Updated: Nov 2, 2022
6 quick tips for a Successful Grocery Run
Katie Dienes, BSN, RN
You ever go grocery shopping with the goal of coming out on the other side doing a victory dance over all the awesomely healthy stuff you got, only to realize that by the end of your trip that that vision hasn’t really panned out?
If you can relate at all, don’t worry. I’ve been there before, as have many others. Despite our best intentions, if we don’t have a solid plan of attack we can end up leaving the grocery store feeling defeated.
We’ve got a bunch of whole foods with no clue how to use them, only to have them sit in our fridge for a week before we inevitably throw them away. Or another favorite of mine: realizing that you now have a boatload of snacks and junk but still no “real” food.
If you’re reading what I’m saying feeling like this is you in a nutshell, have no fear I’ve got you covered!
Read on to learn about my 6 tips for a more successful, productive trip to the grocery store.
1. Bring a list (and writing utensil)
Step 1 is to be prepared, and the best way to do that is by making a list ahead of time to bring with you. Having a list pre-written that you can bring along as you venture throughout the store helps you to have a clear intention and plan so that you can really zero in on what you’re actually searching for. Don’t forget to bring along something to write with, too!
Being able to cross items off as you move along is a safe way to make sure that nothing gets overlooked. Nothing worse than getting home, only to realize that you forgot the sauce you needed for that big lasagna dinner you’re making for your family reunion later!
**Bonus pro-tip: Start to write your list in the order that you travel. If you hit the produce section first, write out all of your produce first, and so-on. This'll help to improve time and efficiency so that you don’t get all the way to the freezer isle, only to realize that you forgot those dang avocados in the produce section at the opposite end of the store.
By having a list, you are much more likely to stick to what you need without haphazardly grabbing at things in an aimless attempt to fill your cart.
2. Don’t buy more than you need
This tip goes hand-in-hand with tip #1. But to take it a step further, how do you really figure out what belongs on your list?
You plan ahead!
By taking the time to sit down and determine what exactly your needs are, you can have an actual frame of reference to build out your list and ensure that you aren’t buying more than yourself (and whoever else you may shop for) really requires.
Start by determining who all you’re shopping for: Yourself? Your kids? Your parents? Your pups?
How much food, REASONABLY, will all parties require in a REASONABLE timeframe. And what exactly is that food?
Being able to actually map out the meals that you intend to make is a big piece of what’ll drive your shopping list.
A solid rule of thumb that I personally base my planning off of is blocking in 1-week increments. This allows for a healthy balance of not feeling like you have to camp out at the grocery store, while ensuring that you don’t plan too far out to a point that your food is now uselessly rotting away in your fridge.
If you’re feeling stuck here’s a simple example for reference:
You know that this week you’re gonna be making a delicious, nutritious buddha bowl for yourself, kids and spouse on Monday and Tuesday, then some awesome, power-packed tacos Wednesday and Thursday, with leftovers on Friday, and a family outing on Saturday. Oh yeah, and don’t forget your dog Max is running low on his favorite tasty treats!
And there ya have it: a shining example of how to start planning out your food needs (and thus your list items) for the week.
Simple as that!
3. Eat before you shop
This one’s another biggie! One of the surest ways to overbuy is to shop with your empty stomach. When you shop hungry, your eyes will naturally gravitate towards any tasty looking anything that crosses your path. And let’s be real, when you’re feeling ravenous at the grocery store, you’re not exactly gonna be craving a pig-out on apples and carrots…
Not only does empty-stomach-shopping set you up to overbuy, but it sets you up to overbuy the junk that you’d otherwise not be as interested in.
So make sure you fill up your tank before hitting the store!
4. Shop the perimeter
This is the golden zone in grocery shopping as far as I'm concerned. The perimeter is where you’ll find all the best goodies, being whole foods:
Fresh fruits and veggies, animal proteins like meat and eggs, and healthy bulk items like nuts, grains and legumes are all going to be housed here 9.9/10 times.
Sticking to the perimeter is the key to success in the effort to build up your whole foods intake and bring the rainbow to your shopping cart!
5. Aim for a colorful cart
Speaking of a colorful cart, this really should be your goal.
And no, I’m not talking Fruit Loops and Skittle people…
The more color in your cart in the form of amazing whole foods, the more diverse of a nutrient profile you’re getting. The beautiful pigments that we see in fruits and veggies that make them so visually appealing are known as phytonutrients, and they are INCREDIBLY important and amazing for aiding in our overall health and wellbeing.
6. Always read ingredient labels
Now, shopping the perimeter is ideal, but let’s get real for a second here:
There will be plenty of times when you 100% need to hit the isle and find things that come in a package. So here’s the key:
Always, I repeat ALWAYS, make sure that you are reading the ingredient label on any item that comes in a package. That is the only way to ensure that you know EXACTLY what you’ll be putting in your body after you open that package.
And believe me, I know from firsthand experience just how confusing it can be learning to familiarize yourself with food labels. So stick around for next week’s post to learn more about how to decode these crazy little nightmares called food labels.
And there you have it!
My 6 tips to set you up for success in your next shopping endeavor. If these tips speak to you on some level, leave us your thoughts down below in the comments!
If you’re looking for more tips, tricks and content be sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook @kd20.wellness, and don’t forget to check out the video version of this post over on YouTube here.
It’ always a pleasure, stay tuned for next week!