7 Helpful tips to Smarter Grocery Store Shopping

A huge part of healthy eating comes from shopping smart at the grocery store. Whether you're shopping at a budget grocery store, or one that supplies mostly organic items, there are ways to get good healthy food at a good price. 

Sometimes I absolutely don't have the energy to spend an hour or so in the store looking for all the items I need. And it is especially tedious when it gets a little busier and it's harder to move through the isles. This post will help you get the items you need in a quicker time period and save the headache. I now think it's a positive experience to shop and more of a relaxing part of my day. 

Here are 7 things I keep in mind when I'm at the grocery store:

1. Shop the perimeter

The perimeter of the store always has the freshest, non-processed, and healthier food items. You can get you fruits and veggies, eggs, milk, yogurt, and meat/tofu products just by walking that square along the wall. All the stuff in the middle are usually processed food products with higher amounts of sodium to boot. Save time and fuss by shopping the perimeter. 

2. Know when to buy organic

I love organic food as much as your neighborhood hipster, but honestly sometimes you don't need to buy organic if you're watching your wallet. Eating organic is the best form of health insurance, but as long as you avoid the dirty dozen that is chock full of pesticides, you should be fine. The dirty dozen that you should consider buying organic includes:

apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.

And the clean 15 that you can often get non organic includes:

avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

*Info from: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php

There are a lot of GMO produce out there though that I'd definitely stick to organic which includes mostly corn, and soybeans. But if you want to play it safe, always buy organic. 

3. Watch your labels

Labeling is an interesting topic because most of the time it is beneficial and informative. But like my last post mentioned, sometimes food companies put labels on something that should be obvious, (would you want your apple labeled gluten free?) but good labeling can help you determine which products may be healthier or better for the environment. Being married to an environmental conservationist has helped me become a better recycler (and a better person!) some packages will mention that they are part of the GMO project in which their logo sports a cute little butterfly. I feel better about eating foods that I know are not genetically modified with genes from another plant or animal because who knows what those random genes can do once they are in our body? I also look for low sodium versions of products like soy sauce, etc and try to use spices as a flavoring agent instead to save my heart and blood pressure (there are so many tasty spices!)

4. Check the label and ingredients list

That nutrition panel may be daunting, but it's packed with really beneficial information in terms of your health and what your putting into your body. It's basically a box telling you how you're going to feel and/or look later. For me, if I am shopping the middle isles, I take a look at the ingredients list to see how much stuff is in it. I like to keep it to 5 ingredients or less but 10 might be more attainable sometimes depending on what it is. The label tells you how much sodium is in a product which might make you retain water and affect your blood pressure while make your rings a little tighter and your face a little puffier. Or there might be good mono and polyunsaturated fats like in nuts or fish that are good for reducing cardiovascular disease. Let your food nourish you. 

5. Avoid foods with ingredients you can't pronounce

In general, I try to avoid putting anything into my body when I'm not sure what it is. I have gotten a good education on what most chemicals or additives are and where they come from. Like carrageenan is actually a thickener derived from seaweed. Or locust bean gum from the carob tree is also a thickener and I don't mind them too much in the products I buy. Other things like sodium nitrate used in bacon as s preservative I try to avoid. If a food product can last for years without decay, I'm all set. Actually the decaying process is quite interesting. The browning seen in apples occurs when they are exposed to oxygen. When the apple is cut or bruised, the oxygen that is introduced to the cells, polyphenol oxidase or (PPO) enzymes oxidize phenolic compounds present in the apple tissues to O-quinones which then react to form compounds with amino acids and produce that brown color you see. See, you learn something new everyday. The more you know! But I digress...

6. Buy in bulk

I am trying to get better at this, but I think it's a great idea to buy certain things in bulk. Because then you can make a big batch of something, and either bring it to work for lunch, freeze it for later, or give it away. People will like you more because food is love, and this also saves a lot of money in the long run. Things like baked or rotisserie chicken are versatile and easy to make into any dish you want. I love my crockpot and can make pulled chicken for soups, sandwiches, pasta dishes, etc and just 3 chicken breasts lasts me for days. 

7. Experiment!

I love trying new things, and some people are a little less adventurous, but I have found some new favorites over the years. Some grocery stores like Trader Joes have employees that provide some great recommendations that have taken my cooking from meh to yeah! There are also some grocery stores that have dietitians that offer grocery store tours and they cater it to you and your health! So take advantage of all the delicious food around you and let food nourish your soul. 

And don't forget to have dessert every once in a while. 


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