When you’re a busy student without much leisure time, grocery shopping can often feel like a chore. Between settling into your new living situation, attending your classes, making new friends, and doing your schoolwork, it often feels like there’s not enough time in the day—and that can make it seem like the pros of a quick and easy microwave dinner or a fast food meal outweigh the cons of their low nutritional value. However, putting in the extra effort at the grocery store can help you make healthier choices and will actually save you time during the rest of the week. Below are some tips to help you be more health-conscious and time-efficient during your next trip to the grocery store!
Plan ahead for the week
Many people brainstorm a menu for the week, but few actually write it down. Try to plan carefully what you will eat for your meals and snacks according to your weekly routine, and make yourself a copy on paper. You may even want to post your menu on the fridge. Keeping it in full view will act as a friendly reminder, and help you avoid eating out or going back to the grocery store midweek. (You can create your own menu plan on EatRight Ontario’s website.)
Make a grocery list
You might already make a grocery list—but do you stick to it? Make your list according to your weekly menu and write down the items based on which category they fall into (e.g., fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy products, canned foods, frozen foods, etc.) to make it easier once you are in the store. Ideally, you should buy only what is on your list. Sticking to what you decided before leaving the house will help you to save money and limit the amount of food that ends up going to waste.
Do not shop hungry
Make sure you eat before going to the grocery store to avoid being tempted by foods that you don’t really need. It is much easier to stick to your list without a growling stomach. If you are shopping hungry, you will more likely be drawn to foods that contain energy but have few nutrients (e.g., chocolate or chips). Eating beforehand will help curb your cravings, save you money, and will even encourage you to make healthier choices.
Leave the kids at home
If you have children, bringing them to the grocery store means they may try to convince you to buy unhealthy foods that you don’t need or want. Their influence might make it harder to stick to your list, and caring for them will dig into the time you need to make sure you are on track with your shopping. However, if leaving the kids at home isn’t an option for you, you can take this opportunity to teach them how to plan healthy meals and how to shop for necessary ingredients.
Do not visit every aisle
Make sure to stick to the aisles that you know have the foods you need. Going through every aisle is time-consuming and tempting. Avoiding certain aisles will likely save you time, money, and even calories. As a general rule, try to shop around the perimeter of the store—where the fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, and dairy products are located.
Read the nutrition label
The only way to know whether you are making a healthy choice is to read the product label. The information provided on the nutrition label will tell you the exact nutritional value of a food item. Comparing similar foods can be done quickly and easily once you understand how to properly read nutrition labels.
Choose the least processed foods
Highly processed products often contain more salt, sugar, trans fats, and saturated fats than most natural foods. Raw peaches and whole-grain breads are healthier choices than canned peaches (in syrup) and refined white breads, for example. By selecting foods that are less modified (e.g., unflavoured brown rice or plain yogurt), you will be able to prepare healthier meals and limit the amount of additives you ingest.
Stock up on the basics
Some items should always be in your kitchen to help you prepare easy, healthy meals—last minute if need be! While you are grocery shopping, make sure to add the basics to your shopping cart to help you when confronted with busy schedules and sudden changes of plans.
Following these tips will help you make healthier food choices while saving you money, giving you more time during the week, and limiting wasted foods. Planning your trip to the grocery store in advance and taking your time once you are there will help make meal preparation a whole lot simpler.
View the rest of the articles on Ingle International for more travel guides and tips.
(Last reviewed August 13, 2014)
- Government of Alberta. (2012). Cart smarts: Grocery shopping for health. Retrieved from http://www.healthyalberta.com/HealthyEating/317.htm.
- EatRight Ontario. (2011). Healthy shopping tips. Retrieved from http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Grocery-Shopping/Healthy-Shopping-Tips?aliaspath=%2fen%2fArticles%2fGrocery-Shopping%2fHealthy-Shopping-Tips.
- Dietitians of Canada. (2012). Shop smart. Retrieved from http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Plan-Shop-Cook/Shop-Smart.aspx.