By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
It seems like going to the grocery store is not far behind cleaning the bathroom on many people’s list of dreaded chores. I can’t really relate–as a kid I was hooked on the game show Supermarket Sweep, and now there seems to be an electromagnetic force that lures me in, but even I find the grocery store overwhelming. In 2010, the average supermarket carried over 35,000 different products, a number that’s completely insane. I know not everyone is hoping to spend their spare time wandering aisles and comparing crackers so here are a few of my favorite market tips:
- Do a pre-shop refrigerator check: Don’t end up with 2 cartons of milk or a cabinet full of dried basil. Even more annoying is getting home from the store and realizing someone ate the last of the cheese.
- Check out sales online: Eating healthier doesn’t have to be more expensive if you’re savvy about it. All markets have coupons, and many are online. Ignore the 2 for 1 sodas; print the ones for produce and other fresh foods. As long as you’re not stocking up on junk, I promise you aren’t a crazy coupon lady/dude.
- Bring a recipe or two: Just like having “ a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear”, we’ve all gone on a big market trip and come back with nothing to make for dinner. Bring a recipe with you so you have all the ingredients and don’t end up ordering take out.
- Stick to the perimeter 90% of the time. The perimeter is where the healthier foods like fruit, vegetables, dairy, eggs, meat, fish, poultry and their frozen versions are stored. In general the center aisles are filled with processed items we want to avoid, but do pop into the aisles for beans (canned are fine), nuts, and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and barley.
- Ingredients first, nutrition facts after: Most people go directly to the nutrition facts panel, but it is more important to me that you read the ingredient list and know exactly what you are eating. Skip the products with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients and those that contain partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) or high fructose corn syrup (very processed sugar).
- Be freezer-friendly: Make use of that freezer; it’s not just there for ice-cubes. Having frozen broccoli, spinach, and berries on hand will make your life so much easier. No worry about spoiling, and you always have a veggie with dinner. I also always have a few frozen meals on hand for those days when making a real meal is not happening. A few healthy frozen meal lines include Applegate, Amy’s, EVOL, Kashi, Dr. Praegers, Organic Bistro, Bell and Evans.
- Your basket should look like you came from a farm, not a factory: On the same note as the perimeter rule, when you’re checking out take a look at your cart contents. Make sure your groceries are mostly fresh and not packaged.
Is grocery shopping a chore for you? Any market tips you live by? Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our Food and Cooking community.