You are what you eat, so it only makes sense that you think before you do and even before that – plan and shop smart. Hunt for your food like a pro! Healthy grocery shopping is a skill and once you master it, it’ll help you make better eating choices, naturally. Here are some tips on how to get the maximum out of your shopping budget, get the best and get into eating better effortlessly.
Never go grocery shopping on an empty or a full stomach
When you are hungry you are likely to make snap decisions and pick all the wrong things, quick meals and sweets instead of real food. Even someone with the best intentions will be tempted with a pie when the hunger pangs kick in. The complete opposite happens when you go shopping when you have just eaten, you suddenly think you can survive on a few lettuce leaves and some water and end up not buying enough food for the week. Have a snack before you go, a banana or a small yoghurt, or, if you have eaten, wait a little before you go so you can think clearly about what you’re buying.
Buy real fresh food
If it’s been processed it’s not great for you. It’s been designed to look attractive and taste good but it’s probably high in preservatives, sugar and salt and has been through so much processing already it may just as well have been eaten at least once before. And it’s all a trick anyway, you are not saving anything by buying processed food and ready meals – neither time nor money, but you do lose out on the quality.
Get meat cuts and fish, whole fresh vegetables and fruit, grains, eggs and plain yoghurts. You can do wonders in the kitchen in under 15-20 minutes if your fridge is stocked with these.
If you have to buy ready meals use a simple rule: the shorter the list of the additives they contain on the packaging – the better it is for you.
Make a good but basic shopping list
You don’t want to end up walking aimlessly around the supermarket thinking what to buy and then falling for what is advertised as “healthy”. The food you want is often the one that is not advertised at all. You want to get some vegetables, but not too many because they’ll go off, and one or two types of fruit. The thing about fresh produce is that it goes off very quickly so unless you know exactly how you are going to use up all of the exciting items on your list, avoid buying them. Keep it simple and to the point:
- fresh meat, poultry and fish in any way – grilled, steamed or boiled, is a meal almost complete and you can always freeze it all for later if you are buying on a special offer and don’t want it to go off;
- tomatoes and cucumbers are basic and are easy to use up for salads;
- frozen spinach is great for smoothies (banana and apple will mask the taste) and will keep in the freezer indefinitely;
- lettuce although it has a very short shelf-life can be snack into every sandwich and go with any meat-based dinner as a side;
- get a few apples and bananas, they are cheap and keep well;
- buy plain yoghurt, preferably Greek yoghurts, they are higher in protein and lower in carbs and taste great even when plain. Flavoured yoghurts, especially the ones that claim to be healthy and low fat, are often loaded on sugar. Add some honey, seeds and nuts, freshly cut fruit to your plain yoghurt and voila, you’ve just made a premium quality snack you just won’t find on a supermarket shelf, not at a reasonable price.
Stay away from the chocolate and chip isles, don’t even go there
Just walk around all the sweets and snack isles and make it a rule to never pick up anything extra at the checkout. After a while, it’ll just become a habit. If you don’t keep any snacks in the house, you won’t snack – it’s that simple. No matter how committed you are, these things very soon will be calling for you especially late at night. It’s best that you have none of it anywhere within your reach and have to go out and buy it specifically when you absolutely have to have some. And yes, that goes for the 2 gallons of ice-cream in the freezer… you will very soon find yourself digging in there with a spoon.
Handpick and dig
If you run and grab you’ll end up getting things that are not quite as fresh as they can be. And very often these few days of extra freshness will count when you get to them. Pick fruit and vegetables from the bottom of the stack – choose the ones that are bright coloured and the ones that feel hard when squeezed and are not bashed, wrinkled or bruised. Get meat and dairy using the same principle- from the very back and bottom of the display. You are paying the same money for it – wouldn’t you rather get some that are slightly better?
Get default items for default meals
Default meals are brilliant for when you are short for time and you have something to fall back on instead of ordering a pizza. Pick two-three default meals you can make at any given day with all the real and natural ingredients. If you buy chicken or beef mince you can pre-make and then freeze burgers that will only take 20 minutes in the oven to make and serve. If you buy frozen salmon you can make it with rice just as fast and it’ll be a great nutritious meal. Grilled chicken breast with a tomato and cucumber salad will take even less time to make if you always have the ingredients in. Make sure when you go shopping you buy everything you need for your default meals and you’ll eat a lot healthier throughout the week. Very often, we eat unhealthily out of convenience and if we make it more convenient to eat healthily – we will.
Sample Shopping List
- Chicken or turkey breasts
- Wild Salmon (frozen if cheaper), or any other type of fish
- Canned tuna
- Ground beef
- Canned beans
- Cottage Cheese
- Plain Greek Yoghurt
- Milk (2% fat)
- Low fat milk and Soy milk
Sources of Good Carbs:
- Oatmeal and Oats
- Fruit (apples, bananas, pears, oranges, grapes) and barriers (forest berries, strawberries – can be bought frozen)
- Vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, red and green peppers, onions)
- Sweet Potatoes/Yams
- Whole grain bread
Sources of Good Fat:
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts) and seeds (chia, flax, sunflower)
- Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter)
- Olive and coconut oils
- Coconut milk and cream (actually good for you)
Sweets, chips, sodas and alcohol shouldn’t be completely excluded from the menu but since these are the things that are likely to do you no good and sabotage your healthy lifestyle, they should be bought separately and consumed in moderation.
Keep it as simple as possible, if it’s been processed, has lots of additives and a whole list of unpronounceable ingredients in the info, this is not the food you are looking for – move along.