How to Shop: A Brief Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle

Shopping for a healthy lifestyle simplifies what you need to buy, so no need to feel anxious when walking down those aisles.  Grocery shopping can be pretty intimidating in the beginning, but it becomes easy once you know what to look for. There are a few basic guidelines in order to ease your shopping experiences, save money and time, along with getting the right products for healthy eating: making and executing a list, purchase items in bulk, capitalizing on sales and coupons, avoiding sales tricks, avoid processed foods, making your purchases count, and making it quick and efficient. The easiest way to have success in these tips is by planning ahead for things you might need at home; a grocery list is every shopper’s best friend.

  • Lists are one of the best methods to use when shopping for a healthy lifestyle, it keeps us focused and it helps us budget our money and time spent shopping; it’s the first step towards becoming efficient shoppers. When making a grocery list, the most important thing to do is to stick with the items on the list. If you stay within your list, then you can roughly budget out how much money you’re spending before you even start shopping and avoid the frivolous spending that come with impulse purchases. Never go grocery shopping while you’re hungry, or you’re bound to pick up something new that ‘looks good’ or even worse, you know it’s bad for you but your hunger rules over your mind and judgment. Now there’s nothing worse than going to the store and getting distracted, only to realize you didn’t even buy what you really needed from the store once you get home; but if you stick to your list that scenario never happens. It’s best to approach making a list as if every item on it is something that you need and will be beneficial towards your health. One must prioritize the important foods like vegetables, fruits, and grains; and simply avoid the cravings of junk food, soda and desires of sweets, for those will destroy a healthy lifestyle. When planning meals for the week, a grocery list will aid you in getting every ingredient, or finding ways to substitute what you have. The easiest way to use a list is by keeping your foods categorized by type and listed by priority, for example:shopfood

We usually use a small notepad when writing a list, but the different types of information on your list should still be there. The reason why I use ‘we’ for list making is simple, it’s a team effort. When making our list, we both check the our food supply just to see if either of us missed anything, this is another way to avoid multiple trips at the store and only takes a few seconds. We usually write out all the categories of our food, then we each add items as we see fit at the beginning of the week. To help in making priority with your list, use a meal plan in order to get ingredients for your whole weeks, or more, worth of food. Using one list per week is a great way to save time and ensure everything you need or cooking will be in stock.

Noting priority on your groceries and categorizing them really helps with staying focused and navigating the grocery store. It’s best to start off getting produce first, then work your way through the necessary aisles that you need. It’s an out of sight out of mind ideology with this approach, when you don’t have to walk down the aisles where junk foods are, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to be tempted to buy them. If you stick to the list, even if a product is in the same aisle as your favorite junk food, you’ll be able to resist temptation through discipline.

  • Bulk foods are my favorite thing to get when shopping. They allow the most freedom, since I can get the exact amount needed, but most importantly, they have the best saving opportunity. We’ll get anything from flour, nuts, spices, pasta, various multi-grains, and anything else we typically need from the bulk sections of stores. The bigger the grocery store, the bigger the bulk section is for the most part, but regardless of where you go, the price will be cheaper than the prepackaged counterpart. You can even buy bulk foods online nowadays, which can be beneficial if it’s an exotic item that most stores don’t carry. When you plan and store these bulk items correctly, you’ll notice your savings and trips to the store for these items decrease. We tend to only make bulk purchases every other month, and even sometimes up to 2-3 months. When incorporating bulked foods into your grocery routine, you again avoid isles which can result in giving into temptation and save money while you’re strengthening your willpower.
  • Always be sure to check out the sales for the store(s) you’ll be visiting. These sales and coupons can be found online, or in the sales papers that many of us receive in the mail; most grocery stores have apps now that tell you their savings as well. This is when the ‘*’ from the list example above comes in handy. If you know certain foods will be on sale more often than others, there’s no need to buy them when they’re not on sale. The savings of 50 cents to a dollar will add up if they’re products you purchase often. This technique also loosens the dependencies on certain foods. For us, our kryptonite is tortilla chips, because nachos/baked chips and salsa go great with chili, burritos, and other foods we make often. Limiting ourselves to make 1 bag last a month until they go on sale next month keeps us in better health and our stomachs in check. It also keeps us on our toes and forces us to cook with more variety. Even as a vegetarian, if we eat chips, pretzels, cheese, etc too often, we notice our fat increase and energy levels decrease. But sales aren’t always for restriction, because they often open up new doors for produce. We’re sure to capitalize on items like eggplant, cauliflower, pineapple, avocados, etc when they’re are on sale, or even getting a new produce we don’t usually cook with and experiment. If you notice a sale, it’s great to use a fruit and/or veggie that are usually a little expensive to base some of your meals around that week to capitalize on the offer. Sales and coupons can be an amazing thing when grocery shopping, but they can also lead us into wasting money, so be sure to plan ahead and accordingly.
  • Avoiding sales tricks is a simple yet effective trick in saving money. When we see sales like 2/5$, many people instinctively buy 2 for 5$, but you don’t need to always stick with the given sales price unless it’s an offer that’s only 2 for 5, because even if you just buy one it’s still a reduced price. Even sales that show things like 20 cents off aren’t worth it. If it’s a sales item, there’s always going to be a sale that results in it being half off somewhere down the line, just be patient or shop somewhere else that offers cheaper prices. But when those sales do occur, capitalize on the opportunity, but not when it’s a minor price mark down. Another grocery store trick is the sales tag, but in smaller font it says everyday price, so don’t be fooled by the tags and popping colors. My all time favorite is when they list the prices of other competing stores; it’s another sneaky method to distract you from getting the best deal. Some of the prices I’ve seen have been out of date, some are just wrong, but you never know truly until you visit all the grocery stores in your area and decide which products are cheaper in their respective stores. Keeping track of how much these items cost can be done by taking notes while shopping or looking at your receipts after you shop. If you do this, you can find the tendencies of which stores offer the best deal for whatever item you’re looking for. There are even some grocery list apps that save prices of the same item for various stores to make building your shopping list easier. When we look at what items are on sale the most often, don’t be surprised that you can’t capitalize on any of them because of the types of food they try to sell; because many of these sales tricks arise in the form of processed foods.
  • Even though they’re always on sale, processed foods are one thing to avoid when shopping. If you’re trying to obtain a healthy lifestyle, these foods are damaging on more levels than just the physical. One of the biggest lies I’ve seen are the ‘100 calorie’ bags of junk food, or the ‘reduced fat’ products- especially since those go on sale frequently. They are still some of the worst foods for you to eat. This is due to the amount sugar that is in those products, which are generally the same percentage for reduced fat and the 100 calorie bags. A calorie intake of a protein bar, bag of chips, cookies, and any other sweets may be the same calorically, but nutrients you get will be vastly different, especially when compared to fruits and veggies. A calorie isn’t just a calorie, different foods react differently in our bodies, and processed foods are poorly broken down which cause detrimental effects on our bodies. Heavily processed foods, such as American junk food are composed of more chemicals and refined sugars than natural, whole foods. Many of the foods we have here, for example Lays or Oreos, are composed of a different ingredient list say as in Europe. This is due to many of the chemicals and amount of sugar we put in our food here at home are illegal in other countries. This is due to the harmful effects they have on our digestive track and our brain. Our body can’t process the high amounts of sugars from these foods, which results in the body storing them as fat. The chemically made foods also trigger multiple relays in our brain, which result in the savory, sweet, and salty sensations that capitalize on our basic biology and influence us towards addiction. The biggest lesson is to not buy junk food just because it happens to be cheaper, because you’ll end up eating more of it than you really need. It will take you down a path towards obesity and addiction. It’s just easier to make your purchases count by eating healthier and longer lasting. So don’t get junk food, make each purchase last in your kitchen.
  • There are many ways to make your purchases count, the biggest is by utilizing those sales and sizes of the products. When you’re looking into buying thing such as cooking oils, bulk foods, conditioner, deodorant- look into buying products that will last you a while, and more importantly products that are good for you and the environment. Harsh chemicals come in every form, and many of them are in our toiletry products like toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, garbage bags, shampoos, and conditioners. Always look up what chemicals are in them and if they’re harmful for your body or the environment. An example of this would be with deodorant. We would buy deodorant every month or more depending on activities and were looking at ways to save money. We ended up finding a deodorant composed of natural mineral salts and last for a year or more, even after using it for 6 months you could hardly tell it was different from the first day opened. This purchase was the equivalent of 3 sticks of my usual deodorant on sale, so the yearly savings is justified. When we decided to commit to hiking and backpacking regularly, my significant other did some research on feminine products. Using a menstrual cup not only saves time and effort dealing with other products, it’s also environmentally friendly since all it takes is a quick clean and you can keep on using it when necessary.  Buying bigger, longer lasting products for toiletries, or using a coupon to purchase multiple at a time are excellent ways to save time and trips to the store. Buying a larger box of toilet paper, conditioner, shampoo, etc are all cheaper per individual roll or per oz. They key is using them in moderation and staying disciplined. These types of purchases just don’t apply to toiletries, but to food as well. For food, making your food count really comes in checking out your produce and food. There’s nothing wrong with looking at eggs and swapping a few with another container, and there’s nothing wrong with taking a damaged tomato off the vine and grabbing another healthy one.  Ensure that your produce is healthy and untarnished before you purchase it and planning out meals to eat or store for later. When spending money, it should always be for the betterment of you and your loved ones that consume them. From young to old, the next tip is always fun- just as much as saving money and time while shopping.
  • I know I loved getting timed when I was younger, and even working with children the aspect of getting put on the clock always works. This same theory still applies, it doesn’t matter if you consider yourself an ‘adult’ or not. Timing yourself and your family/significant other is an excellent way to have fun while shopping, but also an efficient way of making those trips short. We’ve all had those intended ‘quick’ trips to the store that ended up being an hour of grocery shopping. A lot of this is due to wandering around the store and making a list as you go; but as mentioned above, if you have a list ready to go you can zoom through the store and pick up all your essential groceries leaving you with more time in your day. Another reason why timing yourself and keeping a quickened pace while shopping is beneficial is because it leaves you little time to wander down the aisles of temptation where junk food and other processed foods may be. If you truly push yourself towards getting your shopping done in a time limit, you can’t afford to waste any precious time wandering in search of junk food.

I hope these shopping tricks can help you on your journey towards being a more confident and efficient shopper!

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