5 Tips for Healthy, Economical & Stress-Free Grocery Shopping

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“LOOK! LOOK!”

The woman in the next checkout lane was trying to get her daughter’s attention. She was pointing to my grocery cart! I wondered, “What was in my very full cart that was so interesting?”

“OR-GAN-IZED”,

the mom told her, very emphatically. She was not talking about the way I had piled all my items in my cart. But rather, she was pointing to my grocery list which was propped up in the front section of my cart.

And I think I knew why this was a point of interest to her. I recalled I had whizzed passed this family back in the dairy section as they stood between the bunkers, presumably discussing what they should buy and what they were going to eat.

I cannot think of a more stressful shopping experience than walking into a grocery store without a plan. Not only is it difficult to remember what you have at home or what a recipe calls for, it is too tempting to choose unhealthy items.

Being organized is key to eating well and saving money. For many, healthy eating simply means making home-cooked meals rather than opting for drive-thru or delivery due to a lack of planning. Planning also means less food is wasted if it is bought and not used. Wasted food is wasted money. Having a plan begins with preparing a shopping list.

Here are 5 tips for healthy, economical and stress-free grocery shopping:

1. Choose your store

Decide on 2 or 3 favourite stores and stick to them. Your choice may be based on proximity to your home or work, products they sell, prices they offer or whatever is most important to you. From experience as a young eager mom, I learned there is no need to visit to five different stores every week to get the sale items. Your shopping trip will be much more efficient when you shop at stores you are familiar with. In addition, the more time you spend walking around a store looking for items, the more likely it is you will pick up unhealthy or unneeded items.

2. Shop the flyers

Go through the weekly flyers from your favourite stores. Make note of the sale items that may inspire your menu planning and items that you would normally stock up on. Don’t be tempted to buy an unhealthy item just because it is on sale. Look for the fruits and vegetables that are on sale that you will use for snacks and meals. You can also stock up on healthy non-perishables when they are on sale.

3. Create a menu of meals for the week

Create your menu based on the sale items that inspired you. Is cauliflower on sale? How about having cauliflower soup this week? Is poultry or beef on sale? Use some for meals and buy extra for the freezer if you have the space. Plan all of your meals for the week so that you can buy everything you need in one trip to the grocery store. This way, your cart will be so full, you will buy only what you need.  Additional trips to pick up 1 or 2 forgotten items can tempt you to buy unhealthy and unnecessary items.

4. Make a list of ingredients for the meals on your menu

Based on your menu for the week, make a list of all of the ingredients you will need to buy for this week’s meals.  If you are making cauliflower soup and you already have the milk, onion, and chicken broth, then write down cauliflower, celery, and potatoes (or whatever you need as per your recipe). Also consider what you may need to stock up on for breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Are you out of yogurt for the kids’ lunches? Write it down. In fact, keep an ongoing list of items you run out of on the fridge all week.

5. Compile a master shopping list

Compile all the items from your “want to buy on sale” list and the “need to buy for meals” list, and put them in order. List the items by section of the store. For example, write down all the produce items from both lists. Check them off as you go. Do this also for bread, meat, dairy, frozen, aisle 1, aisle 2, etc. Do this in the order for your store. Sometimes I have to re-write my master list a second time. But it is worth it! Not only will this save time by going through the store just once, it will also save money by buying sale items and by buying only what you need. Most importantly, you will have a plan of what you are going to eat for the week.

In conclusion, stick to your plan, and use what you buy.  With a little planning, you can eat healthy meals and save money.

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