked foods if it will make you more likely to cook at home and avoid eating out. These shortcut ingredients—like pre-chopped or washed produce and pre-cooked grains—can save you time and effort, making it that much easier to cook dinner or quickly prep tomorrow's lunch. Although these items can sometimes be a little bit pricier than the non-prepped versions, these products will save you money in the long run if it helps you avoid buying takeout.
Have a Post-Shopping Plan
Nothing is quite as disappointing as buying a full cart of beautiful and healthy foods, then arriving home and realizing you don't have the energy to cook any of it. Don't call that pizza joint's number, instead always make sure you have a few staples on hand that can be tossed together to create a satisfying and wholesome meal. Simple recipes like BBQ Shrimp Toasts, Spanish "Tortilla" Omelet, or Lemony White Bean-and-Arugula Salad can be thrown together in minutes and only require a handful of ingredients.
Now don't get too excited, this tip doesn't mean you should just buy whatever strikes your fancy. Instead, it's about how it's okay to splurge on foods you know you'll really appreciate and enjoy. While it's great to be budget-conscious when grocery shopping, it's sometimes worth it to buy that variety of kale that's an extra dollar a pound, or spring for the high quality coffee beans. Cooking with ingredients and products you really love can help you appreciate your meals even more, and just like the shortcut items listed above, you're more likely to actually cook with foods you're excited about.