Do you ever feel like you spend your life grocery shopping, only to come home with bags of less-than-healthy food and a shockingly expensive bill? We get it. Pick one or more of these tips to adopt, and you'll be a smarter, healthier, and wealthier supermarket shopper in less time than it takes your kid to beg for the sugariest cereal on the shelves.
1. Use a smaller cart. It can be tempting to fill the cart to the brim. Using a smaller cart can prevent unnecessary overshopping.
2. Look around. The most expensive items tend to be placed at eye level. You may find better buys at the top and bottom of the shelves.
3. Stick to the list. When food shopping, always make a shopping list and commit to sticking to it. I suggest a self-imposed rule of no more than two food items not on the shopping list as last-minute indulgent purchases. If you tend to be sucked in by impulse buys during the shopping experience, you may find shopping from home a better option. It’s hard to be impulsive when the items aren’t right in front of you, tempting you!
4. Prep for savings. Before heading to the market, check the online app, circulars, and coupons for the foods you need. Many manufacturers offer coupons directly on their websites.
5. Shop manager’s specials. Shop the butcher’s counter for manager’s specials. The meats sold on special are safe to eat and offer a nice discount. You usually do need to cook them right away, however.
6. Dig deep. Although the outer perimeter of the store has the fresh produce, dairy, butcher counter, and other wholesome foods, don’t count out the inside aisles, which stock many healthy foods, like nuts, healthy oils, canned beans and lentils, and frozen produce.
7. Shop smartly in bulk. Some foods are smart to purchase in bulk, like a large bag of quinoa—if you eat it regularly. However, if you purchase large portions of nuts thinking you’ll save money in the long run, they may actually spoil before you get a chance to eat them all. This depends on your household usage. Some foods I like to buy in bulk include olive oil, cooking spray, salt, black pepper, and honey.
8. Compare labels. If you’re debating between two or three brands, take a few minutes to compare the labels to see which has more of the good stuff, like fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, and less of the not-so-good stuff, like saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar.
9. Buy seasonal produce. Whether you buy at your supermarket or local farmers’ market, fruits and vegetables tend to be cheaper when in season.
10. Don’t fall into the “free of” trap. Many foods tout the fact that they are free of gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs, and so on. I often question what is in these products rather than what isn’t. Unless you have a specific food allergy, don’t fall for the “free of” laundry list on labels. Instead, think about the nutrients you need to keep you healthy and if this food contains what you need.
11. Source inexpensive nutrition. Expensive isn’t always healthier. Some foods touted as superfoods, like acai and chia seeds, carry a high price tag. But the truth is, you can get the same nutrients in more readily accessible foods that are much cheaper.
Copyright Toby Amidor, The Easy 5-Ingredient Healthy Cookbook: Simple Recipes to Make Healthy Eating Delicious, Rockridge Press, 2018.