More and more people today are becoming alarmed at the amount of additives and chemicals in value-priced foods, and have developed systems to help their families eat better without destroying their food budget. Being a smart shopper doesn’t just refer to one’s ability to save money, but it also refers to one’s ability to get healthy, quality products without paying the premiums normally associated with them.
So if you’re one of the millions of shoppers who are looking to take your grocery trips to the next level, here are a few tips that will get you on your way to a thinner family and a fatter wallet. Let’s discuss them one by one.
1. Make A List…Always!
A shopping list is not just an inventory of items you and your family want and need – it’s both a strategic plan for a proper diet as well as a portable budget. The shoppers who make the most of their trips to the supermarket are those who put the most effort into their lists, and who refuse to stray from those lists once they’re in the store. This means planning meals down to the day, and shopping for the specific items that fit you and your family’s caloric needs. Frugal shoppers often utilize coupons from the store as well as from manufacturers to save big money on every trip.
2. You Don’t Need To Avoid The Frozen Section
People tend to think of frozen foods as the enemy when it comes to health, but this isn’t always the case – provided you pay attention to your labels. Many frozen fruits and veggies are packaged at the peak of their ripeness, sealing in essential nutrients that will keep for much longer than those in their fresh counterparts. So, if you don’t have time to work with fresh ingredients when cooking, you can still add a healthy portion of vitamins to every meal.
3. Plenty To Find Inside The Perimeter
Shopping “outside the perimeter” has become a popular slogan over the past few years for health food nuts who wish to avoid packaged foods. However, many of these shoppers have ignored the recent strides many companies have made to offer healthier options, and they end up missing out on the plethora of goodies that can be found in the heart of the supermarket:
- Canned beans
- Whole-wheat pastas
- All-natural cereals
- Organic Nuts
- Organic Yogurt
4. Shop Solo
It’s crucial that you shop alone, as the addition of another family member will often mean an increased temptation to stray from the list. Kids, teens and the occasional hungry spouse are liabilities when it comes to keeping unhealthy foods out of the home. Pick someone to handle the job and trust them to do it right.
5. Skip The Free Samples
Everybody loves to get something for nothing, but free samples rarely include the healthiest options in the store. Titbits like cheese and processed meats often make up these little snacks, and they many coax you to stray from the items on your list. Unless the sample is some fresh fruit or veggies, keep on walking and spare yourself the temptation.
6. Cook Instead Of Buying Ready Made Food
Few items in the supermarket are less healthy than the pre-prepared foods. These items may promise lean ingredients or portion control, but they usually come packed with preservatives, additives and sodium that more than make up for their healthy intentions. Also, they are far more expensive than making the exact same meals at home. So buy ingredients, not meals. Remember, no one knows what’s good for you better than you.
7. Check Your Labels
There are plenty of items in the supermarket bearing “organic,” “natural” or “fat free” labels, you just need to know where to look. Most stores will have these items separate from their less healthy cousins, so keep your eyes open and make sure the labels are true to their word. If you’re up for a bit of light reading, you can be sure that the products you buy are backing up their claims.
8. Don’t Shop Hungry
Last but certainly not the least; make sure you hit the supermarket on a full stomach. This means waiting until after dinner to do your shopping, rather than taking advantage of a free afternoon. If you shop hungry you will stray from your list – pure and simple.
All in all, there are a number of ways to shop “smarter,” but only if you develop a plan that fits your family’s needs and do your best to stick to it. So if you really want your family to eat healthier take the time to research the best foods in your local store and find ways to get them at the lowest prices possible. This may mean you’ll need to put a bit more effort into your weekly shopping trips, but the health (and financial) benefits will be well worth the effort.
Dorothy Wheaton, PA-C, works with Careworks Healthcare. Every Careworks Walk-in Clinic offers expert treatment for common health problems through their urgent care centers in multiple locations across Northeast United States.