Here are 10 of our go-to tips to make our grocery shopping experience more enjoyable. Keep in mind that we don't have to implement all of these tips, though! We can pick out what works well for us or what we'd find pleasure doing. Feel free to even modify some of the tips based on what's accessible and appealing.
1. Use a grocery list
Creating a list before we shop can help keep us organized and prepared. This can make our shopping more efficient, and guide us to leave with what we intended to buy rather than impulsive purchases. Here at PUL, we like to keep a running list on the fridge to write as we go when ingredients are getting low. To receive a jumpstart guide with 3 sample grocery lists, a list of substitutes, kitchen conversions and other nutrition tips, sign up for our newsletter and have a PDF guide sent straight to your e-mail.
2. Shop around the perimeter first
There isn't really an exact science to navigating our way around the store. Here at PUL, starting at the produce section works great for us since it's at the front, and we like to fill up our cart with delicious fruits and veggies before moving along. In general, though, we can start with the outer perimeter of the store first, before working our way in. A perk of starting at the perimeter is that many fresh and wholesome foods are found here. For example, produce, meat alternatives, and dairy alternatives are usually found around the perimeter of stores whereas items in the middle aisles tend to be more processed and pre-packaged. There are some exceptions to this though, such as canned veggies, bulk foods and frozen foods. We prefer to shop around the perimeter first and go in the aisles after if needed.
3. Get frozen and canned foods
While fresh is best for some, buying frozen or canned items works better for others. Canned and frozen fruits and veggies are equally nourishing. Plus, we can all appreciate the convenience of being able to store these foods for longer periods of time. This makes it easier to whip together a nourishing meal when we have little else on hand to work with.
Canned foods are also a good option to keep in our pantry for days where we want something quick. We can stock up on ingredients such as canned chickpeas, lentils, or other beans, especially when they're on sale. Here at PUL, we aim to find options with little to no added salt and give them a good rinse under water after opening to wash off excess sodium.
4. Shop sales or reduced-price sections
Depending on where we shop, we may find bins filled with "overripe" produce at a marked down prices. Although over-ripened produce may not look as pretty as the fresh ones, they're still generally fine to eat! If anything, they're extra sweet and are a great option if they're going to be used quickly. Overripe produce may be preferred for certain recipes as well. For example, overripe bananas are typically used to make banana bread because of the extra sweetness they provide.
5. Compare nutrition between brands
This goes hand in hand with reading nutritional labels and ingredient lists. If possible, we can take our time to do this at the store. Interestingly enough, sometimes we'll find that the most popular health brands aren't necessarily the most nutritious. We can compare items like cereals, granolas, and sauces by checking for the amount of sugar, sodium, saturated fat, and fibre per serving.
6. Buy bulk
When following a plant-based diet, whole grains are a staple and a half. Purchasing these items in bulk is an effective way to stock up and involve less packaging. As an added bonus, we often save money when purchasing bulk foods. These foods tend to last long, so if it's something we use often and in large quantities, buying in bulk is a great strategy to ensure we have enough on hand and minimize our time spent grocery shopping in the future.
Here at PUL, we often buy beans, lentils, chickpeas, rice and some nuts and seeds in bulk. These keep well and are wonderful to have stocked up when we're wondering what to make for dinner. Do keep in mind that it's not always worth it to buy items in bulk if they don't get used up or if they're forgotten in the depths of the pantry. To help with this, we can store small amounts of nuts and seeds in the pantry while keeping the remaining amount in the freezer or in airtight containers to keep them fresh for longer.
7. Reduce food waste
We can take inventory of what we already have before going shopping to help reduce our food waste. We can then make a list of what's needed, so we aren't doubling up on food we don't need. Strategic picking of produce is another way to help reduce food waste. For example, if we go through bananas slowly, we might opt to purchase them on the greener side. Or if we know we won't need an avocado until the end of the week, we could pick a slightly under-ripe one. Other items such as potatoes, onions, apples, or carrots tend to last longer and don't need as much potential pre-planning.
Using the fridge wisely can also be a great way to reduce our food waste. Before filling the fridge up with the fresh goodies from the grocery store, we recommend designating a level with the older ingredients to finish up first. This way, we'll use the "first in, first out" method and avoid food wastage.
It's also a great idea to fuel up with a snack before heading out to the store to make sure we're energized. Especially if we're prone to impulse shopping. It's always fun to find new and interesting discoveries at the store, but shopping on an empty stomach may lead to more impulse purchases.
8. Purchase in season
Seasonal produce has many benefits. It can be cheaper at times, meaning we can buy more for less. It also tends to be fresher, more flavourful and picked at peak ripeness. Changing seasonal foods also means a wider variety of foods in our diet. It's a fun chance to try new foods and load up on a variety of nutrients! Feel free to freeze the extras to be used throughout the year and to avoid overpaying when they're not in season.
9. Reduce plastic usage
Consider purchasing reusable grocery bags. Most grocery stores sell them, or we can buy them online with various pretty designs. We can even take the extra step and consider reusable bulk or produce bags. Reusable bags are usually bigger and sturdier than plastic bags, meaning we won't need as many and they'll live a long happy life. Plus, we'll get to save a bit of money each trip to the store.
Another way to reduce plastic usage and save money is to purchase greens whole. This means buying the ones that aren't pre-chopped or pre-packaged, which can sometimes be more than double the cost. We can always chop them up and package them up at home if desired.
10. Go on a grocery tour
Some grocery stores host grocery tours led by a registered dietitian or nutritionist. We can take advantage of this fun opportunity and consider signing up! These tours often teach us how to make more nutritious choices, shop on a budget, know which products to use and why, and they might even give pointers on how to use certain ingredients in wholesome recipes.
Everyone will have a different style or use find different strategies to make grocery shopping a little bit easier and more efficient. These are some tips to help us tackle the grocery store like a pro. Nourishing our bodies with wholesome nutrients and delicious flavours starts in the grocery store. We can implement some of these strategies at our own pace and watch our grocery shopping adventures improve over time!