Just because you pay a visit to your local grocery store at least twice a week doesn’t mean you get to enjoy wholesome, home-cooked meals. If you make a list of stuff to buy in the instant food aisle and load your shopping cart with microwavable dinners, you are no different from the person who eats fast food on a regular basis. You’re probably also spending more, tricking yourself into cooking but paying just as much as you would when dining out. What ends up on your dinner plate comes from the grocery store, unless it’s takeout. Therefore it makes sense to say that before you think about healthy recipes for the entire family, it’s about time you reorganized your pantry and revolutionized your grocery shopping habits!
>> Read more: The Dos and Don'ts of Healthy Grocery Shopping
Your Shopping Itinerary
The next time you need to hit the grocery store, get organized! Follow these steps:
First stop: Fresh. When you arrive, head for the fresh produce section. We’re talking vitamin-loaded, all-natural fruits and vegetables here. Start with your usual vegetables — carrots, peas, potatoes, broccoli and your favorite salad greens. Next, choose some fruits — bananas, oranges and apples. Watch out for seasonal produce for your family to try. Don’t worry if you haven’t thought of recipes to try yet. As long as your veggies are in the crisper, they will keep well.
>> Read more: 30 Heart Healthy Foods to Add to the Grocery List
Pack on some protein. Next, make your way to the meats, seafood and poultry section. Here you can pick up some choice lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, shrimp, crab and other seafood. Remember, the key word here is "lean." If you aren’t sure, here’s an example: chicken breast is leaner and more fibrous than dark meat. You can always ask for assistance from the folks behind the counter. While in this section, don’t forget to pick up a tray of eggs.
Head for the dairy department. Whatever it’s called, this is where you get milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, margarine and so on. Check the nutrition labels as well as the best-before dates. You don’t want to end up with bad milk in your fridge just a couple of days post-purchase. If you're watching your weight, choose low-fat dairy.
Go grainy, go nuts. Rice, wheat, flour, barley, whole grains and nuts are where you should head to next. These provide your carbohydrates and fiber, so choose unrefined, whole grain versions. For example, brown rice is a complex carbohydrate, so it is a healthier alternative to white rice. The same is true for bread. Nuts give you a boost of vitamins, iron, protein and fiber. Grab some cereal and oats while you’re here.
Never leave home without a list. Sure you want to start eating healthy, but that doesn’t mean you should make your wallet sick. When you have a list, not only do you save time and effort, you also steer clear of impulsive choices, therefore avoiding any nutrition pitfalls.
Shop perimeters and approach central aisles with caution. The perimeters are usually where the natural foods are found. Central aisles are where you will find frozen, canned or bottled goods, processed foods, condiments, and snacks like chips, puddings, candy bars, sugary drinks and so on. This is where your reading skills come in. There is no hard and fast rule that says you should avoid these aisles like the plague. Instead, you can use your best judgment by reading nutritional labels and comparing brands before buying. There are many traps in these aisles, too. For example, packages, promos and deals trick you into thinking you’ve saved by getting a freebie. Ask yourself if you need the freebie, or if you’re just after the idea that it’s free. If you can’t think of any use for it, walk away.
>> Read more: 10 Foods to DIY Instead of Buy From The Grocery
Never hit the grocery store on a growling stomach. Funny tip, this is. But it does make a lot of sense. Try torturing yourself when you’re hungry by taking a leisurely walk at a grocery store. The lights will seem more flattering, the foods more inviting, and yes, the chips and ice cream section will beckon to you like crazy, and you will heed. So grab a healthy snack and drink a tall glass of water before you hit the market. Now you’re all set to become a supermarket superstar!