Tips for Grocery Shopping

Healthy eating starts at the grocery store. That’s why we’ve developed tips to help you get the biggest – and healthiest! – bang for your buck.

Tip #1 List Your Weekly Meals

Each grocery store trip should start with a list. Here are some tips for putting together your list so you can stay organized and avoid buying what you don’t need:

1. Look in your freezer, cabinets and refrigerator. Make a note of what you currently have on hand. You can save money by using these items in the upcoming week’s meals.

2. Create a list of recipes. Check out the recipes on this website to find new healthy ideas. Be sure to include some of your favorite healthy recipes too!

3. Think about your schedule. As you’re choosing your recipes for the week, make sure you have a few meals that you can prepare easily on your busiest days. Save recipes that take longer for days off.

3. Use a worksheet. Now that you have a list of recipes, create a worksheet that lists your weekly meals and the ingredients you’ll need. Then check it against what you already have and you’ve got your grocery list!

Tip #2 Stock Your Pantry With Staples

A well-stocked pantry can take a lot of fuss out of your weekly shopping trip. Pantry items can often be stored for longer periods of time in a cool setting away from sunlight – but make sure you check instructions and expiration dates. Here are some ideas to consider for your pantry:

1. Spices: Turmeric, oregano, rosemary, ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, sage, cilantro, parsley, thyme, basil

2. Nuts: Pistachio, almond, walnut, macadamia

3. Fats: Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil

4. Seeds: Pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia and hemp

5. Whole Grains: Oats, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, barley

6. Legumes: Garbanzo, black, pinto, kidney (buy in bulk and soak your own!)

Tip #3 Shop the Perimeter

The outside aisles of grocery stores are where you’ll find whole, unpackaged foods. Produce and fish can be found around the perimeter of the store and here’s some foods you can load up on:

1. Veggies: Broccoli, onions, garlic, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage are great options that can store well in a refrigerator.

2. Leafy Greens: Kale, spinach, arugula, field greens and Romaine lettuce are just a few options for getting leafy greens into your daily diet.

3. Berries: All berries, fresh or frozen, are loaded with antioxidants and a great pick for a sweet snack.

4. Brightly-Colored Produce: Choose a variety of colored produce to get a variety of nutrients! Peppers, mango, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, beets and tomatoes are just a few examples.

5. Fish: Choose fish that is high in Omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury, such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel.

Tip #4 Read the Ingredients

1. Watch out for sugar. Check to see if sugar, juice, or a word ending in 
-ose is in the top five ingredients (keep in mind that 3 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon).

2. Watch out for artificial ingredients. Can you pronounce all of the ingredients? That’s a great way to recognize artificial ingredients. Also note that the term “All Natural” is unregulated, so products can be labeled as such without any verification.

3. Look for a short list of ingredients. If you’re buying packaged foods, try to look for products with 5-10 ingredients.

4. Watch your percentages. Don’t let “2% or less of the following” confuse you. This phrase means that each of the following ingredients can constitute at least 2% of the volume of the product NOT that all of the following ingredients combined are less than 2% of the total.

Tip #5 Shop Smart & Make Your Dollar Stretch

1. Eat before you shop. Grocery shopping hungry can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy food choices.

2. Read the sales flyers. Sales flyers are usually released mid-week and can be found at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, or on their website.

3. Use coupons. But only for items that you know you’ll use. If you don’t need an item right away, save the coupon and see if it goes on sale.

4. Look up and down for savings. Stores often stock the priciest items at eye level. You can save big by looking at the upper and lower shelves too.

5. Check for store brands. Most stores offer their own brand of products that often cost less than name brands.

6. Grab from the back. Stores typically stock shelves from back to front, placing the newest items behind the older ones. Reach in the back for the freshest items especially in the produce, dairy, and meat aisles.

7. Ask for a rain check. If a sale item has run out, ask the store for a rain check. This allows you to pay the sale price after the item is restocked.

8. Join the store’s loyalty program. Most stores offer a free loyalty program. Get special offers and discounts that non-members do not.

9. Read the unit price on the shelf tag. One product might be cheaper overall, but that could be because you are actually getting less. Make sure you check for the lowest unit price

For more information, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov.