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Healthy Shopping Skills

Grocery stores have thousands of products, but many food items are grouped together to make your decision-making easier. These groups include fruits, vegetables, grains, calcium-rich food and protein-rich foods.

Healthy decisions start at home. Planning ahead can improve your health while saving you time and money. Before shopping, decide which foods you need, and the quantity that will last until your next shopping trip.

Plan Your Weekly Meals

Before making a grocery list, write down meals you want to make this week. Buying for the week means you’ll make fewer shopping trips and buy only the items you need.

Here are some basic tips for creating your menu and grocery list:

  • See what you already have. Look in your freezer, cabinets, and refrigerator. Make a note of what you have on hand. You can save money by using these items in the upcoming week’s meals.
  • Use a worksheet to plan your meals or use the grocery stores app. Be sure to include some family favorites along with the new recipes.
  • Create a list of recipes to try. Find new ideas for healthy and low-cost meals based on what you have on hand, using foods your family enjoys.
  • Visit MyPlate for healthy recipe inspiration. Search dishes by ingredient for balanced meal planning, and learn more about healthy eating guidelines.
  • Think about your schedule. Choose meals you can easily prepare when you don’t have a lot of time. Save recipes that take longer for days off. You also can prepare meals in advance to heat and serve on your busiest days.
  • Plan to use leftovers. Think about larger recipes with enough servings for multiple meals. This can reduce the number of ingredients you use and the days you need to cook.

Get to the Grocery

Once you have your meals planned and your list written, it’s time to head to the grocery store.

Here are some smart shopping methods to keep in mind:

  • Bring a list and stick to it! By steering clear of items that aren’t on your list, you’ll save money and avoid the temptation of junk foods.
  • Write your list to match the layout of your store. If produce is always the first stop of the trip, move those items to the top of your list. This will help save you time and frustration.
  • Never go to the grocery store when hungry. It’s easier to bypass unhealthy options when your stomach isn’t growling.
  • Shop the perimeter (outer edge) of the store. Snack foods tend to be found in the center aisles, while healthier options are along the outer walls.
  • If a digital “click-list” option is available at your local store, try curbside pickup to avoid browsing the shelves altogether.

When you’re building a new diet and lifestyle, have everyone in your family make suggestions for the shopping list. Kids – and even adults – are more willing to try new foods when they help to pick them. Remember: meal planning, list making and smart shopping are learned skills; the more you practice, the better you’ll get!

Click here to learn more about living well.