Grocery shopping would have to be the highlight of my week. I absolutely love going to the grocery store and browsing; taking my time to push the trolley and appreciating the wonderful and vast amount of food that is offered in our lifetime.
However, as much as I love it, life was not meant for idling around Wholefoods or the farmer’s markets all day! So I’ve noted down a few important things about grocery shopping which I believe can help everyone grocery shop more efficiently and help them with their healthy eating journey.
Fun fact: when we first started dating, Phi and I used to go on lots of mini-dates to the shops. We’d have fun showing each other our favourite childhood snacks, trying a new flavour of chips together or disagree on the best ice-cream brand. It was quite a get-to-know-you-activity because I think you can discover so much about someone by the way they grocery shop!
1. Have a Shopping List
We never go grocery shopping without a shopping list! It’s the ultimate must-have for any shopping trip because it gives us purpose. The shopping list keeps us on track of what to buy which is great for our budget and healthy eating goals. We write down the items that we’re running low of, want to experiment with and the ingredients list of our weekly meal plans. That being said, we encourage everyone to pair their weekly meal plans with a shopping list so you know exactly what to buy and how to use it.
The dynamics of the shopping list will vary across households but personally, we share a list online. This way, Phi and I can access the list anytime we want to and write down what we need for our next grocery trip. A common way is to stick a list onto the fridge and everyone can contribute!
2. Don’t Go Hungry
When we go shopping hungry, we are more impulsive with our food choices. We choose foods that are unhealthier and more calorie-dense because our mind and body thinks that it is the fastest way to cure our hunger. We recommend everyone to ensure they have a full stomach before they do their grocery shopping. If you usually visit the grocers after work, after exercising or during a time that you’re always hungry, make sure to have a healthy snack like fruit, nuts or seeds (in your bag or in the car) before heading in.
3. Read the Ingredients List and Nutrition Labels
A good habit to get into is to read the ingredients list and nutrition label of the everything that you intend to buy. Nutrition labels provide a great deal of information such as sugar, fat and sodium content. It helps us make better nutritional choices of the foods we eat. Similarly, the ingredients list is an important tool for allergies and general healthy eating. Some brands may include lots of fillers and preservatives that may not be worth the price you pay for. For example, maple syrup is a good one to look at because some use maple flavoured syrup while others actually use 100% maple syrup.
Of course, with a whole-foods, plant-based diet, it’s best if the things you buy don’t have a label at all!
4. Check Out the Produce on Special
We recommend checking out the produce in the specials section. The fruits and veggies are often overripe, have a blemish or have a few days until most people will find them unsightly. Sometimes though, you do find a great bargain for fruits that are perfectly fine. Grocers try to appeal to their customers by displaying only the good-looking fruits and vegetables. So there are plenty that don’t make the cut on the outside but they’re perfectly fine on the inside. We carefully select these produce especially for banana cakes (overripe bananas!), smoothies, soups and stews. We also freeze them for use another time!
Not only does this help you save money but it’s good for the environment too because it helps save food wastage.
5. Buy Bulk if You Can
This strategy may not be for everyone but it’s a great incentive to save long-term. We buy most of our staples in bulk including nutritional yeast, flaxseed, spices, dried herbs and grains. Our comparison between bulk buying and buying in smaller quantities found that we end up spending less money in the long-run.
Freezing is a great way to store bulk bought goods. Also make sure to store food products properly (airtight container, in a dark place usually) as it’s heart-breaking to spoil a bag of 1kg nutritional yeast!
6. Check Out Local Grocery Stores
Growing up in a Vietnamese family, we always shopped at our local Vietnamese/Chinese grocery store. So when I was older, it didn’t seem all that foreign to me until some of my non-Asian friends asked me where I bought all my Asian cooking ingredients. That was when I appreciated these smaller ethnic grocery stores a lot more because they offered more variety, had items that were hard to find and often at a cheaper price. We also love forming connections with the owners and asking for brand and food recommendations.
So we recommend to try out your local Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Persian and many more (those are the ones we have locally) grocery stores to connect with your local community as well as see what items they offer!
7. Start at the Produce Section
This may seem a little weird but we have a system when we grocery shop. We always start at the produce section because we know that most of our food comes from here (and we know they should too!). So when our trolley is loaded up with fresh fruits and vegetables, we’re already 80% done. This also means that when we’re passing the unhealthier, processed food sections, we can look down at our trolley, see the difference and make a more conscious choice.
The second place we go is to the bread and grains section. Since this forms most of our carbs, we’re already telling ourselves that we’re pretty much done grocery shopping and that reduces the risk of impulsive buying.
8. Go Shopping with Someone
We encourage everyone to go shopping with someone that they live with and especially if they cook and eat together. This is a great way to bond over food and especially if you are transitioning or have healthy eating goals. Furthermore, we tend to stick with brands and foods that we know and sometimes it’s nice to change things up with someone else’s recommendations.
I love going grocery shopping with my best friend (who doesn’t live with me). Although she isn’t plant-based, we’re able to share recipe ideas as we shop and introduce each other to new products. It’s also a great way to introduce her to the lifestyle by suggesting and helping her put together a plant-based meal!
9. Compare Brands
Not all brands are made equal! To get our value for money as well as ensure we’re consuming the right things, we love to compare brands for the same product. This includes looking at the price, the ingredients and overall taste and quality. For example, for our plant-based milks we buy a supermarket homebrand because it tastes better, costs less but offers a higher concentration of soy/almond/coconut compared to other more expensive brands.
There are other factors to include when looking for a brand to support including locality, vegan-friendliness, eco-packaging and overall philosophies that you might also want to consider.
10. Experiment with Different Foods
We encourage everyone to experiment with different things that are usually not on your shopping list. This keeps the plant-based journey exciting, motivates those who are transitioning and it potentially could become a household staple. We like to experiment with different fruits and vegetables (we often buy exotic fruits when we go to the Asian grocery stores), new plant-based processed foods (we keep this to a minimum but it’s nice to try) and everything else in between.
Sometimes experimentation can open up a whole new cuisine or world of food for us to try and we love it!
Love Grocery Shopping?
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